Kengtung (Cheingtung, Chiang Tung, Kengtong, Kyaingtong) is a town in Shan State, Eastern Myanmar.
Best way is by bus from Tachilek (400 Thai Baht, 5 hours), or shared taxi from Tachilek (450 b/person, 4 people).
As of October 2014, travellers with a full visa are allowed to travel to Kengtung from Tachilek without a guide. Travellers coming from Thailand on a 14-day entry permit still need a guide (1000 baht/day).
As of October 2014, travellers were still NOT allowed to take the public bus from Taunggyi to Kengtung. The Ministry of Hotels & Tourism branch in Taunggyi, director Mr. U Yan Aung (Tel. 09-428315235), is willing to arrange a guide at $80 per day, and a rental vehicle for $1200 (one thousand two hundred dollars) for the journey from Taunggyi to Kengtung.
Flights to Kengtung - not many, and may only fly on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Taxis to downtown 8,000 kyats. Tuk tuks 5,000 kyats.
The town itself is walkable. Motortaxis are 500 Kyat.
Hilltribe trekking can be arranged through your guesthouse or through an independent guide. When trekking, make sure that you don't give kids sweets, unless you are prepared to provide toothbrushes as well.
Eco-tourism does not yet exist here. Most guides, while speaking English and if you are lucky one of the local languages other than Shan, are not well educated when it comes to preserving and protecting the fragile hill-tribe cultures. They often treat the minorities as attractions and have little understanding for their "superstitions" and beliefs. Furthermore they will encourage you to take photos of people in their private settings and hand out sweets to children in order to get good photo opportunities.
Be mindful of this precarious situation when visiting the area and try not to affect village life too much. Also, make it clear to your guide that handing out freebies interferes with the local culture and encourages begging. Rather show your respect to the village elder and make donations in the form of medication and school material. Ask for local teachers, etc. The negative impact of unchecked tourism can already be clearly seen in the Akha villages closest to Kengtung, where rows of women will try to sell you jewellry.
Local hilltribes include Akha, Ann, Lahu, Lahu Shi and Wa.
Tuk-tuks to reach the villages cost 1000 baht for a full day, though in between the villages you will walk whilst the driver waits for you. It's quite expensive and bargaining is difficult. As a consequence not much money goes to the villagers. It's rather split between guides, drivers and guesthouse owners.
Go to the huge morning market. It's open until 1 PM, but if you go in the early morning it's much livelier and great for people watching. You can see hilltribe women in their traditional costumes shopping and selling their produce. There is a small but interesting food section as well. All in all, it's one of the most interesting and colorful markets in SE Asia.
Have a stroll around the lake for the sunset, meet nice people there and visit the numerous Shan, Burmese and Chinese temples. The wat next to the golden chedi is noteworthy and has good views.
There are beautiful embroideries made by the hilltribe people for sale in the market
Shan Khow Soi-shan noodle soup is the staple of the region. Otherwise, try some local burmese curry restaurants.
Khow Soi comes in two variants here: as a clear broth with meatballs (similar to Pho and the noodle soups in Thailand) and the very intetesting version with yellow chickpea porridge, a dark sweetish soy sauce and cilantro. Add some deep-fried beignets for an amazing dish.
Around the lake there are many cheap tea shop restaurants, where you can drink cheap Myanmar draft beer and try local dishes and barbecue. Snacks include tea leaf salad and whole grilled fish with spicy marinade. Great atmosphere.
Street vendors sell barbecue in the city center.
Rice whisky is cheap and potent. A Chinese beer costs around 800 Kyat.
1,5l mugs of Myanmar draft are very affordable. Look for the tea shops around the lake where all the youngsters meet.
For a non-alcoholic alternative try the Indian influenced black milk tea.
As of October 2014, a guide is required to travel from Kengtung onward to Taunggyi and Inle Lake. Guides will not take you via public bus, and a hire vehicle is required. Guides and vehicles are available from the Ministry of Hotels & Tourism, 21/22 Lwe Hmwe Street, Tel. 084-21617. The branch director, Mr. U San Linn, has quoted $80 per day for the guide, and $1200 (one thousand two hundred dollars) for vehicle rental for the journey from Kengtung to Taunggyi.
There is an airport in Kengtung with daily fights to various points throughout Myanmar, including Taunggyi ($126).