Kalaw is a former British hill station in the Shan state of Myanmar. It is at an elevation of 1350m and 50km from the Inle lake, which makes it a popular hiking route. Initially we planned to do a trek on our own, but everywhere we asked they told us it was no possible citing the reasons like wild animals and military presence. After some research we opted for a three day hike with Sam’s Family Trekking, which is reputed to the best in the area (Jungle King is definitely to be avoided by the stories we heard). Even though it is possible to hike on one’s own, it is a very hard to do for a number of reasons. First of all, there are no maps. Google Maps, for one, is not aware of any villages or roads we walked. The best bet is to download one of the GPS tracks recorded by fellow hikers that can be found on the Internet. Second, there is no tourist infrastructure on the way. No hotels, very little restaurants and shops. In some villages they didn’t even sell bottled water and other villages had unmarked shops that were hidden inside people’s homes. Sleeping in monasteries is definitely an option, but the lack of restaurants and shops on the way is challenging. Thirdly no trekking company will forward your baggage to Inle. We asked at several places and the answer was no. Finally we got so much more out of the trek with a guide and it turned out one of the highlights in Myanmar. Definitely money well spent.
Kalaw area is hilly and dry. Dust is naturally everywhere.
Hiking is popular among tourists. As elsewhere in South East Asia locals are not very fond of walking, especially long distances.
The area can be described in terms of desolated landscapes and hill tribe villages
Farming is the main source of income for local people.
Among cultivated crops are oranges…
… and potatoes
Farming is hard work in this climate. Everything is done by hand, no machinery used.
Momo, our guide
Our team. Julie, Nicky, Amber, Kim, Anu and myself
Hiking was not a walk in the park, especially as the bulk of the walk done during the midday under the blazing sun.
Sunrise over rice fields on the first day of the hike.
There are very little signs of tourismization.
No hotels, no taxis and no hawkers.
There are not many restaurants on the way. Another reason why doing hike solo is difficult. This restaurant is in one of the bigger villages and is very basic.
Children are used to tourists and expect presents. We did not have any.
Older children were more shy and only gazed at us
Children playing on monastery grounds
And trying to avoid the camera.
The journey also led us to a railway. We managed to walk just during a gap between trains, although dodging slow-moving local train would not have been a problem.
Two women enjoying tea in a tea shop on a train station
A misty morning on the third day of the hike.
Cows in the mist.