Kalaw is a hill town in the Shan State of Burma. It has a much colder climate then the desert area of Bagan, which we had previously come from. Our bus ride to Bagan turned out to be a lot longer then 6-7 hours (This is turning out to be a recurring theme in Myanmar.) First, the bus was 2 hours late due to ‘steering wheel difficulties’. Then we spent two hours apparently tracking down a tourist who paid for a ticket but didn’t show up. Cranky and irritable, I ordered a coffee from a road stall. I ended up getting what would be my first (and hopefully last), hot instant coffee in a plastic bag.
After we finally set off for Kalaw, it was already 11:00, as opposed to 8:00. No one seemed too bothered. Dodging cows and miscellaneous motorbikes, we were off! About 3 hours into the ride, we stopped for lunch. Burmese food is really growing on me. When I ask for vegetarian rice and veggies, they bring out a hot bowl of rice and different bowls of various foods that you can add- including lots of pickled veggies and spices.
After filling up- and hoping my stomach would be fine for the remainder of the ride, we starting winding up the mountain, taking a quick break to cool down the tires (apparently this is a thing?) Some of the locals also seemed to use this area for an impromptu washing station.
When we finally reached Kalaw at 5:00, I was exhausted but quickly refreshed when we reached our guesthouse, Thitaw Lay House. This B&B is up the hill aways from Kalaw Center, and was so quiet and peaceful- just what I needed after Bagan.
In the morning, we started off with the best breakfast I have had yet- homemade yogurt, pancakes, and fresh fruit. We decided to not hire a trekking guide, but go hiking on our own. The B&B owner had a couple of suggested routes, and said it was very difficult to get lost. We chose a 3 hour hike, ending at Maithi Village. The hike itself was quite beautiful, except for a large, unexpected den of spiders that sent me running across the path and hopping over logs like a lunatic. When we reached the village, people came out of their houses to wave, and shout “Mingalaba!” Kids ran after us, full of smiles and hellos.
A bit outside of the village was a large cave full of Buddha images. We were the only foreigners there, and thus a large attraction. I was asked to take photos again, as random Burmese women wrapped their arms around me and posed for the camera. Afterwards, we caught motorcycle taxis back to our guesthouse.
Around evening time, we visited a hill top monastery situated right next to Thitaw Lay. Young monks, who normally look so solemn, had hitched their robes up and were sliding down the leaves, laughing and pushing each other and so full of joy.
If I could, I would have stayed much longer in Kalaw, as it is a beautiful town. For now, it’s on to Inle Lake!