If you like hiking in the middle of the nature, through spectacular highland scenery and small villages inhabited by different ethnic groups, Kalaw is the right choice. High up in western Shan State, Kalaw is an old British hill station surrounded by green pine forest with original colonial era-buildings and a laid back atmosphere, refreshing climate and scenic views.
It also boasts an interesting central market where occasionally traders from nearby hill-tribe villages come to sell and buy their goods. Kalaw is very popular for offering the best trekking in the country with its several daily exploration routes through its hills and villages and especially for the multi-day “Kalaw to Inle Lake” trek.
We arranged our trip with a local guide choosing a daily route through the villages of Myinka and Peinnepin . It was an amazing experience to see how the locals live in this remote villages, growing the fields and graze the cattle. We first visited a traditional Taungyo village, with a monastery, small school, and bamboo houses surrounded by green mountains all around. Continuing our hike the landscape become amazing: the paddle fields were so green that it was hard to believe we were in Myanmar.
Here we could see how the farmers grow the terrain with rice, ginger, cauliflower, potatoes and so on. The first thing that stroke us was the contrast between the dark-red terrain and the bright green of the cultivations. The second stop was at Peinnepin, a traditional Palaung village where we had a tasty lunch with local food as fried noodles and vegetables. After lunch we spent half an hour walking in the village, then, we went back to Kalaw having a stroll through the town.
The next day, before leaving to Pindaya caves, we visited the beautiful market with its many stalls. The best day to have a look and taste the daily life of the locals is during the ‘’5 days rotating market’’, where all the minority groups come here to sell and buy .
Getting there: the easiest way is by bus. The bus stop is on the main road next to the market. There are buses from/ to Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle lake (Nyaung shwe).
Where to sleep: Kalaw is a small town and around the center you’ll find several budget and mid-range accommodations. I slept at Winner Hotel. In the town center you’ll also find some restaurants.
Trekking: In Kalaw you’ll find dozens of agencies , ready to guide you for a daily exploration or to Inle Lake. Also guest houses offer their own guide services.
Kalaw to Inle lake trekking: This trek is by far the most popular and famous in all of Myanmar. There are typically two main options: 2 day / 1 night (which involves taking a car to the starting point on the first morning) and 3 day / 2 night . All of the treks will end on the west side of Inle Lake, typically Indein village where you will take the boat towards Nyaung Shwe. Your luggage can be taken separately by car to your hotel in Inle Lake. Prices are different, depending if you want to go alone or join a group (usually is 4 – 8 max), and typically include your accommodation (home-stay or monastery), and all cooked meals. Expect to walk around 15 km each day, with the last day being mostly downhill. The trek itself is moderately challenging, you’ll spend most of your time walking on gravel-dirt roads, and dirt trails from village to village. It is an amazing experience to enjoy the great scenery of the Shan State and get a taste of the life of the local Danu, Pa-O, Palaung and Taung Yo ethnic groups.