A lot of visitors to this area end up doing a three day trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake. We weren’t able to make this trip however, so we opted for a day trek around Kalaw instead.
Experiencing a wonderful day, we learned about two different local tribes and how they live. We stopped by several trekking outfits in town before deciding on Golden Lily Tours, having just gotten the best feel from them when they were describing the day. Plus the woman in charge smiled with literally her whole face. I really wish I had gotten a picture of her. Beautiful. The trek is about 18 km or roughly 11 miles and includes lunch and a stop for tea in a local village.
Arriving at 8:30 am we met Eddie, our guide for the day. To start, we walked to the outskirts of town. The houses dropped off pretty quickly and we soon found ourselves in a small pine forest. Lots of logging has been done in this area so the trees were small second growth trees, which left plenty of room for scattered sunlight while still maintaining the sweet smell of pine that reminds me so much of home.
We ascended into the mountains where the forest gradually turned into tea plantations on scruffy hillsides.
We saw a plethora of banana, papaya, orange, peach and jackfruit trees and even discovered where castor oil comes from.
After several more hills we stopped for tea in one of the local villages. The Palaung hill tribe primarily grows tea and oranges for sale at the local market and to Yangon. They traditionally grew opium, but switched to other crops after it was outlawed in 1964. They have their own language and only marry within their tribe, keeping them isolated. A school has recently been built in this village to educate the children so they can learn Burmese.
After our tea break we followed a winding road past another Palaung village and up, up, up to a stunning viewpoint where we stopped for lunch.
The vegetarian Nepali restaurant served chapati, lentil soup, vegetable curry and assorted fruits. We feasted while magically avoiding a downpour. Three pudgy little puppies frolicked around and kept us entertained. After lunch we got off the main road again. Trekking through a jungle like forest, we followed a stream to a lake that provides much of the water for town. The dam was built by the British in the 1930’s and there were a bunch of locals fishing, trying to catch the night’s dinner.
The final leg of the journey saw us skirting and meandering through another tribal area.
Nestled in idyllic valleys we passed grazing cows, hardworking farmers, and many fields of green. The tribe, the Taung Yo, farms all sorts of vegetables including cauliflower, mustard greens, cilantro, strawberries, garlic and leeks. They sell to the local market and to Yangon.
We ended the trek on the hillside overlooking Kalaw where our guide Eddie invited us to his house for a cold drink.
What a lovely end to the day. While sipping fresh squeezed orange juice, we met his wife and chatted with them both about their family and plans to visit one of their daughters in Singapore next month. Then he walked us to our hotel, even though we knew the way and could have done it ourselves. Talk about service with a smile!
It was a long day, but we learned a ton about the local history and culture.
We definitely highly recommend Golden Lily Tours in Kalaw for a day trek. They also do a two and a three day trek to Inle Lake if you prefer. Eddie was wonderful and we were exhausted, but all smiles as we headed back to our room.