I still have a couple more Myanmar recaps coming your way (slowly, but surely). Today, I’d like to tell you about my favorite part of the trip: our trek through the countryside.
Incidentally, this was the part of the trip to which I was least looking forward. Alex loves to hike. I do not. Hiking is essentially just walking uphill, so I guess that’s partially why I don’t really understand the appeal. Of course, it’s all worth it when you reach the summit and you can Instagram the beautiful views, right? Anyway, over the past couple years, I have become less averse to hiking as I’ve started to do it more and more. That said, I was still not sure that I was up to the task of trekking (read: walking) 36 miles over the course of 3 days. But Alex was dying to do it, so I womaned up and accepted the challenge.
We started in Kalaw, where most of the treks begin. There we met up with a couple of Alex’s friends, one of whom had arranged a guide for us. Our guide’s name was Ko Min, and he was awesome. Over the next three days, he would lead us through woods, over mountains and past many, many farms to Inle Lake, our final destination.
The cost of the whole trip? $36 for three days. This included food, housing and Ko Min’s services. So if you’re looking for a cheap way to see Myanmar, trekking is a great option.
So we set off on Thursday morning, hiking for about 2.5 hours before breaking for lunch. Some shots from along the way…
A little break for lunch…
Chapati and pickled cabbage
View from the farm where we ate lunch
So with our bellies full, we headed out into the heat of the afternoon to finish up the day’s hike.
A woman separates out green tea from her farm.
We passed by a school at one point, and it just so happened to be recess. All of the kids immediately ran over to the guys, wanting to play a game of “Helicopter.”
Since boys rule and girls drool, I didn’t get to partake but I did get some good photos! They were total hams for the camera.
As we walked, we did make a few stops to rest. The drink of choice was always hot tea, which makes sense given that it grows everywhere, but strange because I never think to drink hot tea in hot weather (though this is common in Malaysia as well). Here’s a shot from a roadside tea stand:
Later on, we took a snack break shortly before reaching our destination for the evening. On the menu? Fresh yogurt with a little sugar and sliced banana. Given my stomach troubles earlier on in Myanmar, and the fact that I don’t equate dairy with being the most refreshing thing on a hot day, I was a little wary of it. Ko Min seemed to sense that, and assured me that it was “safe to eat.” Good to know. It actually did turn out to be a nice little treat.
Around 5 or so, we reached our homestay, located in a small village of about 100 people. Families receive a small stipend for allowing us to stay, and we get to see how Myanmar families live.
There was no electricity, running water or indoor plumbing. Instead, they had a giant battery hooked up to provide a couple lights upstairs. Showering was done outside with a bucket of water. I did not end up showering because I actually wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. Women usually wear a kind of towel cover-up while they shower, but I didn’t have one. Nor did I think to bring a bathing suit, which probably would have been my best option. Oh well. I contented myself with make-up remover wipes and being quite smelly for the next few days.
These were our beds (excuse the blurriness)…
The view from our room, both when we arrived and by sunset, was absolutely gorgeous.
We were absolutely exhausted, and were all asleep by 7:30. Which was fine, because we were up-and-at-’em early the next day…
This breakfast was delicious: tons of fresh fruit, and crepes with chocolate. And tea. Always tea.
We needed it, too, because Day 2 was the most grueling day. I think we did around 14 miles altogether, but the morning was especially long (around 8.5 or 9 miles).
As beautiful as Day One’s mountains were, I think I liked the scenery of Day Two even more. Between the farms and rolling hills, I half-expected Maria von Trapp to pop up and start singing.
This complex of pagodas was planted in the middle of the woods, and we randomly happened upon them.
We made it to our second homestay, with a steaming hot cup of victory tea waiting to be imbibed on arrival.
We awoke the next day for our last day of hiking, which would bring us the shores of Inle Lake. Admittedly, I was both physically and camera-ally fatigued at this stage, so I don’t really have many pictures from the last push.
Here is the amazing Ko Min, though, as we were ferried across Inle to our hotel:
As lengthy as this post is, it’s an extremely condensed version of all the amazing things that we saw in our trek. It was long and tiring, but completely worth it.
If you’re looking for an excellent guide for your own trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, please consider booking with Ko Min. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find him in Kalaw right next to the Honey Pine Hotel (it’s a small town and is easy to find).