Loikaw is the capital of Kayah State, a tiny city in a land of rolling hills and farms, far from the well-trodden trail. We love this region for the chance to meet ethnic minority groups, including the remarkable Padaung women, known for their stacks of brass necklaces.

Meet the Padaung women of Kayah State. Beneath brightly woven headscarves, their necks and shins are laden with stacks of brass coils, while arms jangle with silver bangles.

The story goes that the brass kept the women safe from tigers, coils added one at a time from childhood. Each necklace pushes the shoulders down to create an illusion of length. Like the tigers, the practice is dying out, but in Kayah State you’ll have the opportunity to meet Padaung women and girls in their ancestral homeland.

We’ll pair you with a local guide who knows the ethnic minority villages, the people and their language like the back of their hand. It’s a sparsely populated place, packed with rolling hills, waterfalls, caves and lakes. Loikaw is the capital of Kayah State, and the gateway to treks or drives through the countryside.

During colonial times, Kayah State was ruled by 16 autonomous saophas or ‘sky princes’. The tradition was brought to an end after independence, although the last sky prince lived into the 1990s. Conflict between Myanmar’s government and ethnic minority groups continued for some time, and it’s only since 2013 that visitors have been allowed to trickle in, which means you’ll be as much a curiosity to the people here, as they are to you.

Nearby destinations

Central Myanmar

Welcome to beautiful Inle Lake, home of the Intha people who spend their whole lives farming, fishing and living on the water. Hop in a longboat to explore their stilted villages, floating gardens, pagodas and ethnic minority markets.