Myanmar's Hidden Cultural Gem

16 October, 2023

Taunggyi is a place where traditions and Myanmar's rich heritage are preserved in every corner of it. In order to get there, you can hop on a 12-hour bus ride from Yangon via JJ Express or take a 1-hour ATR flight to Heho Airport and take a one-hour cab ride from the local airport to Taunggyi City. Once you get there, you can find a lot of accommodations ranging from $10 to $70. This may seem like a long journey, but everything will be worth it once you reach this peaceful haven. Just make sure to spare some time to witness its stories, savor its flavors, and explore its traditions. It's a journey that will leave you with cherished memories and a deep appreciation for the beauty of local culture.

ATR Flight to Heho

First of all, Taunggyi offers a pleasantly cool and refreshing climate that will welcome you with its breeze upon your arrival. Since the city is located at an elevation of around 1,400 m (4,600 ft) above sea level, the charming town enjoys a moderate climate all year-round. This makes it the best place to visit for those who would like to escape from the exhausting heat of Myanmar's lowlands. With temperatures often ranging between 15°C and 25°C, Taunggyi's weather creates the perfect setting for exploring its vibrant local culture, lush greenery, and breathtaking landscapes of Shan. Whether you're seeking a place to sway from sweat or yearning for a relaxed, sweater-friendly getaway, Taunggyi's weather is a delightful companion to your escapade.

  • Traditions

Taunggyi is also the capital of Shan State, where traditions are reflected in their locally made fabrics. The first noticeable thing here is the colourful clothing worn by the locals. Different tribes here wear different styles, such as the Shan traditional dresses called ‘Baung Be’ and ‘Tite Pone’ for men and ‘Wut Sone’ for women; however, normally women don the vibrant traditional Burmese skirts called ‘longyis’, while men wear ‘pasoe’.

Hand drawn asian couple illustration

Myanmar Traditional Dress

It also comes alive during its numerous festivals where century-old traditions are celebrated. The Tazaungdaing Festival, also known as the Festival of Lights, is one of the most-awaited and visited festivals in Taunggyi, as locals release hot air balloons and display mesmerizing colours and light with fireworks into the night sky. This tradition dates back to the 12th century and symbolizes the offering of light to pay homage to Lord Buddha.

Taunggyi Tazaungdaing Festival – The Green Valley Inn

Hot Air Balloon Festival in Taunggyi 

  • Foods

Exploring Taunggyi's culture would be incomplete without having experienced its culinary cuisines. Their local cuisine has a unique blending of flavors, influenced by the neighboring regions of Thailand, Laos, and China. One cannot visit Taunggyi without savoring a bowl of Shan-style noodle, Shan “tofu nway”, and the salad dish called “khauk swe thoke”. 

For the adventurous palate, Taunggyi offers various exotic delicacies, such as deep-fried insects. Locals believe that these crunchy critters bring good luck, and tourists are encouraged to give them a try for a taste of experience.

  • Culture

Music and dance are integral parts of Taunggyi’s culture. Shan people have a unique musical tradition that involves a combination of drums, gongs, and flutes. The sounds are both hypnotic and enchanting, which transport listeners to a realm of the past. The traditional dance performances are a familiar sight during festivals and special occasions. These dances often depict stories from Shan folklore, with performers dressed in vibrant costumes and headdresses. The graceful movements and intricate choreography are testaments to the dedication of the local dancers.

Shan baby with shan long drum - YouTube

Shan Baby with Shan Long Drum

  • Religion

Taunggyi is also home to several monasteries and pagodas, and each of them has its own unique facade and history. For example, Shwe Bone Pwint Pagoda is located at the top of a mountain and offers a panoramic view of the city. This makes it a tranquil place for deep meditation, worship, reflection, and nature vibes. Another is the Sulamuni Pagoda, located just around the city center, making it easily accessible to everyone who regularly worships and prays. The pagoda also became a go-to place for families and friends who would like to relax and breathe the cool breeze of Taunggyi.

Sulamuni Pagoda

These religious or worship places also provide insights into the historical spiritual life of the locals. Anyone can enter and may even have the opportunity to participate in a meditation session or engage in conversation with the resident monks. You can also get a red bracelet for remembrance that was blessed by the monk and believed to provide luck to the person who wears it.

  • People

Last but not least are the warm and hospitable people. Locals are known for their friendly smiles and willingness to share their culture with visitors. Whether you are invited into a local home for some traditional meals or simply striking up a conversation with a random local, despite the language barrier, the people of Taunggyi will try their best to make you feel welcome and like a part of their community.

  • Biodiversity

Though it might take another hour to reach, you can also make a side trip to Inle Lake, which is famous for its floating villages and gardens, its unique living communities, and its rich biodiversity. This second-largest lake in Myanmar was also declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in June 2015, making it a very insightful place to visit. You can take photos of traditional fishermen, do birdwatching, buy jewellery, try out Burmese cigars, witness traditional lotus weaving, and visit the long-neck tribe.


Overall, time may seem to move at a slower pace in Taunggyi as you become immersed in this historical place. However, this would allow you to fully immerse yourself in the local culture. The simplicity, authenticity, and weather here are highly refreshing as you escape from the hustle and bustle of modern city life. With its captivating traditions, mouthwatering foods, and warm-hearted people, I can truly say that Taunggyi is a hidden gem, not only in Myanmar but in Southeast Asia. This enchanting town offers a glimpse of the past and a touch of the future. So, if you are looking for a place to visit or when you find yourself in Myanmar or Shan State, consider visiting Taunggyi.

Charlie Dela Cruz
Head of Science Department

International School in Myanmar


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