Who Brings a Jacket to Myanmar? Trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar (Burma)

We never imagined that we would be cold in Burma, but then we got to the town of Kalaw. Its a beautiful little town, high in the hills (mountains?). So at night, when the sun goes down, it gets cold. Its the first time on this trip that we did not have enough warm clothing. A warm jacket would have been nice.

From Kalaw we took a 3 day, 2 night trek to Inle Lake (pronounced Inn-lay).  It was about 63km of trekking, give or take.

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Great views on Day 1 of the trek. This is in the hills just outside of Kalaw. The rice paddies look exotic, but the line trees look and smell like fall at home in Ontario.

The Kalaw-Inle trek is not arduous trekking, but there were plenty of ups and downs. Much of the trekking was through agricultural areas, and more than a few times we had to get off the path to avoid water buffalo or ox-carts.

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Rural areas in the hills. They farm rice when it’s the wet season, then garlic, turmeric, ginger, and other vegetables in the dry season.
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Our guide Zha, 23 years old. He was fantastic. He played us guitar, taught us about Buddhism and helped to immerse us in what it life is like here. In return our tour group helped fix the GPS on his phone. Also notice the height difference between myself and the average Burmese person. A Burmese monk in Mandalay asked me “what did you eat!?”.
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Zha’s village, our midday rest stop on Day 1. His mother welcomed us into her home for lunch.
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For part of the first afternoon we walked along train tracks until this town. When the train pulled in, the town came to life. You don’t need to leave the train to buy dinner – just lean out the window!

By the time we reached our destination on Day 1, it was around 6pm and the sun was dipping below the horizon. We stayed in a house in a small village. All the trekkers in our group (6 Canadians, 4 Argentinians, 1 American, 1 French, 2 Germans) slept in the same room of the house, with mats and blankets laid out for us.

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We slept in the upstairs of this home, in a village with about ten homes. This was probably the biggest in town. Oh and it turns out roosters make noise all night, not just at sunrise.
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We had pads to sleep on, but the floor was still pretty hard. Despite the heavy blankets, it was very cold at night.

Day 2 was mostly through farmland, with incredible views of the countryside. Its the dry season right now, and no rain is expected until June. The paths are pure dust, and we were covered in it after the second day.

We passed lots of farmers in fields, and families in villages. The people don’t have much, and they work very hard. The sun during the day is brutal, and they’re in the fields all day working. But everyone seems happy, with waves and smiles as we went by. We haven’t learned many words in Burmese but we do know the popular greeting “mingalaba!”. We don’t know if it’s spelled that way, but that’s how it’s pronounced. Throughout the trek we were constantly greeting locals with “mingalaba!” And without fail, we heard it back and got a big smile.  Maybe it’s the Buddhism, which seems to teach happiness, kindness, and the concept of good (and bad) karma.

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Great views on Day 2. Before coming here we didn’t know what Burma might look like, but we didn’t expect it to be so brown. I’m sure that changes when the rains come in June.
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Fields of hot peppers! A little colour in this brown landscape.
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Working in the fields in the afternoon heat.

Once we reached our village on the second evening, we were dusty enough that a bucket shower sounded like a good idea. Turns out it was a very cold idea. Later, evening number 2 was spent around a campfire, with our guide and 2 other Burmese men playing acoustic guitar. Zha played us a song he once sang outside the house of the girl he likes, in the hopes she would hear it and come out for him. But unfortunately only an old woman came outside.

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Accommodations for night 2. More blankets this time! It was a better night’s sleep.

The Day 3 trek was shorter, and mostly downhill. Our feet were aching to reach our destination. We finally reached Inle Lake around 1pm, and our feet were glad for it.

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Some of the trees here are massive.
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This bamboo forest was the last part of the trek before we go to our destination.
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Fishermen on Inle Lake.
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The lake is very shallow, with marshlands all around the edges and even in the middle.
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A long bridge out to a floating village.
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Inle Lake is in a valley, surrounded by hills.

Just like in Canada, February 14 in Burma is Valentines Day. So to celebrate we cycled to a local winery with our new friends Dan and Carly (from Toronto), who we met on the trek. The wine was ok, but the views were incredible and the setting was just really unexpected.

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Napa Valley, or eastern Burma?
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We tasted 2 whites and 2 reds. The whites were a Sauvignon Blanc and a sweet wine just called Late Harvest. The reds were both Shiraz based. I’m not sure it would fly off the shelf at home, but after 6 weeks without wine it tasted good to us.
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We weren’t the only ones celebrating Valentine’s day at the winery.

By the way, if there is anything you’re curious about and think would make a good post please let us know. We would love new ideas for blog posts, so they aren’t all just “we went here, did this”, etc.

– Doug / February 17, 2017 @ 9:50 am / Bagan, Myanmar

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3 thoughts on “Who Brings a Jacket to Myanmar? Trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar (Burma)

  1. We love hearing about we went here and did this!
    I enjoyed your anecdote about communicating in Burmese. I would be interested in hearing how you guys have found traveling in countriea wherw you don’t speak or read the language.
    Also I really like when you guys give us an idea of what the cultural vibe is like where you are. The details you included in this post about how you think Buddhism affects the Burmese people’s happiness was a great way of doing that.
    Love you guys! Xxoo

    Like

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