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TAUNGOO was the centre of a sizeable sixteenth-century empire that defeated Siam and brought the Shan lands under its control. Its king, Bayinnaung, has been much loved by the military junta and the current government. The town has no major attractions but is a pleasant place to spend a day on the journey between Yangon and Mandalay.

The forests around Taungoo are key logging areas – Myanmar Beauty guesthouse can arrange a visit to a camp to see elephants at work, but it isn’t cheap – and the town’s central market is the only one in the country selling off-the-shelf items used by elephant handlers. They don’t see many foreign visitors in the market, so you’re likely to draw plenty of friendly attention.

The grandest pagoda in town is Shwesandaw Paya, just west of the market, which dates back to 1597. Further west still, beyond Kandawgyi Lake whose shores are a popular leisure spot, is Kaungmudaw Paya – a much smaller pagoda with pleasant views over the surrounding fields.

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