Kalaw, Myanmar

Hiking from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Shan State

Flying into Heho airport, we could see below us a patchwork landscape, fields of every crop imaginable.  We had arrived in Shan State, the food bowl of Myanmar, producing about 60% of Myanmar’s food.  We were soon to be amongst those fertile fields as we embarked on our next adventure – hiking from Kalaw to Inle Lake.  I couldn’t wait!

Kalaw, Myanmar

Views coming in to Heho airport, Myanmar

Before we got underway on the hike, we had a night in the former British hill station of Kalaw.  With a much cooler climate it was used by the British as a welcome respite from the heat.  While the British have long gone, there are many beautiful colonial homes in the hills above the village.  Once commandeered by the Burmese Generals, many have now been converted to upmarket hotels, one of which was our accommodation for the night.

On the way, we stopped off at Aung Ban, a distribution centre for the local produce.  It was surprisingly interesting.   We wandered around this market town, walking into warehouses stocking garlic, onion, mandarins, ginger, chili, sesame, potatoes….you name it!  Not surprisingly, these form the stock staples of Burmese cooking.  Everything in Myanmar seems to still be done by hand, so we saw women manually shaking the garlic in bamboo baskets to sort the sizes.  In fact sizing and sorting of everything was done by hand.

Kalaw, Myanmar

Wow – ginger anyone?

 

Kalaw, Myanmar

Garlic, and the trays for sizing

Kalaw, Myanmar

The two-stroke “Chinese Buffalo” that you see everywhere in this part of Myanmar

Kalaw, Myanmar

Markets in Myanmar

Kalaw, MyanmarMarkets in Myanmar

Kalaw, Myanmar

Local transport in Aung BanKalaw, Myanmar

Potato warehouse, AungBan

Kalaw, Myanmar

Chili traders at work

I could see how refreshing Kalaw would have been for the British, as I found it very cool.  So much so, I asked about heating for the room in the evening, and to my delight within a few minutes I had a roaring fire in my room.  It was deliciously warm and cosy and I could have stayed there for a while.  However the real reason we were there wasn’t for snuggling up in front of a fire but for hiking.  So next morning, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, we were off.

Kalaw, Myanmar

What beats a roaring fire in your room?

 

Kalaw, Myanmar

Picking chili – everything is manual!

Kalaw, Myanmar

The beautiful rich soil in Shan State

Kalaw, Myanmar

Everyday farming equipment in Myanmar

Kalaw, Myanmar

Basket weaving is the man’s job in Myanmar

The trekking was a highlight of my time in Myanmar, I absolutely loved it.  It was only two days, around 30 km, and fairly easy hiking to Inle Lake.  However I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.  For starters, the weather at this time of year was mild and sunny, with clear skies and blue horizons, the Burmese version of winter.  This meant there was nothing to hinder the views, and these were simply gorgeous – rich, red fertile earth, fields of produce like chilies, tomatoes, sesame, rice as well as sunflowers, calabash, peppers.

Kalaw, Myanmar

Traffic on the hiking trail

 

Kalaw, Myanmar

Along the way… pagodas. Of course!

Kalaw, Myanmar

Views on the hike

Kalaw, Myanmar

Scenery on the hike

We passed little villages, monasteries and schools, and glimpsed villagers go about their daily business, who smiled and waved as we passed.  We saw farmers plowing fields with buffalo plows, or by hand; and groups of women picking chilies, threshing sesame, or tending fields.  Everything was by hand, nothing seems to be automated.  I also loved seeing the different ethnicities, easily recognisable by their different traditional costumes.  At times it felt like I was stepping back in time.

When you are trekking, you are automatically at a slower, calmer pace, and it’s an opportunity to see and experience local life, and hiking from Kalaw to Inle Lake was no exception.  Staying a night in the monastery in very simple, basic accommodation was also memorable.  Not an experience that I have had before and who knows when I will have this chance again.

As I think back and remember our hiking experience, I remember everything with a smile.  The sounds of the women singing in the fields.  The clang of the cowbells on the buffaloes.  The chirping of the birds in the trees.  The chanting of the young monks as we passed monasteries.  The hazy smoke from the village fires pierced by the early morning light.

It was magical, memorable, and an unforgettable experience.

Kalaw, Myanmar

Overnight accommodation, at the monastery. Basic but did the trick.

Kalaw, Myanmar

Football game as the sun sets at the village monastery

Kalaw, Myanmar

Early morning haze on the hiking trail

Kalaw, Myanmar

Stunning views

Kalaw, Myanmar

Children sing the anthem before school starts

Kalaw, Myanmar

Prayers before school starts

Kalaw, Myanmar

Washing day

Kalaw, Myanmar

Beautiful views, Inle Lake in the distance

Kalaw, Myanmar

Bamboo forest on our trek

Kalaw, Myanmar

Near the end of the trek, and in my happy place!

Kalaw, Myanmar

Along the hiking trail

Kalaw, Myanmar

Rice paddies on the hiking trail

Kalaw, Myanmar

Women working (and singing!) in the rice field

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