have just traveled to Loikaw and as I had problems with finding up to date information posted by people who recently came here as well, I will share some practical info.
I took a direct bus from Yangon. As I heard I will not be able to get to Loikaw, I asked the agent to make sure the bus company knows I am a foreigner. I was aware as well that the price will be adequate to that fact. I paid 18 500 kyat, my neighbor on the bus – 12 000. They marked as well on my ticket that I was a foreigner. We left at noon and arrived in Loikaw at 5.30 am – 17,5 hrs. The bus was one of those more exclusive that go to Mandalay, Lashio, Bagan, Inle. What was new to me as well, though I have traveled pretty much in Burma, was that they didn’t turn off movies at around midnight. They were on 17,5 hrs – well, with breaks for stops 😉
The pick-up driver didn’t want to leave until a policeman arrived and copied data from my passport. He insisted as well on me deciding where I will stay and where I will go, as well as how many days I will be in Loikaw. I said that no more than 4 days. The driver told me that there are two options – one hotel for USD60 and the other for USD15. When I answered it was a little bit too much, he answered that he can take me as well to monastery. It sounded rather sarcastic. Then, after all passengers already left the truck, he took me from one guesthouse to another just to check if any of them can let me stay. None of the 4 we visited had a license and eventually I asked him to take me to the USD15 one. It was Min Ma Haw. They said I could stay in a USD30 room with a private bathroom and breakfast included or USD15 with a shared bathroom and no breakfast. I chose the cheaper alternative and though I had no much choice I said that if the price can be lower, I would want to stay there a few days. Ko Sai Kyaw Thu, the man orchestra (he fixed my door as well) told me he had to talk to his boss and in the evening confirmed that the boss agreed to my offer. Ko Sai was as well the first English speaking person I met in Loikaw. I asked him for help with arranging a bike, so he told me they had one and at once decided it was pretty old and I use it for free. I went to Taung Kwe Zedi pagoda and spent there a few hours. It is awesome.
I went for two daily trips with Ko Soe Soe Oo whose English was as poor as my Burmese but each time either of was didn’t understand anything he called his sister in Yangon and she tried her best to make communications between us smoother 😉 We went to Mya Ka Lup pagoda, Shwe Let War (Golden Finger pagoda), Shwe, New, Padamyar (Golden, Silver, Ruby Hills close to Demawso), Nagayon Zar Pagoda, Htee Pwint Kan (Umbrella Lake). He made a few copies of my passport as there were many checkpoints on the way. Apart from places closest to Loikaw and a village with a few Padaung ladies. I was not allowed to Lawpita Falls and hydropower plant as “foreigners dangerous”. This sounded ambiguous 😉 but the owner of the guesthouse (who told me he is the only one in Loikaw to have a license) explained me that there was a lot of machinery and that is why foreigners are not safe there… Anyways, I went as well to Kyut Oo cave which was awesome. There is a small hut on the entrance of the cave where a monk lives – he went to the cave with us and they treated us with coffee, biscuits and entertain my guide with stories as it was raining outside. I spent in Loikaw 4 days and really liked the people there and the countryside. I took a bus to Mandalay (3 pm, 10 000 kyat) and it took me 16 hours to get there.
Well, highly recommended if you like to explore on your own in your own way!