Kalaw and the Start of the Trek to Inle Lake

Kalaw and the Start of the Trek to Inle Lake

After a lovely time in Bagan, Mark and I took the morning bus to Kalaw and surprisingly arrived in the early afternoon. We ascended to the mountain village of Kalaw. Mountains in South East Asia are not that high in altitude, but at 1,300 meters Kalaw was significantly cooler than anywhere else we’d been in Burma. We checked in to our room at the basic, but pleasant Eastern Paradise and spent the better part of the afternoon looking for our trekking guide to take us on the 3 day trek to Inle Lake. Although guides at Ever Smile were lovely, there was a traveler who we’d have been trekking with who made some racist comments and was anti-everything. Because of her, not Ever Smile, we sought out other options. We ended up going with Sam’s Trekking, who were also kind and informative. There, we met an adorable French couple with whom we’d be trekking and that sealed the deal.

After that, it was time to explore the town and figure out how to creatively wash and hang out laundry to dry. (I add this mundane detail because clothes washing in sinks and other basins, then hanging clothes to dry on any string, wire, nail, chair in front of a fan, etc. is such an integral part of travel that isn’t ever mentioned in the guidebooks.)

Temple in Kalaw

Temple in Kalaw

Mark wanted a haircut and was happy to go the Fashion: Hair and Make-up Saloom, but alas, it was closed.

Mark wanted a haircut and was happy to go Fashion J Hair and Make-up Saloom, but alas, it was closed.

This is how clothes are ironed in Kalaw.

This is how clothes are ironed in Kalaw. Yep, that’s an iron with hot coals inside and a hand cranked fan to heat them up.

For dinner we feasted at Myanmar Food Place. Plenty of plates were served after ordering only 2 dishes. When there was a power outage, no one blinked an eye (well, they might have and I wouldn't have been able to see them), but rather pulled out flash lights and continued dining and working as usual.

For dinner we feasted at a restaurant with the uninspired name – Myanmar Food Place. Plenty of plates were served after ordering only 2 dishes. When there was a power outage, no one blinked an eye (well, they might have, but I wouldn’t have been able to see them), but rather pulled out flashlights and continued dining and working as usual. With power outages a common as they are in SE Asia, we’re all used to it.

At before heading back to our hotel, we wanted to get a beer. The was a bar called 'Hi' with some kind of rough looking local characters. It was really the only place in town so we walked in. Mark saunters up to the bar and orders a beer in Burmese. The bartender looks stunned, then Mark looks at the hard rock video on the TV and asks, "Iron Cross?" The men at the bar smile. We're in. Thank you Mark for your incredible linguistic abilities and ability to remember random details. Iron Cross is one of the most popular bands in Burma. In case you're ever in a similar situation, fell free to name drop Iron Cross.

Before heading back to our hotel, we wanted to get a beer. There was a tiny bar called ‘Hi’ with some slightly rough looking local characters inside. It was really the only bar in town so we walked in. Mark saunters up to the bar and orders a beer in Burmese. The bartender looked stunned. Next, Mark glances at the hard rock video on the TV and asks, “Iron Cross?” The men at the bar smile. We’re in! Thank you Mark for your incredible linguistic skills and ability to remember random details. Iron Cross is one of the most popular bands in Burma. In case you’re ever in a similar situation, feel free to name drop Iron Cross, it seemed to help.

The next morning we left Kalaw and started our trek through the rice fields...

The next morning we left Kalaw and started our trek through the rice fields…

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...and up the mountain.

…and up the mountain.

This didn't look good.

This didn’t look good.

We stopped with the guide to see if they needed help, but they claimed to be fine. Hmm, looks pretty stuck to me.

We stopped with the guide to see if they needed help, but they claimed to be fine. Hmm, looks pretty stuck to me.

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Orange trees?

Orange trees?

Here was our first rest stop.

Here was our first rest stop.

Me resting with a view.

Resting with a view.

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Tea leaves out to dry

Tea leaves out to dry

Obligatory shot of chickens and chicks for Wendy.

Obligatory shot of chickens and chicks for Wendy.

Kalaw and the beginning of this trek reminded me a lot of Nepal. It came as no surprise that the people here were Nepali.

Kalaw, and the beginning of this trek, reminded me a lot of Nepal. It came as no surprise that the people here at this rest stop were Nepali.

Making chapati.

Making chapati.

Our trekking companions Than and Tomas.

Our trekking companions Than and Tomas.

Ode to Portland

Ode to Portland

And we were off down the trail

And we were off down the trail

Hill tribe village

Hill tribe village

Happy children

Happy children

Piggies

Piggies

Sifting the tea leaves

Sifting the tea leaves

lunch

lunch

Tea leaves being gently roasted

Tea leaves being gently roasted

Another hill tribe village

Another hill tribe village

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Amazingly, for I think the first time ever, I captured a butterfly in flight on film. It was the size of a small bird.

Amazingly, for the first time ever, I captured a butterfly in flight on film. You can see the wing as it’s flapping. It was the size of a small bird.

The clay pots filled with drinking water were available even here.

The clay pots filled with drinking water were available even here.

The train passing through

Train passing through the rural landscape

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Children walking home from school

Children walking home from school

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I don't think I'll ever tire of looking at terraced rice fields. So vibrantly green!

I don’t think I’ll ever tire of looking at terraced rice fields. So vibrantly green!

The best way to carry a basket.

The best way to carry a basket.

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Arriving at the train station

Arriving at the train station

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Zoom out

Zoom out – I love this shot!

Zoom in...

Zoom in.

Amazing face

Amazing face

Aha. This baby saw me, and who knows why (maybe the blonde hair and blue eyes), but he couldn't stop laughing.

Aha. This baby saw me, and who knows why (maybe the blonde hair and blue eyes), but he couldn’t stop laughing.

He laughed and laughed.

He laughed and laughed. It was absolutely adorable.

How cute is that laugh?

There's just something special about trains, isn't there?

There’s just something special about trains, isn’t there?

I think these guys think so too.

It seems these guys think so too.

Tightly wrapped baby

Tightly wrapped baby

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Than and Tomas eating the delicious cake that, sadly, we'd never find again in Burma

Than and Tomas eating the delicious cake that, sadly, we’d never find again in Burma

Friendly dogs

Friendly dogs

Back to the rice field

Back to the rice field

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I forgot to mention that Mark decided to do this 22 kilometer day of trekking with no shoes. Then it started to rain and we all began to slip and slide through on the muddy trail.

I forgot to mention that Mark decided to do this 22 kilometer day of trekking with no shoes. Then it started to rain and we all began to slip and slide through on the muddy trail. The no shoe option might have been better at this point.

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Lovely rice terraces

Lovely rice terraces after the rain. Don’t worry, I’m aware that I have a slight obsession with rice fields.

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Temple in the distance as the sun began to set.

Temple in the distance as the sun began to set

Bridge and rice field to lead us to our destination for the night after a 22 kilometer trek.

Bridge and rice field to lead us to our destination for the night after a 22 kilometer trek.

After dinner, despite the large spiders in our homestay, we fell asleep immediately just after the sun set. We still had 2 more days of trekking to go.

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4 thoughts on “Kalaw and the Start of the Trek to Inle Lake

  1. Absolutely gorgeous, Elizabeth… Thank you for making the effort to share these amazing experiences and images… xom p.s. I love rice fields, too 🙂

    Date: Thu, 13 Jun 2013 13:11:54 +0000 To: beckmegan@live.com

    • Thanks Megan. It was not at all like trekking in Nepal, because it was a much easier (and 19 day shorter) hike. There was just something about the cool air, and vibe from the people in Kalaw and its surroundings reminded me a lot of Nepal.

      Glad to know you you like the rice fields too 🙂 Good luck packing up!

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