Published: March 2nd 2011February 10th 2011
Our final day in Myanmar! We were picked up after breakfast by a taxi to take us to our next and final destination in Myanmar: Kalaw. After speaking with Eitan during our first cab ride in Yangon, and hearing great stories from other travelers about this mountain town, I was sure I wanted to check it out. Unfortunately we only had an afternoon and a morning here so we wouldn't be able to do any long treks (the most popular one is from Kalaw to Inle Lake in 2-3 days, or vice versa).
After settling in the Eastern Paradise Motel, a comfortable hostel, we walked around town and enjoyed the cool air. Kalaw is set in the mountains and was popular with the British upper class during the colonial days. No surprise, as it really is very nice and cool compared to the heat in Yangon, Mandalay or the dusty roads of Bagan! We walked to the RDS (Rural Development Society) shop next to the market. This organisation supports many local people through education, a children's home and selling local handicrafts in their shop. We were hoping to get some info about treks in the area but realised it wasn't
really their thing to do, however another traveler James offered to show us the children's home that RDS founded and meet with the founder Tommy. We walked along a few streets and got a private tour through the children's home by one of the girls living there, very sweet. We met Tommy, the founder who told us a little about what he does and suggested we could see a temple nearby. So after having a small bite to eat in one of the local restaurants (delicious pumpkin and chapati) we walked to the temple set against a cave. Not surprisingly it is known as a buddha cave and has lots of small little walkways and nooks with brightly lit buddhas in it!
After our visit we walked back to town and decided to stop at a cute little cafe called Coffee Corner. Surely here they would have good coffee, if it's the only thing they serve? But no, here too we were given a "cappucino" - which was basically boiled water with a small package of granules that dissolves in the water. Ah well.
Back at the Eastern Paradise Motel we met up with the nephew of the
owners, who had just come back from a trek and would be taking us trekking the next day. We sat with him to see whether it was possible to do a trek just for a morning, as we would have to leave for the airport around 1pm. He suggested we start walking at about 8am, which sounded like a very early time for us (also because we had had early starts almost every day of our trip so far!). He said the minimum number of hours was 4 and we had thought that 2-3 hours would be enough for us! Mom had a sore back from our bikeriding, hard beds, uncomfortable bus rides and lack of rest, so she didn't know if she'd be able to manage. We decided to go for it and went for a great dinner at one of the Nepali restaurants in town. The food was amazing and with our bellies filled we walked back in the cold (the temperatures go down to about 6 degrees celcius at night!) to the guesthouse. We slept well and had a delicious, large breakfast to give us plenty of energy for the hike. We met up with the guide,
Min Min, and set off on our hike. It helped that the air was still very cold in the morning, it was much easier than walking in the heat. It wasn't long before we got to a small path leading out of town leading us through rice fields, up the hill, down the hill, through tea plantations and after about 2 hours we got to a small shack called the Viewpoint restaurant where two tables were set up. We enjoyed a lukewarm sugary drink and walked another half hour to a Palaung hilltribe village. Some kids followed us around and we were invited for tea in a local house. Our guide could only half communicate with the woman because they speak their own language. There are about 120 languages spoken in Myanmar he told us, and many of the hilltribe children do not learn Burmese (because they don't go to school). Many of the hilltribe children don't go to school, but in the towns and cities about 90% of the kids do! (More than I expected)
We enjoyed the green tea which was grown locally and we then headed back to the viewpoint where we enjoyed a nice lunch,
a large bowl of vegetable noodle soup. After lunch the walking was more tiring, it was warmer and the walking was having an effect on our legs. By the time we got back to Kalaw our legs were throbbing and we realised we had walked for about 5 hours! So much for our 2-3 hour hike!
The lovely lady at the Eastern Paradise Motel had allowed us to keep our rooms until after we got back so that we would be able to freshen up before heading to the airport..and that was necessary as we were covered in red dust! Mom was almost unable to move after the hike and was dreading the ride to the airport, but after the shower her back was feeling fairly normal again. We met the taxidriver and said goodbye to Kalaw and the Eastern Paradise motel.
We had quite a wait at Heho airport for our flight to Yangon, as it was a bit delayed, but we finally arrived in Yangon around 6.30 pm. We had our only run in with an unfriendly Burmese person, the boy who grabbed my luggage tag from my hand and then said that 500Kyat wasn't enough for
carrying the bag 20 metres. To be honest, I don't really blame him because he has to make a living that way but his aggressive behaviour was rude in any situation.
Our hotel for the last night was the grande but depressing Seasons of Yangon Hotel, about 200 metres from the airport. We had hoped to use the business centre to check Mom in for her flight the next day but Internet had been down for more than a day. Thinking about this now it was not surprising that Internet wasn't working as this was right as Egypt was all over the news and online. I was surprised to catch a few minutes of it on satellite tv a few days prior, other than that we pretty much missed everything that was happening on the news during our 2 weeks there.
We reflected on our amazing trip over a plate of fried noodles opposite the departures hall...not the charming restaurant we'd had in mind but unfortunately there was little choice! we thought of the highlights of our trip and decided that our favourite day was our cycling day on the plains in Bagan, closely followed by the boat
ride on Inle Lake. Despite what you hear about Myanmar on the news (only negative stories about politics or refugees at the border) there are incredible sights to see. I hope that the country will continue to get visitors that can help them make money and also tell them about the rest of the world...something they won't learn about in school. The Burmese people are incredibly proud of their country. They won't talk politics but they will tell you about their rich culture, the many different races and tribes in their country and that is something that really adds to your travel experience. It changed a simple visit to a restaurant into a really interesting evening in which we learnt more about the lifestyle of a Burmese family.
We also realised that us traveling together, mother and daughter, was an experience that we would never forget. Who would have thought that at 58 and 28 we would be backpacking in Myanmar together?!
There are more photos below