From the time the peace process has been regularly progressed between the Burmese qusi-civilian government and the various armed groups, the areas around capital Loikaw are increasingly accessible to the outsiders including tourists around the world. Most visitors came to Loikaw to explore the untapped local culture and insanely beautiful it’s landscape and a few mythical places like the ghost cave and the volcanic lake. But they all had one common purpose – to experience the Padaung longneck women in their own nature.
Why one should take such a long and tiring trip to Loikaw to see these longneck women while they could comfortably drop by at one of many souvenir stalls around Inle Lake, Htilomino temple of Bagan or pay a visit at a large Padaung community at northern Thailand? The straightforward answer is that none of those places are considered “genuine”. More often, the visitors feel awkward when visiting one of these human-zoos and made them think twice whether or not to pay a visit to these fabricated places.
The good news is that there is a genuine Padaung community located a couple hours drive from the capital Loikaw. The area is known as Pan Pet where there are five sizeable villages and two tiny villages of Padaung people are established long time ago. The ninety minutes drive from Loikaw to Pan Pet itself is one of the highlights of this excursion. The road passes through Deemawso town with an interesting market on selected days of week on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, and iconic Ngwe Taung Dam renowned for its serene atmosphere and scenic beauty. After leaving Deemawso town, the road gets hilly, requiring to drive on hairpin turns at some points, and there are many dramatic limestone outcrops as of many ethnic villages. It’s about an hour drive on the paved road before turning into the dirt trails for another half hour to the first village of Pan Pet community, where the whole area is still controlled by the armed group who signed the peace process.
Before Pan Pet was opened to tourism activities, a few visitors had chance to explore to first two villages with limited mobility in the area. From 2015, the Norwegian government has invested nearly two millions US dollars to develop the area as Community Based Tourism (CBT) as part of the sustainable tourism business plan. Once, the visitors had to take the risk of their own security and the landmines to visit places like this and yet, there were very little activities in the villages. Now, thanks to CBT programs, the visitors will have access to all the villages in the area and enjoy different activities including jungle trekking to see the nature, study the culture and agriculture, hear the stories on the spirits and local beliefs and customs, to visiting homes, cooking together, hear the music and see the dance performances, to share the laughter and buy hand-made souvenirs – only the time is the matter.
Depending on the fitness level, time availability and the interests the itinerary can be tailored to one’s need.