A Short Visit to Aungban
When we travel to southern Shan State, we usually continue to Nyaung Shwe, Inle and Taunggyi right after the visit Kalaw. We never thought to pay a visit to Aungban than to buy some chips while taking a break on the way. Some stay in Kalaw and visit Aungban for a while, crossing the town to see scenic views and go to YwaNgan and PinDaYa. I’ve known that Aungban is not only a trading town but also an excellent town to visit around or live in.
From Thar Mai Kham to Aungban
Aungban was established on 15 April 1913, and it is in Kalaw Township. Although Aungban was established one year earlier than Kalaw, Kalaw was built as an administrative township where mostly Danu ethnic people live.
As I said in Thar Mai Kham story, the beginning of Aungban and Kalaw is Thar Mai Kham. Thar Mai Kham which can be defined as “Thar Yar Shwe Pyi” (means pleasant nation), has become like a village now. Thar Mai Kham was renamed as Aungban since the British colonial rule. Min Maung Pho and Chief Minister U Khun Yone are renowned as people who established Aungban. It can be said that local people built Aungban and Kalaw was constructed by the British. Aungban had been the terminus of Myanma Railways for a long time as well. Then, the railway continued to Shwe Nyaung later. The railway was the main reason for the establishment of Aungban. As for the British, they planned to build Kalaw where the railway would pass.
Pyin Thar Sayar Taw and the town’s elders wanted to name the city as “Pyin Thar” or “Shwe Pyin Thar”. Subsequently, they chose the name “Aungban” and Aungban village was also situated just two miles away from Aungban town.
A unique crop of Aungban is potato. The potatoes and the potato chips of Aungban are still popular among people. In the past, Myanmar people didn’t dare to eat the potato. They thought it would make them sick. They just exported them to India. The potato business had become a big business in the region, and it transformed Thar Mai Kham into Aungban which could access to the railway. The railway system played a vital role to transport the potatoes at that time, and Aungban potato was very well-known in Kolkata.
As a specialty of Aungban, there are some places related to Turkish people. The Turkish prisoners of war who were defeated in World War 1 were detained in Pe Yin Taung village in Aungban and used to build the railway. Therefore, the Turkish people usually visit there, and there are wells and cemeteries still left in Aungban. Interestingly, there are many unusual stories in Aungban history. As I quoted these facts from “Aungban Kyay Hmone Pyin”, the book was written by Sayar Min Lwin Oo (Aungban), I’d like to recommend his book for more facts.
It is quite cold in winter and a bit hotter than the surrounding towns.
How to get there?
Aungban can be reached by car, train and flight. All the highway buses to Taunggyi arrive in Aungban. If you come by train, you need to get off at Aungban station. As for the flight, it will take around 20 minutes to drive from Heho airport to the town.
Places to visit in over 100 years old Aungban
Except for the fact that Aungban doesn’t have nice bars and coffee shops yet like in Kalaw, the trade town is more bustling with activity and natural beauty. Places like:
Thar Mai Kham Village and Mway Taw
Thar Mai Kham, the beginning of Aungban, is interesting for its ancient Mway Taw Pagodas. Actually Mway Taw means the group of pagodas. Anyway! The village can be reached after a two-mile drive from Aungban.
108-Taung Aung Chan Tha Pagoda
The pagoda locally called 108-Taung can be seen from every place of Aungban. It is a replica of Shwedagon pagoda. Although the Sayadaw is building the pagoda in details, it has not finished yet. But it gradually gest into its shape and is famous among the travellers. There are various kinds of stupas, Nat and Thagyamin statues. The height of stupa is 108 Taung (1944 inches). The people estimate as it will be the highest pagoda in Shan State. It has a cave with massive columns inside.
Mway Taw Mountain View Point
It can be described as a new View Point of Aungban. There is road transportation to Mway Taw village, but we may be a little bit tired to soft-hike the mountain from there. It is worth for you soft-hikking the mountain as you can see the 360-Degree panoramic views. Hotel Hnin Shwe Yee also conserves the View Point. It decorates the viewpoint with signboards, chairs and ladders by using natural materials. There is a pagoda at the top of the mountain which is under construction. I recognize it as a place where we should not miss whenever we go to Aungban.
We can taste the living style of Mway Taw village as well. When I reached there, the children are having their meals with Basil leaves. Their mother gave me these Basil leaves as a present when I ate some leaves from them. I also learned how to play the long Pa-O drum from the village Head.
Mya Nandar Yae Htwet Oo
It can be said Mya Nandar Ye Htwet Oo in Aung Chan Tha is a gift for Sayadaw (Monk). The Sayadaw who always searched the water for his 400 student monks found that place and created water purified ponds step-by-step on the mountain. The surplus water is distributed to Aungban.
Aungban Haw Nan
I was amazed that there is a Haw Nan (means Palace) in Aungban. I haven’t read the history book and did not know about the Haw Nan in Aungban as I think it is a new city, and no one says about it. In reality, there is a Naw Nan in Aungban. But I think it needs to conduct renovation works. U Khun Yone constructed the Haw Nan. The current Haw Nan is not that one. I mean the one established by Thar Mai Kham Sawbwa Sao Tun Aye. When it was constructed, it included a tennis court, garden and horse riding course. It was built of teak.
He was married to three women. They all lived in that Haw Nan. Two out of his three wives are from Taunggyi, but they returned to their native town as they aren't happy to live here. One wife gave birth to a daughter. Maha Devi was Saw Kyi Htoo, a daughter of Sakar Sawbwa. They didn’t have any child.
The Sawbwa’s family and his sister’s family lived together in that Haw Nan. Then, it was the office of Cooperative. Now, it is just a vegetable wholesale centre rather than being a visit place to the public.
There is no ancient utensil inside the Haw Nan anymore, and it is totally destroyed. The bulging floor seemed to collapse soon.
The Pine row in Aungban is picturesque. There are sometimes couples in the Pine row in the evening. The entire mountain with a lot of Pines is pleasant locating along the mountain route to Mae Kho Mountain Monastery and is a photo spot as well.
Lwe Mae Mountain and Chan Thar Gyi Buddha Image
The peak of Lwe Mae Mountain can be reached through the stairways and the road. There are monasteries and pagodas at the top of the mountain. Chan Thar Gyi Buddha image can be seen at the foot of the mountain. The beauty of Aungban can be viewed from the top of the Lwe Mae Mountain.
Pinhme Monastery is located in Pinhme Village near Aungban. The monastery is very long and was a home for many ancient Buddha images. Later, they are preserved behind bars to protect from the thief. Many Buddha images and some commodities can be seen in the monastery.
Ngon Thone Ancient Pagodas
The most striking thing in my visit to Aungban this time was the ancient pagoda near Ngon Thone Village. It is said that the architecture style of this pagoda is from the Nyaung Yan period. The stupa shape is rare to find in Shan State, and it seems that the pagoda was high and around 60 feet big. The pagoda needs to be preserved systematically as some people used to renovate in a hurry. I heard that the local people pay special attention to renovating the pagoda.
Thaye U-Min Pagoda
Thaye U-Min Pagoda which situated in Thaye Village can be reached through the stairways to the cave.
As Aungban was the terminus of the railway, there are still colonial buildings and the train maintenance places near the station.
The market is alive with seasonal fruits, locating in the centre of the town.
Clock Tower, Mingalar Pond and Ba Htoo Park
The clock tower was moved to the park, but it is sad that the tower is not as splendid as the one in Kalaw. Both the pond and the clock tower are in the park which is renovated and full of people doing sport, fishing and resting.
Aungban Chinese Temple
A beautiful Chinese Vegetarian Temple can be seen on Aungban-Taungyi road. The place is a photo spot and can be visited inside too.
Monuments such as Aungban Town Sign, Bogyoke Aung San statue, Colonel Ba Htoo monument and O-Si Drum.
Other visiting places
There are also trekking, hiking and camping activities in Aungban. I will write more about trekking.
Foods in Aungban
The very delicious pickled pork and fish rice are recommended to try in Aungban. The restaurant is called Shwe Chan Thar, and it is well-known for its cleanliness and the unique taste of pickled pork. The restaurant is open around 1 pm, and the foods run out so fast. If you are late, then you will have to wait the next day. The fritter shop at the corner of Ba Htoo park and Mingalar pond is also a special place for local people.
Where to stay?
There are only a few popular hotels in Aungban. Most travellers usually stay in Kalaw, but actually, hotels in Aungban are friendly to stay and affordable too. Hotel Hnin Shwe Yi is one of them. The hotel is located on the famous Pyidaungsu road of Aungban, and it seems like an average hotel at first. There are not only hotel buildings but also bungalow types and the swimming pool. The buffet breakfast is well prepared with both local and Myanmar foods. The place is so clean, and the price is reasonable. A superior room is 35,000 kyats, and the deluxe bungalow is 55,000 kyats for local. It has regular customers who always come and stay, and I also would like to recommend it as it arranges sightseeing and trekking tours as well as camping plan. You can reach to 09780832575 and 09968882800 for booking at the hotel.
Aungban has more historical stories, but most travellers usually skip the town, thinking it doesn’t have anything to visit. There are many places to visit and for activities near Aungban. Let me recommend you again to stay and visit in Aungban.
May you all have an enjoyable trip!
Thiha Lu Lin (Thiha, the Traveller)
Photo :: Min Hsann, Thiha Lu Lin
Camera :: SONY Alpha 7II with 16 - 35mm Lens
Photos are modified in Lightroom by Thiha Lu Lin
Translated by Ei Phyu Phyu Aung and Khine Thazin Han.