Kalaw - Inle Lake Trek : Stepping Into An Idyllic Countryside Painting

Jan 16, 2013

Kalaw to Inle Lake Trek, Burma
typical day on the trek

DAY 1 

6:30am and it was really cold. I wouldn’t normally feel this anxious waking up when I’m travelling except that it was going to be the start of our 3-day trek to Inle Lake, and I was really hoping that it wasn't raining anymore. I forced myself out of bed and looked out our window, and yes it was raining.

After a cold shower, the girls and I went down to have breakfast. Adi, the sweet girl that she is, remained hopeful with me that the weather will be better soon. Outside the dining hall were already a bunch of people and loads of bags ready to be transferred to Inle Lake. We were a bit worried that we will be trekking with them which will make our group almost close to 15 people. But Rambo, from the hotel, told us after joking about it first, that we didn’t need to worry because they’re part of another group. Wesley, Mr. Weatherman, was finally convinced to join us “Screw it, I’m joining you girls.” And Andrew, who flew into Inle and made his way back to Kalaw (in a crammed mini-truck) just to do the trek, also joined us. He completed our group of seven along with our very composed and shy guide John.


Throughout the day, the rain continued sporadically. It was a bit of a struggle taking photos especially when the scenery was beautiful despite the rain and fog. Rice fields and hills filled with farmland of different crops, and outlined in a neat way. Fields of sunflowers cheer you up despite the gloomy weather.

  Kalaw to Inle Lake Trek, Burma
muddy trail

Leeches and bad falls aside (yes, I did fall on my ass.haha), it was a wonderful morning. We stopped in a village to have lunch. One and two-storey homes made of bamboo, wood, and other natural materials (like the Philippines’ kubo) make up the village. We were already getting lazy due to the weather and filling lunch, but a group of kids who saw me outside entertained us. We recited the English alphabet and numbers, they were pretty good. But of course I failed to memorize the Burmese version despite the children’s enthusiasm to teach me.

having fun with the kids

The afternoon was spent in the Shaman’s house and it’s where I think our group bonded pretty well. Our guide told us how he was the only remaining medicine man in the Pa-O tribe, and how villagers would still go to him for traditional medicines.

The Shaman

But the one thing that really interested us was his predictions of the year ahead of us. Mine involved a ‘warm family’ and to avoid teas (which was hard given the tea culture of Burmese people) and apples (seriously?). The Shaman also called our group “The Lucky Seven”. :)

In the end, after all the laughters over our ‘predictions’, it was already dark. We enjoyed it way too much that we had to endure trekking in the night with only three people with headlamps and on muddy trails. The night was spent in a family’s house, playing UNO with our guide and some of the children, and sharing our ‘recently singled’ stories.


would have loved to ride that train at the middle

The start of Day 2 was promising, the sky was starting to show itself. We had no idea it was going to be a very rewarding and beautiful day.
beautiful :)

We saw more of those gorgeous hills and we passed by villagers in their traditional clothes tending to their farms. And it wasn’t because they dress up for us tourists, it’s just how it is in this part of the world.

  15 love those lines on his face

looking cool with a leather jacket


They would smile and wave at us. They would stop and allow us to take their photos. We would stop from time to time (at the expense of our guide’s patience) to take photos of the beautiful landscape and the warm people.
loved her smile :)


drying out the chili peppers


The highlight for me was meeting the village chief. Everyone was inside having their tea, and I was outside smoking my black cigarette. It proved to be a good conversation starter in Burma. We talked about his village, his tattoos, my country, and Burma. I asked him about the calendar with photos of Aung San Suu Kyi and her father (their national hero), and how it’s okay now to hang them on walls. It was a big and good change, he said, ever since her release.


We could still sense a hint of hesitation and carefulness on his part, but we felt grateful for his hospitality in welcoming us and talking to us.

We ended the day on top of a hill overlooking the hills on one side, and a limestone mountain (like that of Northern Laos) on the other side. We thought that would be it, but we were in for another great surprise. As we were making our way up to the monastery where we will spend the night, slowly people and their herd of cows and water buffalos were also going back to their homes. It was their version of a “traffic jam”, and it was quite a memorable experience. We didn’t understand each other but we managed to laugh with them.

'traffic jam'

We spent the night in a monastery, going out to buy drinks, staring up the star-filled sky, and just had fun hanging out on that cold night. Another great day for the Shaman’s Lucky Seven.


the monastery where we spent our second night



We started the day walking on a dirt road, still with beautiful scenery around us. This was when I truly felt I was walking into an idyllic countryside painting. Sunflowers outlined our path and villagers pass by us as they make their way to their own farms and start their day.



mother and daughter


After hours of walking, we finally made our way to the top and overlooking the Inle Lake.

The boat ride crossing the Inle Lake was another experience altogether, reserved for another blog entry. But we finally saw in person fishermen with their own unique style of rowing made famous by the Lonely Planet’s guidebook cover.

This was the highlight of my trip in Burma. If you want to see beautiful landscape, life in the countryside, beautiful and warm people, and if you love trekking and that sense of relaxation and rhythm it gives you, go do this trek in Burma. :)

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