Kalaw and Inle Lake are two completely different cities, but connected by a very popular 2 or 3 day hike. Kalaw has a 2 places of interest: The Wooden Buddha & The Cave with the Golden Buddhas. But most people who come here just to start the trekking to Inle Lake. This trekking will take you through beautiful landscapes and lots of little, authentic villages. The end destination, Inle Lake, is one of those places you can not skip when going to Myanmar.
In Hpa-An we got on the nightbus at 7 pm and although it is not a sleeping bus, it was pretty comfortable because the bus wasn’t full. We both had two chairs and the chairs on the other side of the aisle missed the seatings so nobody could sit there. We had plenty of space, lot’s of blankets and our motion sickness pills from Indonesia (read: sleeping pills) so we had a good ride. We arrived in Kalaw at 8 am, and arrived at our guesthouse after an easy walk.
We were in Kalaw during low season and because of that a lot of the restaurants were closed or there was nobody sitting there. Since it was Marije’s birthday, we allowed us to go out for diner a bit more fancy and expensive. We went to an Itallian restaurant and had pasta there. The owner is Italian so the pasta should be really good. It was a bit disappointing however. We think the Asian people have done a better job making pasta than this Italian did.. And for better prices!
Because we had no idea how Kalaw would look like, if it would be easy to find a guesthouse, where the bus would drop us of and what time we would arrive, we already booked a guesthouse up front. We stayed at Nature Land Hotel 2 which was oke. We expected a bit more but the rooms are spacious, the people are friendly and the breakfast is included and it’s a big breakfast. Good way to start your day when you go hiking!
** You can find them on booking.com
We booked a 3 day trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake at Eversmile. The office was a bit hard to find, and there are many other agencies who offer trekkings as well that are easier to find, but we read good stories about Eversmile. The woman in charge gave a detailed explanation about the trekking, what to expect and what to bring. It felt good so we booked right away. The price was 40.000 Kyat p.p. and this is including a lot of tea during the breaks, breakfast, lunch, diner, accommodation and a boat trip on the lake. We had to pay for our own water, beers and the entrance fee to the Inle Lake which was 12.500 Kyat p.p. We thought this was a fair deal.
Because our hotel was a bit out of town, they offered to pick us up, which is always good. Arriving at the agency, there were a lot of people so we got a bit scared about the amount of people in one group. Luckily they split us up and we ended up in a group with 3 Belgium guys and 2 German girls. The name of our guide sounded like iTunes so that’s how we called him.
Day 1 was probably the most exhausting day. We had to walk up some steep paths and iTunes likes to walk fast. But it was a nice day. Walking through the hills, having some really nice viewpoints and we even learned something about how they make the different kinds of tea. We had a really nice lunch at a viewpoint where we could not see anything because of the mist, but it’s supposed to be really nice. Afterwards we walked for another 3 hours before we reached our homestay in Yepeu Village after 21 kilometers. We had a fun group, drank some beers and all went to bed early because we were exhausted.
We woke up really early to see the sunrise but unfortunately that wasn’t special. Got back in to bed, woke up one hour later again, ate our breakfast and started walking again around 8 am. The second day was easier and we liked this day better. There was more to see and we passed at least 2 little villages. Unfortunately this didn’t feel authentic. We stopped at a woman’s house to see the weaving, but right after us, 3 other groups stopped at the same place. And after that, when we left the house, we constantly saw or heard other groups walking the same tracks. And this was in low season! We don’t even wanna know how this will be during high season.
We crossed a lot of fields where people were working and saw some great rice fields looking like waterfalls thundering down a slope, this did feel like seeing the authentic Myanmar. We ended the day (again 21 km) quite early around 3 pm and that gave us some time to take a cold bucket shower, relax a bit and drink some more beers. Our plan was to sleep at the monastery but for some reason this wasn’t possible. It was full moon and they told us they would have a special ceremony in the morning and a lot of villagers would stay at the monastery as well. Or was it because the head monk was out of town? We’re not sure and stopped asking but we had the feeling iTunes or the people we stayed at didn’t want us to stay at the monastery.
We did however wanted to attend the special ceremony in the morning, so we got up at 4 am and waited for the man of the house who was supposed to come with us. Instead of guiding us the way, he gave us chips, tea and was in no hurry at all. We could not communicate with him so we woke up iTunes and he said that we would leave at 5 am. We went back to bed, 30 minutes sleep, out of bed again and we followed the man of the house like little ducks. And for what? We still don’t really know. There were some people, looking at us like we were aliens, and bringing offerings to the monastery. But no special ceremony or anything like that. After 10 minutes we’d seen enough, returned to the homestay, went back to bed again to wake up 1,5 hour later for our last day of trekking.
After an easy 15 kilometers (mostly downhill) you will reach Inle Lake for lunch. During this walk you have some nice views overlooking the lake and the hills. And again, a lot of people working in their fields. But the best thing, and a great finale, was the boat trip after lunch. You get to sit in a boat with 5 people, in pretty comfortable chairs, and you see the fishermen Inle Lake is famous for, people working in their floating gardens and the wonderful lake and its great surroundings. It is the highlight of the trip. And not only because of the nice things you see, it is nice to just sit down and do nothing.
We read a blog where someone stated that it was a life changing experience. Maybe he tried some of the local herbs because we would not call it life changing, but it is nice. We had a great time, a lovely group and were satisfied afterwards. And that’s what it’s all about! If you are not a big fan of hiking, a bit lazy or you don’t have that much time: the 2 day trekking is just as nice. You get dropped at the point where the 2nd day of the 3 day trekking starts so when you ask us, you still see the best things of this trip.