Rural Escapade in Myanmar: Kyauktan Yele Pagoda Yangon

Rural Escapade in Myanmar: Kyauktan Yele Pagoda Yangon

While Myanmar's pagodas are known to seep with utmost beauty, how many people know of its Kyauktan market or its Ka Htein performance? Rich in heritage, Myanmar is a stunning display of arts and culture.

After four months in Yangon, the nomadic urge was getting too strong to resist. I simply needed to wander out of the city. After all, this easy access to rural escapades was one key reason for staying outside Singapore. After asking around, I decided on Kyauktan (pronounced as Chao-Tan) for my first escapade. Located an hour away downtown, this was the site of a “floating” pagoda and made for a perfect excuse to explore the rustic Yangon.

Transport to Kyauktan

Thanks to Thura and Moh Moh, I found an easy and convenient transportation means to the destination. Just beside Yuzana plaza, there is a regular pick-up service direct to Kyauktan, which leaves every 15 minutes. I “cheated” and requested the “premium” front seat instead, squeezing beside the driver and his friend. The excuse was of course, that I needed a good spot to take pictures. Thus, I remained oblivious to the crowd behind, apart from the occasional shouting reminding me of the “premium luxury” that I was enjoying.

Thanlyin Rural Life

The journey was highly interesting with the high-rise city life slowly giving way to basic rural life. The most obvious difference was certainly the abundance of motorbikes once we had crossed over to the Thanlyin township. Having been away from these small road menaces for months, it felt weird to witness another vehicle on the road.

It was one hour before we finally arrived at Kyauktan. I was dropped off at a huge wet market, which sold nearly everything. This colourful market made it nearly impossible to immediately take in all the sights.

Kyauktan Market

Kyauktan Market

It was then that I caught sight of an ongoing Ka Htein performance. This highly intriguing ceremony had me following them for a few streets. Ka Htein is a Buddhist procedure that is commonly seen during this holy period. It is like the Chinese “Lion Dance” and performed by two dancers in a bull. The Ka Hetin stopped at each shop house to provide blessings and ask for donations. During each “blessing”, the Ka Htein was highly vigorous and looked as though it was possessed. A member of the team had to “grab” the horn and rein in the Ka Htein. After each session, the shop owner would make a donation, where the money would be pasted on the head of the Ka Htein.

Ka Htein Performance Ka Htein Performance Ka Htein Performance Ka Htein Performance Ka Htein Performance

Finally, I decided to continue on with my destination and take the boat across to Yele Pagoda, loosely translated as the Pagoda in mid-stream on a laterite reef. As a way of “protecting” foreigners, we could only purchase the 5,000ks ticket (as compare to 600ks for locals) and take the big boat. As footwear is not allowed once you reach the pagoda, there are many hawkers at the jetty trying to sell you plastic bags at crazy prices such as 300ks – 400ks. In the end, I went to a shop further away to purchase a bag for 50ks. We boarded the boat and arrived at the Yele pagoda within two minutes. Given the high cost, I was silently hoping for a longer journey.

Boat to Kyauktan Yele, Yangon

The 5,000ks boat for foreigners.

Kyauktan Pagoda

Local 600ks boat.

Boat to Kyauktan Yele, Yangon

The Yele pagoda was built by King Zeyasana, the seventh king of the Pada Dynasty. This beautiful edifice with a gold stupa and intricate wood carvings was built in the third century BC and has seen many renovations since. Despite its beauty, it was difficult to be impressed by any pagoda after having walked around the Shwedagon Pagoda twice and passing by every night for five months . To be honest, the journey to the Yele Pagoda was more interesting than the pagoda itself.

Kyauktan Pagoda Kyauktan Pagoda Kyauktan Pagoda Kyauktan Pagoda Kyauktan Pagoda Kyauktan Pagoda Kyauktan Pagoda

Since I was already at Kyauktan, I decided to visit another famous site, the Kyaik Khauk Pagoda. After much haggling the price of motorbike taxi between Kyauktan and Kyaik Khauk was finally brought down to 2,000ks, even more expensive than my journey from downtown to Kyauktan.

Motorbike Taxi

The Kyaik Khauk Pagoda was built on a hillock named Hlaing Pote Kone on the road from Thanlyin to Kyauktan. As it is also Mon-style stupa, the similarity to its famous brother, Shwedagon Pagoda was striking, although much smaller. The pagoda was built by the Mon King Cula Thirimasoka of Thaton in the Buddhist Era 241 and had been successively repaired and renovated by 18 kings who reigned over Myanmar.

Kyaik Khauk Pagoda, Thalyin Myanmar Kyaik Khauk Pagoda, Thalyin Myanmar Kyaik Khauk Pagoda, Thalyin Myanmar Kyaik Khauk Pagoda, Thalyin Myanmar

The day ended with my first ever public bus journey in Yangon. After hearing what sounded like “Sule, Pansodan” from the bus conductor, I simply hopped onto the bus. The journey actually felt much more comfortable than the ones I had in India. And, thankfully, it did bring me to where I had expected.

public bus in Yangon

Directions to Kyauktan Yele Pagoda

To go to Kyauktan, you can take the pickups from the area just beside Yuzana Plaza. Walk to the lane between Yuzana Plaza and a tea shop which starts with “Shwe”. Walk straight until you see a row of big buses and minivans. This is the bus stop. The seats at the back cost 1,000ks while the seats in front cost 1500ks.

After alighting at a junction at Kyauktan market, walk towards the river and towards an area where the big tour buses are parked. There, you can purchase the ferry ticket, which costs 5,000ks for a return journey. Upon reaching the island, there is an entrance fee of 2,000ks for foreigners. Unlike what is written on the signboard, this is not a donation and is mandatory. There will be someone who will collect the amount from you when leaving the island.


Contributed by TH Nomad.

About Author

Chua TianHao

Besides the usual destinations, Tian Hao seek to explore places where few would venture. On top of sharing his travel experiences to inspire you, Tian Hao provide travel tips as well. Follow him on his blog and facebook page


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