From Kalaw to Inle, there is just a trek!

On 4 February 2014 by From elephants to kangaroos

After 1 month in India and 2 days in Yangon city, I needed some fresh air, calm and mountains. So here I am arriving in Kalaw in the middle of the night, freezing, to discover the Burmese minorities. Kalaw is the city where you can start your trek to go to Inle lake. After a short night, a Polish couple (Wojtek and Kasia) started to talk to you during the breakfast to know if I was interested to do the trek with them. Indeed, the more you are, the cheaper it is. After a short discussion, we decide to go have some information together. I’ve heard about the agency called Sam’s which is the most famous to organize this trek. So we’ve been there to have more information. After 30 minutes briefing with the 3 of us and one another French couple (Adeline and Kevin) and another French girl (Claire), we decided to leave all together the day after for the Lon distance trek, 3 days and 2 nights.

imageAround 60km to walk in the nature, with some visits I small villages on the way and nights in host family’s. We start at a good walking rhythm with our guide Momo, who speaks a really good English, something we appreciate for the translation! We start talking all together, the group is really nice, it’s cool! During the 1st day, we first walk in a forest and then arrive in the middle of the mountains. We are in front of a huge valley during the lunch, all of this under the sun and with hot weather, great!
Timagehen, we walk between some fields and arrive in a small village when we are welcomed par loads of kids smiling, really happy to be taken in pictures. Then we continue our way of the railway (with trains crossing when the locals just go in one side with their provision to let the train passing by). We finally reach my favorite part with all the colorful and amazing rice fields and this is the end of our 1st walking day when we arrive in the host village for the night.
Our host family seems to be shy, so we don’t share anything with them, too bad. But the sunset on the rice fields with the kids riding their buffaloes as we can ride horses or all these simple but great moments of sharing even just a smile with the people in this village definitely worth it! We also spend a great evening with our group, around an excellent food prepared by our cool Tutu!!! Then follow a difficult night in the house, sleeping on the floor, freezing because the wood house isn’t isolated…

image2nd morning, the wake up is a little bit complicated for everyone between the 21km walk of yesterday and the difficult night, we miss some energy. But a great breakfast and the fresh air of the mountains really help to wake us up! And once again, the landscapes are beautiful… We go from a mountain to wheat fields, from chili plantation to plains. After a tea break on our guide’s mam House in one of the village, we go again, at a good rhythm (sometimes even too fast). We learn to know each other, the ambiance is really nice. We also enjoy this time to ask a lot of questions to Momo about his life, the country. The afternoon is a little bit complicated because the sun is really honing, it’s really hot and we walk on a dry road. But imagewe finally see the end of it after 24km during the day! When we get to the village, we start to see a lot of tourists. It’s one of the point where everyone goes when doing the trek (even the people who do a 1 or 2 days trek) so it’s more difficult to share with the rest of te people of the village. But this time, we stay in a house with only a lovely couple which who we spend the entire night. They are 72 and 54 years old, don’t understand English or even Burmese (they only speak their own dialect) but no matter, Momo translates everything for us. They are really interested by us, by our life and ask us a lot of questions. We also ask them lots of questions about their lives, their family, job and culture in general in Myanmar. We also have a big discussion with Momo about the religion / believes / astrology and learn at this moment lots of things about Hinduism. During this night, I learn that in this religion, regarding my day and time of birth, I’m a white elephant, sacred animal of the country, just a coincidence ;)
So again a great night, once again with excellent food, it’s really impressive what they prepare for us! The night is calmer with our big blankets and few km in our legs, we sleep like babies.

imageWe wake up at 6:30am for this last day of trek. We still have like 15km to so before lunch and after we take a boat to join the lake. This last part starts calmly in the mountains, going up and down all the time. Lots of beautiful landscapes once again. During the tea break, we try to play at the chilon, local game, where you have a volley net and you have to give the special ball (like 9cm diameter) to the other person but you can’t use your hands to do that, really complicated! After trying a little bit, we deride to stop because we are really bad at it and we don’t want to waste the time of the local who want to play :)
The last part is a little bit more complicated, going down across wet and slipy rocks with a fast (too fast) walk from our guide. And we finally reach the entrance of the lake, we will still have to walk like 15min to join our boat after lunch.

image60km done in 2 days and a half of trek. I can tell you now, I was a little bit afraid before doing it because I’ve never done such a thing before. The trek is not complicated itself or technic but you still have to do it, the walk is quite fast between these different types of floors or the changing environment. Grey experience that I recommend to everyone! You really are in the middle of the “real” Myanmar, lost in the minorities in the villages. You can see and observe how they cultivate their fields, using the buffaloes and old stuff. It’s like you’re back 80 years ago in France (or at least that’s like I imagine it 80 years ago in France!). And you will probably not see that if you just stick to the main tourists places. Sharing the moments with the kids when you cross their village or the 2nd night with the family are enough to justify to do this trek! The Burmese are great people, welcoming and kind like I’ve never seen that before. Even if most of the time you don’t understand each other because few of them speak English, just a smile might be enough to understand that you enjoy the moment as much as them.

imageArrived in Inle lake, we cross it to join our guesthouse. I stay in the same as Claire and the Polish couple, the Aquarius inn which I highly recommend coz the people are amazingly nice, the rooms cool and clean, a cosy place and not expensive for Myanmar. Book it in advance because it’s always full due to its reputation!!!
I stayed there for 3 days and spent most of my time with the Polish couple. We made some boat ride in the lake for the entire day discovering this amazing life that the people built directly on it. The house are all on pilotis, the boats wait under the house. All the fruits and vegetables plantation are floating, just as the silver / umbrellas / textiles / cigars fabrics and imageit’s pretty impressive! They have to take their boat for everything, the kids to go to the school, the adults to go to the pagoda or the monastery. The fishermen start early in the morning to get some fish with a local technic impressive to see with their big baskets. A real live show to look at, calmly, all day long from sunrise to sunset.
This lake is really a peaceful and great place to stay for 2 or 3 days at least. If you have enough money, I recommend you to stay in one of the hotel which is directly on the lake, I’m pretty sure it’s even a better experience than stayin in the city next to it (like I did).

So I’m pretty sure you understood from this article, I really like these first days in Myanmar. As I really lived these quiet and calm places, I decided to avoid the cities as much as possible and to enjoy the nature and small villages of the country. So if everything goes swell, I’m now going to Bagan for few days before discovering the Bengale golf. If I find an easy way to go there and if it’s not too expensive, I’ve seen a place where I can follow a vet in an elephant camp for the day. And I will then go to the south of the country. So see you soon for some new adventures!

imagePs: a big thanks to Kasia and Wojtek with who I spent 6 great days! We shared a lot, so see you soon in Thailand or Cracov or Paris ;)

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