Subscribe to our mailing list
Let us send you tips for travelling through Myanmar and stories from the road …
Decades before the British arrived it was a hub of Burmese royal authority and before that was an important stopover when caravan journeys between Mandalay and the inland cities of China took many weeks or months. Tea and silver was traded. Opium too. Not indigenous but brought over by Arab traders in the 8th Century when the poppies grew wild in Western Europe. The British mainly harvested it in India and shipped it over to China. In Burma it was banned in theory but tolerated in practice.
Lashio was particularly important during the Second World War as part of the transport route to China – the “Burma Road” – which supplied food and arms to Chiang Kai-Shek’s Kuomintang Army. Closing this channel was one of the principal reasons the Japanese invaded Burma in 1941.
Very few buildings in Lashio date back to before the 1970s. This is due to a monstrous inferno that engulfed the town in 1988, one of the world anywhere in the world in the last century. One building that does survive is the Guan Yin temple. Historian Thant Myint-U visited the temple a decade ago and watched
“… monks and little novices, all shaven-headed, not in the familiar brown robes of Burmese Buddhist monks, but in the slate-grey kimono-style robes of China. […] There were offerings of incense and candles and Chinese men and women with their eyes tightly shut made wishes before the statues. Little whiffs of dark smoke drifted upwards. On the side wall was a giant painting telling the story of the Monkey King …”
While in the town it is worth visiting the Maha Bodayaong, from within its seven-storey tower you can look over a wide view of the town, the Thatana Pagoda up a steep staircase from the Muse Road, and the Myoma Market between Landmadaw Street and Thukha Road.
More interesting is what lies in wait outside of the town … It is now possible to go on adventures up into the hills that surround Lashio. Trekking, mountain biking, and stand-up paddle boarding is all on offer. You can meet people from the Ta-ang mountain communities and enjoy picnics looking out over sweeping valleys. Free-swimming, water-fall jumping, and treks across paddy fields and along hunting tracks can all be arranged.