Blogs from Kalaw, Mandalay Region, Burma, Asia

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Asia » Burma » Mandalay Region » Kalaw January 10th 2014

The buses from Mandalay to Kalaw leave between 7 and 8pm. There don't appear to be any daytime buses, which is a bit silly. The ride takes eight hours which means you arrive in Kalaw at 3am, which is even sillier. Once again the bus had its air-conditioning on as cold as it would possibly go. This time there were blankets though: it is like the operators are acknowledging that setting the air-con to “permafrost” is beyond human endurance but they have the ideal solution to it. Just as ridiculous is that the bus left Mandalay in the evening but at 11.30pm, right after everybody had finally managed to get to sleep, they stopped at a roadside restaurant for “dinner” and nobody was allowed to stay on the bus. So for half an hour everyone just ... read more

Asia » Burma » Mandalay Region » Kalaw September 22nd 2013

Another long coach journey to reach Kalaw, this time on a "tourist" coach, as they are called, (i.e. air-conditioned and with room to stretch legs, though they are actually used by the locals too). When we arrived we were immediately seized upon by a range of guides, drivers and touts, trying to get us to use their guesthouse/use them for transport/pay them to be our guide. Not threatening, but a disorientating arrival. It can be a strange experience being a tourist in Myanmar at this point in its development: because so much of the country is barred to foreigners, and infrastructure is still limited, all but the most adventurous tourists (which I am not) end up following pretty similar routes through the country and going to all the same destinations. So it can feel touristy, although ... read more

Asia » Burma » Mandalay Region » Kalaw September 22nd 2013

Today we began a 4-day 3-night trek from Kalaw to Lake Inle, staying with hill tribes overnight. There are not many fellow trekkers at this time of year, the tail-end of the rainy season, as the terrain is not ideal, ranging from slippery rocky paths to soggy tracks where our feet got stuck in thick, sticky mud (reminded me of music festivals) to outright swamps. We were instructed before we set off to buy the comfy Burmese Army shoes, with tyre-tread soles and green canvas uppers, which grip on the rocks and don't disintegrate or weigh heavily when (inevitably) wet through. We also had to buy the tent-like waterproof coats that go over everything, including the rucksack (our large rucksacks were transported directly to Inle Lake; we just carried essentials), and were given bamboo poles, partly ... read more
Muddy tracks
View across the orange and tea plantations
Walking through the hills

Asia » Burma » Mandalay Region » Kalaw September 22nd 2013

We were surprised to find ourselves walking in bright sunshine this morning, through very different scenery from yesterday. The day started with an hour or so's walk along the train tracks. There is only one train a day, so there is no danger, but the deep puddles of water between the sleepers and the marsh either side meant we had to walk from sleeper to sleeper or try to balance along the rail, so it was difficult to find a walking rhythm. We stopped at the tiny station to watch the train passing through (it arrived about an hour late so I had time to have a Myanmar tea - a cup of tea made with thick, sweet condensed milk). Despite its size the station was lively and served as a local market, with women and ... read more
Station market
Station market
Platform sellers

Asia » Burma » Mandalay Region » Kalaw September 22nd 2013

Most families in all the villages we have visited run some kind of smallholding, growing crops. There are any number of crops grown, but one of the most common is peanuts, which are the staple of the Myanmese diet (it is quite possible, in a Myanmese restaurant, to be given complementary peanuts on arrival, then eat a main course of peanut-based salad or noodles with ground peanuts, then be given peanut crackling for dessert. I think I have eaten my own body weight in peanuts since I arrived). Today when we arrived at the village there were women picking freshly-harvested peanuts off their roots and laying them out to dry in the sun. The remaining root is useless, so is burnt in small fires to make fertiliser; these fires can be seen dotted across the landscape ... read more
Freshly-picked chillies
Burning the peanut roots
Peanuts dry in the sun

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Asia » Burma » Mandalay Region » Kalaw July 9th 2012

And on to what would more or less be my final leg in Myanmar, the highlands of Kalaw in the Shan state, a 8h bus ride from Mandalay. I would be spending two nights here before taking an internal flight from nearby Heho to Tachileik, and then crossing the border from there at Mae Sai in Northern Thailand. What can I say about Kalaw? The moment I arrived and alighted the bus in the dead of the night, even though it was pitch black and I could hardly see anything, I sensed regretting not coming earlier. The weather was extremely pleasant, being cool in the highlands, and such a relief from the intense heat of Mandalay, and non-stop monsoon rains in the south. A small, quiet town set in the midst of ethnic minority villages, I ... read more
Golf Course in Kalaw
Photo 3
Park

Asia » Burma » Mandalay Region » Kalaw January 30th 2012

In perhaps any other country, being swindled out of $100 (and almost another $100 further) on your very first day in a new country may set an early tone for an unpleasant stay, but then Burma isn’t just any other country... After a short stay in Yangon, a frigid bus ride later we were abandoned roadside in the icy chill of Kalaw, a former hill station retreat made popular by the conquering British Empire in the late 19th century. Today Kalaw exists as a peaceful town, centred around a market where locals from surrounding villages make daily visits to buy food for their families and partake in some neighbourhood gossip. For foreigners, Kalaw exists as a starting point for treks to those surrounding villages hidden away in the hills or for the more ambitious trekker, for ... read more
Monk gossip
Our hill tribe host for lunch
Waving at the foreigners

Asia » Burma » Mandalay Region » Kalaw February 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 ... read more
Fellow wanderers
Villagers walking to town to sell their goods
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Asia » Burma » Mandalay Region » Kalaw February 7th 2011

Next day I caught a taxi to the bus station about 45 minutes from the city so I could catch my overnight bus to Kalaw. The taxi driver sped through the traffic and overtook on both sides which I was a bit worried about initially but soon got used to it. The bus trip started off pretty good with a good highway and with very little traffic we seemed to be doing about 90km per hour. Right after we left Yangon you could see ricefields, bullocks pulling carts, and huts where the people lived – very rural. We had been travelling for about 4 hours when we went through the capital Nay Pyi Taw. Talking about a contrast to the rest of Myanmar, very expensive hotels that were lit up like xmas trees, very large new ... read more
Young monk at monastery
On water buffalo
Kalaw to Inle Trek

Asia » Burma » Mandalay Region » Kalaw December 17th 2010

08/12/2010 - 11/12/2010 In Kalaw I booked the 3 day trekking tour in the planet recommended guesthouse (lily inn) and we had Harry the sikh as our guide. We were quite a big group, nine persons. A bit cautious in the beginning cause you always have the possibility of clashing personalities but it turned out we had a really fun cool group!! Luckily Cruella the Canadian decided not to go on the trekking, cause she was staying there as well... First day we had a firm walk of 6,5 hours; we quickly figured out that we had to multiplicate Harry's estimates by 1,5 to get a more accurate figure. The landscape was absolutely amazing! We passed through corn fields, rice fields, tomato fields, weat fields, etc... the mountains were all painted in different colours cause of ... read more
farmer in fields
women workers...hardest workers
local kids




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