Inle Lake is roughly 20 kilometres long and an outstanding natural and cultural attraction. One of its many unique features is the cultivation of floating gardens where flowers as well as tomatoes, beans and cucumbers grow. Local villages and markets make interesting sightseeing spots, while visitors also enjoy mouth-dropping sunrises and sunsets over the Shan mountains. Every year, on the eve of the full moon day in October, the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival is held, which sees the pagoda's revered Buddha images displayed on the golden Karaweik – a replica of the ancient royal barge – and taken to villages around the lake. Unlike most other pagoda festivals in Myanmar, which typically run for about three days, the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival goes for 18 days, and also includes boat races that attract spectators near and far. The races provide exciting additional entertainment and are well worth watching, with separate events held for men and women.
Located in southern Shan State within Taunggyi district, Nyaung Shwe is a popular hill station at an elevation of 2,950 feet in the Inle
Lake area. With an average rainfall of 37 feet and temperatures ranging between 46 °F (7.7 °C) and 91 °F (32.7 °C), it’s a favourite holiday destination. According to historical records, the city was established in 1359 AD and ruled by powerful Shan saophas (chieftains). Nyaung Shwe Saopha Sao Shwe Thaike became the first president of Myanmar.
Tourists flock to Inle Lake to observe local ethnic traditions, enjoy its fair weather, and take in Shan, Danu, Taungyo, Intha, and PaO villages. Nyaung Shwe is an evergreen destination as most tourists tend to make a stopover in the town on their way to destinations in the Inle Lake area. Local residents reckon the town might be a victim of its own success.
Despite the city’s rich cultural heritage, fewer sellers are seen in traditional clothes at Mingalar Market, the main market of Nyaung Shwe. Many roadside signboards related to the tourism industry have sprung up across town. Like Bagan, tourists roam the town all year round [except for the rainy season] either on their bicycles or horse-drawn carriages.
Big hotels, guesthouses, tour companies, car and bicycle rental services, gift shops, traditional handicrafts shops, and restaurants are all over the place even on small alleys. Ethnic people can be seen around the lake where they run boat rental services. From there, the Shan mountains are visible on the horizon amid cloud
Kalaw was a favourite hill station during the colonial era and today is a picturesque town, surrounded by pine forests and with some of Myanmar’s most beautiful gardens. Kalaw offers good trekking and hiking possibilities to neighbouring hill tribe villages, some of which still function the same as they did centuries ago. Fans of natural beauty will feel sated here, and the road between Kalaw and Pindaya offers particularly breathtaking views of the landscape. A mix of Shan people, Indian Muslims, Bamars and Nepalis (Gurkhas retired from British military service) form the population. The area around Kalaw is home to the ethnic groups Pa O, Palaung, Taungyo, Dan-u and Ter O, who live scattered across the hills in villages. Every 5 days the hilltribe people join the regular market vendors in Kalaw and make the market grow. And you find an abundance of meat, vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices.
Pindaya is situated at about 1,200 metres above sea level and is surrounded by hill tribe villages. Its main attraction is a natural limestone cave that has more than 8,000 Buddha images, made of wood, marble, lacquer, brick, stone and bronze. Devoted Buddhist pilgrims have placed the images over the centuries and the collection is unique and well worth seeing. Pindaya also features the picturesque Boutaloke Lake, which is set amongst huge old trees. A major handicraft industry in Pindaya is umbrella manufacturing. Handmade from paper, the umbrellas can be seen in several workshops in town.
Taunggyi is the capital of Shan State and has a population of approximately 200,000, making it the fourth-largest city
in Myanmar. Taunggyi sits at an elevation of 1,400 metres above sea level and its name means "big mountain" in Burmese language, a reference to a ridge on the east side of the city. Although it is located in Shan State, Shans do not make up the majority of the city’s population, with the Intha and Pa-O dominating. Prior to British colonisation, Taunggyi was a small village of a few huts. Lying on a wide shoulder of the Sintaung Hills of the Shan Plateau, it was populated by the Pa-O at that time. The signs of the original village of Taunggyi are long gone, but nearby villages can still be discerned quite easily. During British occupation, the town became the chief city and capital of the Southern Shan States. Taunggyi's modern development began in 1894, when the British moved their administrative offices from Maing Thuak (Fort Stedman) on the eastern shores of Inle Lake to the higher elevation of Taunggyi, for health and geographical reasons. Although geographically within the state of Yawnghwe, the town was denoted as a "notified area" by the British, exempt from the administration of the Sawbwa, the hereditary Shan ruler. By 1906 the town had 1000 houses. Because of civil unrest throughout the Shan States during the early 20th centuary, Taunggyi served as the chief garrison for the military police.
In recent years the previously hidden Kekku Pagodas has become one of the most visited places in southern Shan State. It is situated near Mway Taw village in Taunggyi township, about 25 kilometres from Taunggyi.Two hours by car from Taungyi, a turn in a corner into a valley leads you straight to thousands of small pagodas clustered close to each other overlooking the Hopong Valley. Huge banyan trees that surround the pagoda compound. The stupas are thought to have been built in the 16th century.
The legend says that the first pagodas were created by King Alaungsithu, the 12th century King of Bagan. Kakku counts more than 2400 stupas. In 1918 the monk U Thawna form the nearby village of Naung Hke registered a total of 2402pagodas. Many figures - angels, bird-men, musicians, dancers and floral designs - have been carved in stucco and originally brightly painted. A red additive in the stucco gives the figures an almost natural flesh-tone. The stupas stand around the main pagoda Paya Kyaukhpyugyi with a relic of Buddha. The pagoda is a testament of the religious devotion of the Pa-Oh people.