After two nights in the ancient place of Bagan, we packed our bags again and hopped on a bus to the mountain town of Kalaw. Kalaw itself is less a destination on its own but usually used as starting point for hikes into the surrounding area. Our plan was to settle up in Kalaw and do a 3-day hike to Inle Lake 60km.
While the route itself is only slightly physically challenging (you need to be able to walk 30km in a day in a warm — hot climate), finding the way and places to stay on the way to Inle Lake is almost impossible. Therefore a guide is necessary and highly recommended to make the hike really enjoyable. We booked our guide (via Ko Min) the day before we arrived in Kalaw and met him the evening before we started our hike to discuss the details. He explained to us which route we will take, what to bring with us and what we can leave behind. There’s no need to bring much clothes to change, because you can’t really shower anyway, but don’t forget a warm sweater for the cold nights. The stuff you are not taking with you, will be transported to your destination (for example: our bags were transported to our hostel at Inle Lake).
Right after the breakfast and our last shower for the next 3 days, we started our hike. The first stop of our hike was situated on a mountain, overseeing the surrounding area, to have a nice lunch. In the afternoon we passed a school and a monastery and were able to take a ride with small local train. Of course, there are no hostels or hotels in the rural areas of Myanmar, so we slept in the wooden huts of local families and farmers. Of course without any electricty or flowing water. A quite unusual and unique experience!
After a surprising good night of sleep, we continued our hike. The whole day we walked through an ever changing landscape through dry rice plains, over hills and through villages. At the end of the day we enjoyed the sunset on a mountain ridge.
The last stage of our hike was fortunately mostly downhill continuously leading to the Inle lake. After a nice lunch we took a boat to Nyaungshwe.
While walking through the beautiful rural landscape was amazing, what really made the trip unforgettable was our friendly guide. Over the whole period he shared stories about his life and his culture and answered all of our questions. His personal story was quite moving with forced resettlement, several years in a monastery (including one year alone in a forest) and sometime in the Opium Triangle at the border region to Thailand. He also explained the every day life of people in Myanmar and how he’s looking forward to the ongoing change in Myanmar. He was also our translator between the families we stayed at and us.
The last stage of our hike was fortunately mostly downhill continuously leading to the Inle lake. After a nice lunch we took a boat to Nyaungshwe and were able to relax our legs after around 70km while enjoying the beautiful scenery of the Inle Lake.
How to get there & What to bring
Take a bus from Bagan or Yangon to Kalaw and stay the night before you begin your hike (there are several possibilites available from one day hikes to a couple of days with 3 days option being the most common). Guides can be booked usually at the B&B or hotel you are staying at or in advance, but don’t be too late and check if the english of the guide is fine. For the hike itself, you need just comfortable shoes and only a little bit of change (especially socks and underwear), because there’s no place with piped water on the way. Of course, don’t forget sunscreen and mosquito spray. Also a small flash light is handy (or your phone with an additional battery). In General, a small backpack should be enough . The price for the whole hiking tour including accomodation, food and guide is around $10–$20 p.P. and day (depending on the size of your group).