Published: December 30th 2010November 19th 2010
Inle lake to Kalaw trek
locals with their water buffaloes on the way to the rice fields
We had "filet mignon" for dinner the night before at Unique restaurant and Connor got sick and threw up during the night, we think it must be the rubbery meat that had done the deed, but it's all suspicion as we had a few snacks here and there while doing the Inle lake boat trip, after breakfast at the rooftop of the Remember Inn GH we talked to our guide Than Htay(Dante to make it easier) if we can postpone departure for an hour to see if Connor will get better if not may postpone for another day, Dante bought some powdered electrolyte power drink for Connor to drink, nice of him, so while Connor went to sleep for an hour to see if he feels better, I went reading. he got up and feels perfect so we started the hike.
We walked to the docks and took a boat to the starting point, an hour away in this small village, we have to pay 6,000 kiats for the boat taxi, the walk was nice, going through small villages, people are busy tilling their land, we can see the veggies that they plant, aubergines, tomatoes, beans, climbing squash, and across
Inle lake to Kalaw trek
through a flowering mustard greens field
the valley you see bright yellow color, flowers from the sesame plant, gives a good contrast to the brown red clay soil they have here. along the way Dante stops and explains things to us, why they plant this, when is harvest time, etc. And of course the conversation went to politics and he said more than 80% of the people had great respect and admiration for Suu Kyi which was freed from years of house arrest just a few days ago. Anyway, there is only 2 classes here the rich(mostly military people) and the poor which is the majority. He learned English so he can be a guide to tourists as tourism slowly increases in Myanmar, he cannot read nor write but can speak it, admirable.
The 1st part of the hike was hilly and quite difficult it did not help that the sun is so intense but then we got a temporary reprieve when it started raining, and boy it rained hard luckily we were just minutes away from the village where we will have lunch, it poured down heavily as we chill in a house where Dante cooked our lunch, Connor and I both fell asleep
Inle lake to Kalaw trek
kid carrying dung on his head
quickly, Dante made a very simple fried noodles with veggies and some fruits. After lunch another nap then Dante had to wake us up as we have to get going as it is getting dark again, before the rain we should be on our way he says, Connor and I were being watched by the local girls with their colorful headscarves and white faces from the thing they put on their faces I dont know what it is called, giggling at us, as we put on our shoes at the bottom of the stairs, the girls wanted to know if I am local as I look like the Burmese men. Connor is called the White Indian! The term locals coined for gringos, as way back then the British brought Indians here and they called them Black Indians to denote foreigners, now when white tourists come they named them White Indians.
Another 2 hour walk, rained heavily the 1st half hour, mud stuck in our booths made it difficult to walk, we stopped a couple times to clean the soles of our shoes, some locals walked with us for a bit again asking if I am one of them, Dante
Inle lake to Kalaw trek
exasperated, being sick while hiking is no FUN!
said I should just stay quiet, dont speak and pretend I am one of them, but it didn't work. Nearing the monastery where we will sleep for the night we encountered a young woman trying to go to the bathroom on the side of the road, when she saw us she screamed and ran away as if she saw a ghost! Dante was laughing about it, she was clearly embarassed. A couple of women was ahead of us, harvesting lime powder from the side of the hill, beneath the red clay are limestones that the locals harvest to use for house constructions among other things, we watched them at work for a bit, then a young boy comes with a basket like scoop for taking cow dung from the road, where they dry it and use as fertilizers, he obliged for a photo with his harvest.
We stopped briefly at a shop in the village to buy water then on to the monastery, the kid monks are busy learning and chanting, we settled in to our humble quarter inside the monastery, a simple bed partitioned by curtains for privacy, we were warned by Dante that the monks can get
loud when they chant and if we could just put up with it for a night. We chilled in our beds, 4 more tourists came from the other way, Dante cooked our meal and we had a good dinner, way too much though, the monks sadly cannot eat after noontime so I felt bad when I offered one to join us for dinner, oops , guess am not supposed to, the younger monks were asking for pen, who the hell started this.. tourists! at least not candies.
We walked to the shop after dinner to join Dante for a shot of whiskey or two, then off to bed only to be woken up by chants early in the morning and it went on and on, I got up at 7am and went to the loo, Connor was still sound asleep and Dante woke him up for breakfast so we can get going, I was not feeling good, I had a bad stomach since last night and have no appetite for breakfast, Connor meanwhile is feeling better, I guess it's my turn to get sick.
We walked through bamboo forests, where we saw a forest of spiderwebs, amazing, the
spiders are huge and scary, then through patches of sesame plantations, in full bloom, paints the landscape yellow, occasional white flowered mustard greens, it really is a riot of colors, quite pretty, the sun though is very intense and I wilted quickly my tummy was in bad shape and had to excuse myself to go to the toilet 2 times during the hike. Making it to the village for lunch, we went upstairs of the house while Dante cooks, there is a woman with a kid, probably the wife of the owner of the house, she sat across us with her baby and nonchalantly opened her blouse and start feeding the boy, it was an awkward situation as she was at the same time staring at us, maybe waiting for a reaction, Connor quickly diverted his eyes towards the table where the food is served, I was lying down, I got up and looked at Connor to confirm what was just happening, yup, that's what you're seeing! Later Dante told Connor the woman's husband is in his late 60s an she is probably half his age or more, she is quite attractive but we don't want to get into trouble
by fooling around with her!
Anyway more tourists came to have lunch in the house, I had a few bites of the rice and soup and then we left again, more beautiful scenery and more upset stomach, uphill and downhill,it was a struggle, we encountered some locals going to the fields to till their land with their buffaloes and cows, they all thought I was local once again! And they seem to be having fun with it, they all seem to think all Americans are white! Arriving in the village where we will spend the night, our host is a retired old man who is now just learning English, he is very enthusiastic about Americans, and he loved Connor! he found out I was tummy sick and offered some traditional medicine, I refused politely but he was insisting I take it, somehow I got away from the conversation without taking the medicine, I went to the toilet 2 more times, in their small shack of a toilet but surprisingly clean and not smelly, because they bucket flush it with water, unlike in Central Asia where it is just a pit toilet. The toilet is next to the garden full
of pumpkins and okras and beans, I love it! Nothing like home grown veggies, for dinner the daughters of the old man cooked us up a storm, while Connor and Dante booze up, I watched the girls make the meal, they made the best soup, pumpkin leaves with ginger and a hint of lemon mint, yummy, it somehow calmed my tummy down.
Later Connor and I walked the small village as the sun was setting, we got lost a little but was able to come back in the house and they boozed up some more, first up was whiskey then rum, moonshines really! Dante played some drinking games/tricks but in his drunken stage very hard to understand but anyway I went to bed to rest, Connor kept on drinking. Later in the night he got sick and threw up more than once, I was feeling better. The night was cold in the mountains so I bundled up, the base of our mattress was a space blanket which did not really helped. We woke up exactly at 5am when the family woke up and made noises, Connor was so dehydrated he finished all our water. I bought some more later,
I am feeling good now and it's Connor's turn again to be sick! After breakfast we left, the old man taking us to a short cut through the sesame fields.
We walked maybe 2 miles to a monastery where there is a cave full of buddha figures, it was a tough walk for me, the sun is strong and I felt like passing out, so I try to drink more water, I am still dehydrated from yesterday's bout of LBM, we made it to the cave, not really interesting to me, from there we walked towards Kalaw, about 2 hours, up and down hills bits of pine and bamboo forests, the final downward hill was steep but short, so glad to be in Kalaw, we saw the train pulling in from Yangon, with one gringo, we proceeded towards the main road, as we were walking I suddenly hear a man in the horse carriage greeting me salamaleykum! I was surprised then quickly realized I was wearing my headscarf from Jordan complete with the ring, so I greeted him back, and Dante decided to introduce me to the locals as a Jordanian, which only drew blank stares. This town has
a Catholic church, a mosque and buddha stupas, a multi ethnic and cultural mix. It looks pleasant and hilly.
We checked in at Winner hotel next to the road for better and easier access to the bus stop for tonight's trip to Mandalay. The front desk told us 3,000 kiats for half day use of the room, then when we got our stuff in the room and came out fro lunch the price is now 5,000 kiats! we were too tired to argue, between the 2 of us it's fine I guess. Dante and his brother who drove by motorbike from Nyaungshwe to bring our backpacks here, went to the local market for lunch, delicious Shan noodle soups, served with pickled mango and mustard greens, and so cheap only 300 kiats a piece. We have to pay 8,000 kiats for the transport which I thought was free but nevertheless no big deal. We said goodbye to Dante and we went back to the hotel to crash and sleep. The bed was very soft and damp, it felt icky lying in it but we were too tired to complain.
In the afternoon,a quick shower and off to find food,
the market is now closed so we ended up in one of the restaurants near the road where they have an English menu, we had some chicken and mustard green soup, we have to laugh at some menu descriptions, on the veggie section is "white mastered" we wonder what that means.. We had a walk around Kalaw, it was cold we were both under dressed, there is a band playing in the monastery grounds but they suck, bunch of teenage kids stopping and going with their electric guitars, after snooping around the temples we went back to the hotel, supposedly there is a festival here too but all we saw was a couple of fireworks and that's it and a few rowdy kids riding around in their motorbikes yelling around some slogans. We paid our bill then walked 50 meters to the bus stop at 8pm like the bus ticket said, we waited and waited and waited, it came exactly at 9pm like the reception boy in the Winner hotel said. We were freezing from the long wait, then they did not stop right at the bus stop, Connor had to walk and ask them if they are the bus
to Mandalay. They cannot understand our ticket, they cant read in Roman letters, but let us in the bus anyway and found our seats reserved, immediately we smelled a stink muck like sh*t! The guy in front of us had a puppy in a sack under the seats, the dog cries intermittently, it probably shat itself scared, as the roads got windy, I got dizzy so much twist and turns but was relieved to see a straight road eventually.
It was a difficult trip for me, though only 10 hours, the seats are not comfortable and the smell was incessant, then we had to go through a check point before Mandalay, one army guy wanted to check my backpack, he just pat it here and there to make it appear he was inspecting it and then let me go. Arrived in the chaotic bus station in Mandalay and took a shared truck/taxi with the 2 other tourists in the bus, an old couple from Europe, and we got dropped off at Royal GH.
There are more photos below