World Travel
New Original Fiction
Books & Movies

Film Space
Movies in depth
Dreamscapes Two
More Fiction
Lifestyles Archive
Politics & Living


••• The International Writers Magazine:Travel/Myanmar

Trekking in Kalaw
• Daniel Webster
How does one prepare for total rural immersion? I took the bus from hot and steamy Mandalay and upon arrival in the former British hill station of Kalaw was greeted by a cool mist and two bright smiles from my guiding couple, YuMon and Phyo.

Smile D Webster

A few beers and a plate of spare ribs later we’d decided on the two days, one night trip that would skip the leechy forest and start with a motorbike ride to open the senses. Carry-along luggage reduced to a trendy Shan-style cloth bag and a stick, I started to experience the incredible lightness of being, happily strolling through the bright green rolling hills, over red earth, along rice paddy terraces through an everchanging, non-offensive landscape that felt constantly rejuvenating.

D Webster Oxen Privileged by being blessed with my two guide’s undivided attention, the area’s fertility was explained to me in all detail. On the practical side, the Pa-O people toil the fields with the help of bulls and ox-carts, leaving the odd creature tied by the wayside to feed and issue distrustful looks – the rope length would seem to limit its action radius but I wasn’t sure the metal peg would hold in the event of a full charge, so some tip-toeing and respect for nature was called for.

On we rambled, over hill brows offering breath-taking vistas, down into forests, cautiously stepping on rocks to cross streams and up an incline to a village where we deserved the sumptuous lunch YuMon cooked up while I got to relax. Burmese don’t like creamy tastes, so the abundant avocados are fed to oxen, that is, until I demonstrated some quick recipes that were subsequently replicated for me at every stop. Everything will grow here, from peanuts to maize and of course all kinds of fruit. Fed and rested, the trek continued, this time veering off along a muddy path with no obvious destination. The weight on my feet grew along with the suspense, and when we reached a clearing the surprise was real: An array of ancient stupas, ornate and overgrown, made the transition from adventurer to discoverer complete.

Marvelling at their serenity I contemplated which ancient rites accompanied these relics. At this point, I felt perfectly detached in terms of time and place. A man in the traditional longyi, or sarong, crowned by a bamboo field hat, traversed the scene balancing two water containers across a pole over his shoulder. D Webster Fishing
D Webster Sky The final ascent to the village where we’d be sleeping was accompanied by rainbows in the purple sky of the setting sun. Darkness set in fast and it was only six o’clock when we headed to the monastery for a quick lesson in meditation and a photo session with the monks. I now had the option of a homestay with a local family or staying here for the night; as I was hungry and longing for a cool beer I decided on the less pious option and found a new depth of sleep after a delicious banquet and light banter with my friends and guides.

Mornings start early and are full of surprises. Kids holding hands on their walk to school, the impeccability of their uniforms belying the simplicity of their surroundings, monks on their daily alms round, ox-carts laden with farmers in traditional bright-coloured clothes taking to the fields, the smoke of fires used to cook tea and noodle breakfast - my senses woke as my heart warmed.

We soon set off on a short walk to the checkpoint for the Inle Lake tourist region. Tourism police are there for you as I quickly learned. Before paying for my entry pass, I was offered coffee and a cigarette, and later even a ride to the boat stop on the lake, for free. First however, I indulged in the now truly magnificent panorama at this point of the trail. The hills in front of us were more like mountains, layer after layer into the deep horizon, covered with temperamental cloud formations and a cool breeze. D Webster
D Webster Girl We sped down the other side of the hill with the lake unfolding in front of us, the air becoming warmer, until we reached a house on the shore where a local family cooked for us before gently paddling a gondola-like boat through the maze of aqua-culture where they grew vegetables. Houses on stilts cast symmetrical reflections, and smiles from their owners were ubiquitous as we watched them go about their daily routines – I’d forgotten how simplicity is bliss. Gliding back to Nyaung-Shwe in a narrow long-boat I was hoping this dream never ends.

A 2/3 day trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake can be combined with subsequent day excursions on the lake and a drive to the cave at Pindaya; Flights from Yangon to Heho and bus to Kalaw, also as a four-day module in a 1-2 week Myanmar trip. Cost c. $350 per person incl. transfer.

*For flights to Myanmar

© D Webster Nov 2016
Daniel Webster is a travel writer and photographer with an active interest in current affairs. He has spent the last five years travelling Asia, three of which in Myanmar / Burma. Learning the language and immersing himself in local culture, he has developed unique insights and ventured to parts previously unexplored. Follow his adventures at
email: daniel at
all photos © D Webster

More travel

Share |


© Hackwriters 1999-2016 all rights reserved - all comments are the individual writer's own responsibility - no liability accepted by or affiliates.