Kalaw (8-10 Jul 12)

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July 9th 2012
Published: July 10th 2012
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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 would say Kalaw was a nice way to end my time here in Myanmar, which really has been quite memorable.

Even the bus ride from Mandalay to Kalaw was interesting, as I saw next to Xavier, a 29 year old French-Canadian (former video game graphics designer) traveller who had been on the road for over seven months, five of which he spent in India. Xavier seemed very much transported from the hippie era, complete with the long, braided hair, shaggy goatee and baggy pants. He talked to me about "tripping" on LSD and psychedelic trance festivals, whilst ironically complaining about the dangers of MSG in Asian food!

And in Kalaw I also spent some time chatting with Kent, a Swedish gentleman who had also spent a lot of time in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He told me about the reindeer, moose and char (trout) in the ice-cold Swedish forests, as well as about being thrown in prison for three months for refusing to do his military service during the Vietnam War, and being held up by feudal lords for three weeks in the Af-Pak border when he accidentally strayed into the wrong territory!

Suffice to say, even without the breath-taking views and fresh cool air of the Kalaw countryside, I already had much to chew over from my time there! I regretted not having more time though, to do an organised trek to the nearby Shan minority villages, but well, there's always next time, and I really hope (and believe) that I'll be returning to Myanmar again in the near future.

Additional photos below
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Where I did some exercises for the first time in weeks!

30th September 2012

Thanks for this post! I'm traveling to Burma in the next couple of weeks, trying to sort out the logistics. Can you tell me how much the bus was from Mandalay to Kalaw, and what time it departed/arrived? Thanks!
1st October 2012

Hi Laura, Absolutely. If I remember correctly, the bus was about 12000 kyat (about USD14) including pick-up from the guest-house (I stayed at ET Hotel). It was an 8h ride starting from 6 p.m. and arriving in Kalaw in the dead of the night at 2 a.m.! But don't worry, if you knock on the guest-houses at Kalaw someone will most probably let you in. There might be buses departing earlier from Mandalay, though I'm not sure. I believe most of them are headed towards Taunggyi, hence the schedule is catered towards a decent arrival time there, and not the intermediate drop-off points like Kalaw. Hope that helps. Happy and safe travels!
3rd October 2012

Again, thanks so much for the info! It's proving invaluable :) Happy travels!

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