Myanmar: Trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake - Vikingess Voyages

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Myanmar: Trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake

Villagers on their way home
We arrived early in the morning in the town of Kalaw with the night bus from Yagon. Our plan was to book a tour with a local guide and go for a three day two night trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake right after arrival in Kalaw. However, as you already might know the busses in Myanmar (Burma) often arrive way ahead of schedule, and in our case with a predicted 7 am arrival time we actually ended up stranded in the middle of the dark Pyi Taung Su road at 3:30 am. To our great surprise we discovered an open restaurant/bar where the locals were watching a Barcelona soccer game and ended up killing time there until the morning (the place even had free WiFi!) 

Local restaurant in Kalaw open at 4 am for a Barcelona soccer match
In the morning we got in touch with Phyo from Yu Mon & Phyo's Trekking, and we decided to join his tour along with five other tourists. That's one of the great things about travelling to Myanmar in September; no need to worry about lack of availability on trips. In the end our little international group consisted of 3 Germans, 1 Italian, one Brit and my darling Yuma (Japan) and me (Norway). We did some repacking, and after having placed the clothes and other items we would need for the trek in a smaller backpack Phyo had the rest of our luggage sent by motorbike to our point of arrival in Inle. Soon we were ready to leave for the great unknown.
We again found ourself heading for the great unknown, this time with nothing but a bottle of water and an absolute minimum change of clothes. Ahead of us lied 61 kilometres of wilderness, divided into chunks of 21, 23 and 17 kilometres per day. Fortunately everything else was taken care of by Phyo; he had arranged everything for us including a number of places to stop for tea breaks, place to sleep for the night and all the meals during the trek.
The first day we could enjoy the beautiful view of the mountain range near Kalaw 
It wasn't such a hard trek either (at least it was nothing in comparison to for instance the Bolivian Choro trek I went on some years ago); on the first day we had to ascend some steep hills but after that all the paths were either going straight ahead or downhill. If you're not used to being active it might still turn out to be quite the challenge, and either way you'll most likely feel sore by the end of the journey.
The place we had our first lunch break! The view is supposed to be stunning here, but unfortunately it was too cloudy to see anything.
On our way we passed through a number of small villages where we could get a glimpse into the daily life of the villagers such as children playing, people working in the fields, buffaloes and other domesticated animals, spices and tealeaves left in the open to dry. Although the villages were in the middle of the wilderness we noted that many of the houses were equipped with solar panels all donated by foreign trekkers who had passed through the area in the past.
Children playing with a novice monk. In Myanmar it is common for boys between the age of 7 and 13 to live as novice monks for longer periods of time.
Tea leaves drying in the sun
Aung San Suu Kyi is a popular face also in the countryside 
Throughout the trek we had numerous encounters with locals and their buffaloes
On the first night we did home stay at a local family's home. The family and Phyo had to sleep in the kitchen with the buffalo.
Breakfast with pancakes and fruit
We had tea break in a local village where an old lady was weaving colourful scarves. 
Drying chili
Some parts of the trek were really muddy and slippery, so it was a good thing we brought adequate footwear for the trek
Passing by old and new stupas
A boy bringing his cows home from the fields
The second place we stayed at. The villagers were busy constructing another building and it was clear that they were preparing for the tourist season
Dinner with vegetables
Shower to the left and toilet to the right. As a side note; many of the toilets on our way didn't have toilet paper so it is wise to bring some with you on the trek.
Breakfast with eggs, bread and fruit. And a big avocado salad. Phyo explained to us that the locals don't like the creamy taste of the avocados, and thus they were used only to feed pigs and tourists.
Getting ready for the last day of the trek
On the third day we entered the area of the Inle Lake, called the Inle Zone, where we had to pay an entrance fee of 12500 kyat (Almost 10 USD). This entrance fee is valid for one week from date of issue, and is only valid for the Inle Zone. The fee is mandatory for all visitors from 5 years old and above.
Souvenir shop by the entrance to the Inle Zone
After having entered the Inle Zone we still had some hours of walking and scenary left to enjoy. Besides all the beautiful places we got to see on the trek one of the highlight of the hike was just being lucky with our guide! Phyo was very knowledgeable; he had already been in the field guiding tourists to Inle for a couple of years, and was taking various classes in his spare time to increase his knowledge about his country. He can tell you a thing or two about Myanmar that you won't find in the textbooks, and the last part of the trek was over in an instance as we chatted away the time.
First glimpse of Inle Lake where our trekking adventure would come to an end

After a total of around 18 hours of walking we finally arrived safely in the small village Lwe Nyeint situated right north of the Inle Lake where we had our last lunch with Phyo and the rest of our group. It was time to say goodbye and continue our exploration of Inle. We had an amazing 3 days trek to Inle Lake, definitely one of the highlights of our trip.

Final remark: About booking directly with a guide:
Some of the big trekking companies take a large part of the sum you pay for the trip for their own profit, leaving little margin for the local guides. While a 3-day trekking tour normally costs around 40.000 kyat per person some of the trekking companies take a big part of the sum for themselves leaving the guide with an amount that is supposed to cover all the activities, accommodations and food for the guest. The guide gets what is left after all the arrangements have been done, so as you can imagine there is not always much left for the guide, who actually does most of the job. Booking directly with a guide (or with a trekking company that is known to pay their guides adequately) can ensure you that the money you spend get in the right hands. 

Thank you for reading! Please feel free to leave any questions/comments below and I will do my best to answer.
Anette

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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who enjoys both the great outdoors and her urban lifestyle.

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Adventures ofAnette


A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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