Asia / Burma

The “cakewalk” from Kalaw to Inle.

The Kalaw to Inle trek. Been there, done that. Just like a trillion other people visiting Burma. It’s the Lonely Planet ultimate must-do and you’ve most likely included it in your itinerary, am I right? Now you want to find out if it’s worth to keep it there. Let’s put it this way. If not for the views, do it for your bum! I’m sure it will be forever grateful for swapping 10 hours on a bus from Mandalay (this is the classic route most people do) for 3 days of a light cardio and glutes sculpting. However, if you are looking for a serious off the beaten track adventure bad news – you should probably seek somewhere else. (Unless you go to Myanmar in a rainy season. Then forget what I’ve just said – it’s going to be a lot of fun!)

We are damn tired after taking a night bus from Yangon to Bagan, so this time we go for a morning local mini bus. It is supposed to be “a quick way” to get from Bagan to Kalaw and we are scheduled to reach our destination in 6 hours. But this is Burma in rainy season.

After 5 hours we stop for a lunch and our driver casually says that the roads are impassable due to heavy rain so he must change the route… One whole day wasted. Hello adventure!

It took us 8 hours to get to Kalaw but instead of being dead tired I feel like a new born. Why? The temperature in Kalaw is mild and rather cold. I love it. No more sweaty armpits!

First thing on our to-do list is finding a trek and accommodation for tonight. We plan to shop around and go for the best offer. But you know how it is, we end up accepting the first one we get. We opt for a 3 days trek with A1 for around 50 dollars which is a fair price in my opinion. You can find cheaper deals but we want more tailored experience.

Kalaw is a small town, but there is quite a lot to see around and if we had time I would definitely spend there another day. Since we arrived very late, we have little time. We are rushing to see the town (with a beautiful shining pagoda) then go for a dinner to a nice Nepalese restaurant (excellent food!) and that’s it. The day is over.

Kalaw – town centre with a beautiful shimmering pagoda.
Local market where we went shopping for a rain coat for Mario.

The following day we have the pleasure of meeting our trek buddies – Airi and David from Barcelona who left their jobs to travel the world full time (don’t know about you, but when I hear such stories I’m like “damn, my life sucks!!”) and Sarah and Thomas from Munster – an optician and a proctologist. A nice backup in case someone goes blind (we all know Burma can be dazzling!) or has a sudden “pain in the ass”. Our guide is Sitthu is a young fella from Kalaw.

We were in Burma in October so technically it shouldn’t rain a lot yet it did. A lot. So much we had to re-route as when we were happily walking in the forest some of us ended up bitten by leeches. Yuck! The paths were covered with runny mud and it made it impossible to walk. I was wearing sandals (if you travel light you are forced to make very strict decisions on what to take with you) but if you think I was crazy read this – at some point David’s shoes were bothering him so much he had to get rid of them and walk the rest of the way in flip flops!

50 shades of green – rainy season also has its perks!

One of the best thing about the Kalaw-Inle trek is an overnight stay with a local family. It’s not a 5* hotel, in fact it’s far from being a 1* hotel either.

I don’t mind lack of shower. In fact, I had the most fun in the places I couldn’t shower at all. Guys, I’m telling you 5 days in a trans-siberian train and your concept of what’s clean and what’s dirty will never be the same.

When we are done with the dinner and about to go to bed we notice a huge spider just above the front door to our bedroom. All of us scream (that was pretty funny!). It’s a fucking big spider. We call Sitthu to send him on a mission to kill it once and for all. He seems to be well amused. White faces are afraid of a little spider! But the spider wants to befriend white faces! Thanks Sitthu, but now please do something with it. He takes a broom and tries to execute our will but the spider is smarter than that. It runs away yet I’m pretty sure he will be back to take revenge on us!

Night time. I wake up. Nature’s calling! Right on time. Damn beer. Where is the torch? Got it. Now a quick look on the wall to check where is the spider. Ok, clean. I walk to the loo just to find another 5 of them sitting there! It definitely was the quickest piss in my life. 🙂

So this was our shower.
We had some amazing sunsets during the trek. 
The mornings were also pretty spectacular. 

Day 2 is crazy. It was raining the whole night so what supposed to be a nice and pleasant walk turns into some kind of a cardio-yoga workout. We try hard not to end up in puddles or mud but by the time we reach the village it already starts to rain again so we give up on trying and start enjoying the “organic” shower. After the dinner Sitthu brings an old dirty kettle. It’s game time! – he says. It was a weird game in which the winner could paint other people’s faces with soot. After an hour we are all dirty again!

Sitthu leaves us alone to spend the rest of the evening with the host family. They sing and play guitar leaving us with a strange sensation of not fully belonging here. We are just another group of tourists.

If interacting with the families is the main reason why you want to do the trek, forget about it. You will never have a meaningful conversation with them. Given that, I still enjoyed my time with them.

We finally made it to Inle! Was the trek worth-doing? I would do it again. It’s definitely not an off the beaten track attraction and the views are nice yet far from being spectacular, but sometimes it’s just nice to be outdoors and see something else than big cities or temples (apparently you can get bored of them as well!). We’ve gained an insight into Burmese villagers’ daily lives just to find out it’s not that different to any other villages around the world. Sarah and Thomas have already left us as ZI GERMANZ were staying in a nice resort on the lake (jealous!) and David, Airi and us, we headed to Nyaungshwe but it’s a new post coming soon. Our adventure in Burma continues.

I’m bragging about the rain yet all my pictures show almost a clear blue sky – well yes, the funny thing about rain in Asia is that it comes suddenly and then stops and you can enjoy the skin burning Sun again!
Thanaka, thanaka – what’s the secret of Burmese beauties? Avoid the Sun!
Marching through Burma!
Local villages on the way to Inle.
We stopped in local villages to visit some shops – you can’t avoid it, can you? I bought a hand woven scarf from this lady for peanuts.
I loved how lush was the landscape.
This is a kitchen in one of local houses where we stopped for lunch. 
Siesta time!
One more landscape shot.
These kids stole my heart asking for a picture!
So called the lull before the storm. 
Local women were hiding in the grass when they noticed we were trying to take a sneaky picture of them.
This is chinlone – probably the most popular sport in Burma.
Do it like a local. Try betel.  Hundreds of millions of people chew betel quids in Burma – they are parcels of area nuts and tobacco (can also contains some opium) wrapped in a lime-coated betel leaf.