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Published: March 6th 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 buildings everywhere, and brand new houses but we saw very few people in the streets and almost no traffic. I would be very surprised if the hotels had more than a few people staying in each. I guess this is where the government spends most of its money and uses most of its electricity. After this we travelled for an hour or two before we
turned off the main road to Kalaw. This is where the so called highway we were on turned into a single lane, bumpy and windy road. The short distance that we had to Kalaw took more than 5 hours. We probably averaged about 20-30kmh as a guess.
We finally arrived about 4am, I had booked a single room at the Golden Lilly Guesthouse and there was a young boy waiting with a sign with my name on it. When we got to the guesthouse the lady asked if I could wait in their small untidy reception area until 6am when somebody checked out. There was a girl there that had arrived just before me who also was waiting for a room, so we chatted for a short while until I realised I didn’t want to try and sleep on the small couch, so I took off to search for a tea shop so I could have a coffee. I found an outdoor one with Premier League highlights on, so I sat there in the very cold weather for about an hour and a half before returning to the guesthouse. On my return the lady said that I would have
to wait for the guests to finish their breakfast before I could get a room. Finally about 9am she showed me the room, but said it was the only one available and I would have to share with the girl waiting before me. I was pretty pissed off at this stage, so I told her to give it to the girl and I went around the corner and found a nice place straight away. It pretty much ruined my day, considering I stayed up for about 5 hours waiting for a bed and getting pretty much no sleep on the bus. So if anyone is considering going to Kalaw do not stay at the Golden Lilly Guesthouse, I have heard many complaints about this guesthouse since I was there. I had a few hours sleep and got up in the early afternoon and wandered around the town for a couple of hours. The area itself is a hot spot for trekking but I didn’t venture out of town. I had to bite the bullet and book a 2 day 1 night trek the next morning with the previously mentioned guesthouse because of price and availability. That night I went to
a local restaurant and had a very nice curry where they bring out a number of dishes where you eat as much as you can and which also includes fruit, sweets, and coffee all for $3.
Next day I met the 8 French guys that were doing the trek with me (more people than I was told and more than I would have liked but I didn’t have too many options available). We left in a pickup about 9.30am and drove for about 45 minutes down a backroad to a little village where we got dropped off. Our guide was Rambo Singh whose family had come over to Myanmar in the early 1900’s. He didn’t talk a great deal but his English was excellent and he answered all our questions. We walked for a couple of hours through nice countryside and some interesting villages before having a long lunch stop in one of the houses. After lunch we walked another few hours in beautiful countryside and through some more villages whilst seeing farmers and locals all along the route. We also called into a local school which has only one classroom and one teacher for about 4 year levels.
Most of the French guys had good cameras and they were handing out a lot of lollies to the children so they could get some great shots – maybe I am wrong but it seemed this way. I am fully against giving out lollies and money to these kids, it would be better to bring a few English-Burmese basic dictionaries or pens and pencils and pass them onto the school teacher to distribute.
As the sun was setting we arrived at the monastery where we would spend the night. We were introduced to the head monk and then shown where we would sleep. We were going to have a quick wash but the stalls had no water and the bucket from the well had holes in it so we decided to give it a miss. There were a couple of older monks but the rest were young buys between the ages of 6 and 14. In the evening they were inside the monastery chanting for about 1 hour. After listening to this we went to one of the other buildings and had a huge dinner before going to bed early. I must admit that there was another group of
about 12 tourists also staying at the monastery so it is definitely on the tourist trail. In the morning we all gave a small donation to the head monk and he gave us all his blessing. Four of the French guys that are travelling for quite a while take video of a little leap frog routine they have when they come across an interesting setting and then plan to put it all on youtube when they finish their trip. Through our guide they asked the head monk if the young monks can participate. He said yes and was as keen as the young monks to watch the reply of the video. I have included my video of this routine in this blog.
We then walked about 4 hours mainly downhill through pretty arid land to a small village on one of the canals that flow into Inle Lake. We had a long lunch here before taking a very scenic hour boat ride across the lake to the main tourist town of Nyaungshwe where our backpacks were waiting for us at a hotel. The trek cost me $30 plus drinks which I thought was good value, but I would recommend
going in a group of 3 or 4 people and going for the extra day which would be $15 more.
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