Tucked away in the far eastern corner of Burma, Kengtung is the historic center of the ethnic Shan State. The name Kengtung means "Walled City of Tung" and refers to a mythological founder of the city. This remote area has long held geographic significance; its three international borders - Laos, Thailand and China - make it a critical lynchpin in the country's defense. During World War II, Kengtung was occupied by Japanese and Thai soldiers because it is 100 miles (160 kilometers) equidistant from all three borders. Kengtung was formally opened to travelers in 1994.


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Buddhist Sites

In the heart of Kengtung, one can find Maha Myat Muni and Wat Ho Khong monastery and temple; many of the temples and monasteries in the area have both a Burmese and a Shan name. Nearby is the Wan Phat Kyauk monastery, which features ornate, inlaid doors which were carved by hand. The Khun language, closely related to the dialects of northern Thailand, is taught at the monastery’s schools for children and junior monks.

Hill Tribes

There are many hill tribes in the area, the most prominent of which are the Akha, who emigrated from China’s Yunnan province 200 years ago, the Red Palaung, and the Lahu tribes. In particular, the Akha sport elaborate traditional costumes, which can take up to one hour to put on. Meet these distinct, proud peoples, learn about their traditions, ways of life, and the wide range of religions that flourish here, including traditional animism, Christianity, and, of course, Buddhism.

Jom Mon Temple

Visit Wat Phra That Jom Mon, which sits on a hill and offers a good view of the town. The temple houses a tall Buddha, and the grounds are usually filled with young, novice monks playing football with plastic sandals and makeshift toys.

Water Buffalo Market

If one is taking place, visit the water buffalo market, which takes place two to three times a week outside of town. Local farmers bring in their beasts and prospective buyers inspect the oxen from nose to tail.

Zom Kham Temple

Discover the most impressive of the town’s temples and monasteries, Zom Kham. The tall gilded chedi is topped by a gold "hti" (an umbrella placed on top of a pagoda) inlaid with jewels and decorated with small gold bells.

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