Myanmar

Kalaw to Inle trek: Sleeping with strangers and shooting rockets at a mountain

kalaw to inle trek

How does 3 days of walking 60 km through muddy and hilly terrain, sleeping on the ground and a slight chance of leeches sound? Like an unforgettable experience right guys?? We thought so too.
So off we went on the night bus to Kalaw (which turned out to be interesting) to book a 3 day Kalaw to Inle trek. It was one of the things we really wanted to do while visiting Myanmar but we were unsure if it would be doable in the rainy season. None of that mattered, as we soon found out.

Day 1

8:30 am: We’re packed and ready to go. Our group consists of us two, two Israeli girls, a guy from Indonesia, our guide and our cook. 10 seconds after the introduction our guide immediately bolted away, thus setting the pace for the entire trip. Him leading the way, us trying to catch up.

Being happy little troopers

Being happy little troopers with Pho our guide on the right sporting the cool bamboo hat #junglefashion

After the first hour of walking we stop at the first “picture time” moment of the trek, an awesome view of the valley where one of the many tribes live and work.

Flore amazed by the view

Flore being amazed by the view, the little house on her right we learn is the “honeymoon house” where you can make “a lot of noise”

Our guide tells us they’re mainly cultivating tea now that opium is prohibited by the government and because tea is more profitable for the locals. A bit skeptical, we ask him how much tea Burmese people drink that it could be more profitable than opium and we get a smirky smile back.

We still have an hour to walk until lunch and we get to see breathtaking views of rice paddies and fields full of ginger and peppers.

Rice fields as far as the eye can see

Rice fields as far as the eye can see

At 11 AM we stop for lunch and enjoy some lovely Burmese food with some tea (got to get those consumer numbers up) before heading off for the last 3 hours of walking to the village where we’ll be sleeping. Whenever we do catch up with our guide we question him about local customs, his live in the village and whatever he felt comfortable talking about. We learn that he’s studying English to get a degree and that he loves playing the guitar. We talk about Buddhism and football and we get slack from Henry, the Indonesian guy, that our Belgian “golden generation” didn’t do so “golden” in the world cup (Thanks Wilmots).

The rocket game

We’re on the last straight road to the village when all of a sudden we hear the sound of fireworks being lit and what looks like a rocket comes flying over our heads towards another mountain. “Ah yes, they’re playing the rocket game” the guide explains. The what now?

The rocket game, dear readers, is what describes all the people coming together on the surrounding hills and aiming their home made bamboo rocket at what’s called “the rocket mountain”. The goal of the game is trying to get the rocket to land as close to a marked field as possible for bragging rights. Forget Pokemon GO folks, this is where it’s at.

kalaw to inle trek rocket

Our guide sporting a rocket that failed to launch

After 10 minutes of rocket spotting we arrive at our first home stay village, where we’re greeted by the lovely people we soon learn are relatives of our guide. We get to rest our feet while enjoying an amazing (fully vegetarian!) feast prepared for us on 2 open fires.

Feeling like kings and eating amazing (veggie!) meals

Enjoying an amazing (veggie !) meal after a day’s walk.

Day 2

6 AM the next day and after taking turns ‘bucket washing’ ourselves, we’re on our way to start the next part of our Kalaw to Inle trek. This time it’s six and a half hours of walking and even more green tea along the way to the village. We get to see amazing scenery, walk through muddy tracks and test how waterproof our shoes are in the slippery rice fields.

FLore sporting the "I just woke up at 6 and washed myself in a rusty bucket" - look

Flore sporting the “I just woke up at 6 and washed myself in a rusty rain barrel” look

Around noon our guide strikes up a conversation with some women working on the field and we curiously ask him what they where talking about. “She asked me if I ate lunch already” he said. As we all thought he was joking he goes on to explain to us that, as all the locals know each other, as a way of greeting they ask one another if they have eaten breakfast/lunch/dinner already depending on the time of day. As we just had amazing veggie curry at a local restaurant, that was what he answered.

The rest of the track was a bit trickier, and saving the best for last we had to “ninja jump” the last bit which consisted of jumping on to a mud wall, grabbing a hold of a branch or root that’s sticking out and sidesplitting our way over the mud down below. Flore never felt more in touch with the unexplored Bear Grylls in her than in that moment.

We cross the final road and tired and hungry, we arrive at the second village.

Our second stop on the Kalaw to Inle trek

Our second stop on the Kalaw to Inle trek

After another meal, filled with delicious vegetarian dishes, we were ready for the second night. We slept like babies… until 2 AM when we both got woken up by a scratching sound and small fast rodent like footsteps. It looked like the food put as an offering in the Buddha shrine above our heads had attracted (a?) mouse. The next 10 minutes where spent figuring out how to get our sleeping liners mouse proof before we were able to sleep again.

In the morning we woke up with all our toes still intact and got to enjoy a delicious breakfast and the hospitality of our hosts as we prepared ourselves for the last 6 hours of our Kalaw to Inle trek.

Waking up to the sun providing some beautiful lightning

Waking up to the sun providing some beautiful lightning

The last part of the trek was mostly spent walking downhill and luckily it didn’t rain in the morning making for near perfect trail conditions. Again the surroundings where nothing short of amazing making the whole trek an unforgettable experience. We ended the trek with a boat ride across the Inle lake, which is the perfect ending to the nature intense trekking.

The view from the boat, couldn't ask for better weather that day

The view from the boat, couldn’t ask for better weather that day

After a long warm shower, we where glad that we went ahead and booked the trek, even though it was in the rainy season. The scenery alone made it one of our most memorable experiences in Myanmar (together with temple hunting in beautiful Bagan) and the home stays added a humbling experience that makes you appreciate how lucky we are to be able to go on this trip or any trip for that matter. We got a sneak peek in to the daily lives of the local people and it was nice that the guide speaks enough dialects to act as a translator, so you can ask questions.

One of the school in a local village

One of the school in a rural village

Where do I sign up?

If you’re interested to book the trekking, which we can highly recommend, you can visit Sam’s family restaurant at 21 Aung Chan Thar St in Kalaw. You can also call them at +95 81 81 50237 or e-mail them at samtrekking@gmail.com. The more people that are in the group the lower the per person price gets, we payed 45000 kyat per person in a 5 person group. They prepare vegetarian meals upon request during the trek and can accommodate for any food allergies.

We’ll leave you with our top tips for doing the Kalaw to Inle trek:

– Ask about your guide, his motivation and experience. He plays a big part in how you experience the trek so make sure you guys click before spending 3 days running after him 🙂

– Inform your hotel in Kalaw you’ll be arriving early with the night bus, to avoid having to sleep in the cold on a bench. (If you’re curious about our experience on the night bus from Bagan to Kalaw, read our story over here)

– Bring cookies for when you get hungry after arriving at the home stay and while the food is being prepared. They put out amazing feasts made most of the time on a single open fire so patience is a virtue.

– Wear comfortable shoes that can get wet, as it’s bound to happen during the 3 days.

 

If you have any more questions about the trekking or want to share your stories feel free to do so in the comments below! We’re always interested in hearing how other peoples experiences where.

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