Trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake
After exploring Bagan and its ancient temples we took a bus to Kalaw, from where our Trekking Tour to Inle Lake started. Kalaw is a sleepy town surrounded by hills, where people come to enjoy the quiet area and the cool air. There is a golden temple in the middle of the town and a food market. We stayed there for one night and started our trip the following morning.
We booked a tour for 2 days and 1 night with Jungle King Trekking and paid 35.000 MMK (26 USD) including a guide, food, accommodation and a 1-hour boat ride on Inle Lake. We only took luggage for 2 days with us and the agency brought the rest of our luggage to the destination in Nyaung Shwe, which is the tourist hub at Inle Lake.
At 8:30 in the morning we went to the agency, which is close to the golden temple. After meeting our guide and the other members of our trekking group, a Jeep brought us to the starting point of the trek, which was a tiny town on the countryside.
On the first day we hiked 20 km through fields, forests and mountains. The landscape was very dry because in January it’s still dry season. Walking through the countryside was very interesting and gave us the chance to see the untouched side of this country. There were Chili farms and the harvested drying Chilies colored the ground in red colors. On the trail we passed villages and friendly locals pursuing their daily life activities. Watching the locals gave us an insight in how life and work had been before electricity and modern machines arrived. A lot of the tools and equipment they use is handmade in traditional old ways. The locals are not used to see tourists, so they were quiet curious when we met them.
Our guide was a young, friendly guy and explained a lot about anything we passed on the hike. He was very open and we could talk with him about the Burmese culture, costumes, nature and people. His English was quite good and he told us that he learned it from the tourists. During the 3 weeks in Myanmar it happened a couple of times that locals came over to talk to us because they were eager to learn and practice their English skills – which was always a nice and adorable way to communicate a bit with them.
Before sunset, around 5 pm, we arrived at the monastery where we stayed for the night. There was one big room with matrasses on the floor where we slept next to each other. Two other hiking groups spent the night there as well. For dinner we had different plates of Indian food, which was really tasty.
Beside the adult monks, there were also young monks at the monastery. Our guide told us that it is obligatory for Burmese boys between the age of 12 and 20 to live in a monastery for at least 7 days. Usually they stay in a monastery close to their village so they continue going to school during the day and after classes they go to the monastery. They help the monks with e.g. cooking, cleaning and feeding the animals. When we arrived at the monastery they had a lot of fun playing football. We went to bed very early because there is nothing to do as soon as it gets dark and we could hear the kids chatting and laughing in the room next to us – sounded like a funny summer camp 🙂
The next day, we got up at 7:00 am and started the second part of our tour. After hiking another 15 km, we reached the end of the trek at noon. We had lunch and a bit time to relax and then took a boat over the Inle lake. We arrived at 3:00 pm in Nyaung Shwe. The trekking agency had a cooperation with a hotel in town, which was the place where they delivered our luggage. The hotel was cheap and we decided to stay there for the next days.
I really enjoyed the trip because hiking through the countryside and sleeping in a monastery was a unique experience and I would definitely recommend it to everyone who wants to visit Myanmar. You don’t have to physically prepare yourself for the trek, if you have a basic sporty condition you can make it. It’s laid-back hiking, no one is hurrying or stressing you. Most of the time the paths were straight and there were only a few short steep ways.
What to bring:
- Cash: You will pass the entrance gate to the Inle Province where you have to pay an entrance fee of 15 USD
- Warm clothes for the cold night
- Sun cap and sunscreen: most of the trail is directly in the sun
- Closed shoes, comfortable clothes, flashlight
Getting from Bagan to Kalaw:
There are busses and Minivans operating between Bagan and Kalaw. The staff in our guesthouse arranged a Minivan for us, we left at 8:00 am and arrived at 2:30 pm in Kalaw (15.000 MMK each). This was the cheapest price we found after asking at different bus operators in Bagan.
Pictures from the Trekking Tour
Kalaw: Temple & Market
Locals along the trail