Journey Three / Chapter 20

The Shan State & Kakku Pagoda Complex

February 2019

Extraordinary remote pagoda complex with 1000s of ancient pagodas and villages of highland Pa-Oh people hidden deep within the Shan Hills of Eastern Burma.

As we visited the remote Shan Hills of Burma and explored the fabulous Inre Lake that previous chapter was devoted to, we decided to go ahead and explore more of this remote land and get even more off the beaten track that we were. So we decided to rent a car with a driver for whole day and head off to the Kakku ancient pagoda complex, that only recently opened to foreigners.

We start off early in the morning and take the road south along the lake. We soon divert to country road into the hills, but no sooner than we have an unexpected stop to have a look around one of many mini sugar factories along the road, where whole process of sugar cane processing takes place in one shack with just bunch of people. The resulting sugar was a delight!

As we head towards the pagoda complex, we pass number villages of highland Pa-Oh people, large ethnical group belonging to Tibeto-Burman lineage and we are allowed to witness their unique clothing style and culture, explained to us with very patiently by our driver's limited english.

Ultimately, we reach Kakku. Some 2,500 pagodas, most of similar shape and size, are found in long rows closely put together in a square field. The whole site dates back more than 2000 years, while most current stupas date from the 17th and 18th centuries. It is truly an extraordinary sight. While the site is relatively small and dense, it took us few hours to explore it properly.

On the way back as we reach Nyaungshwe we take a short side-trip to Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery, a beautiful red-painted teak building dated back to the 19th century. An architectonical marvel, this monastery was built with the intention of giving shelter for poor boys in the region, who eventually become novice monks when they come to live here. And adjacent temple complex has all its inside walls adorned by thousands of buddha statues donated by people from all around the world.