Kalaw is a hill town in the Shan state of Myanmar. My friends Leah, Gaby, and I took a bus here from Bagan, as it would be the starting point for our two-day trek to Inle Lake. Kalaw is typically just a quick stop-over for travelers before they leave trekking, but I actually loved this little town.
Trekking Day 1
On the bus ride from Bagan - Kalaw, my friends and I met a French couple who was also doing the trek to Inle Lake. We all got along well, and ended up signing up for the same trekking group so that we could continue traveling together.
The five of us were grouped with some Belgian girls who were all traveling around the country together. We had an incredible local guide, Ooh Ooh, who ended up becoming one of my good friends. We trekked (or should I say slipped and fell...) our way through mud, rain, slippery hills, and cow poop for about 7 hours the first day, with a short break for tea and a longer break for lunch.
There were beautiful views of rice fields and nature along the way, and it was so interesting to see village life in the mountains.
Homestay in the Mountains
In the evening, we arrived at a small village where we would stay the night in a traditional bamboo hut. The people there were so kind, and the food they served us was delicious.
Ooh Ooh applied Thanaka traditional makeup to a few of us, and Gaby and I tried chewing betel leaves, which is extremely common here in Myanmar. I have seen SO many people, especially men, chewing these leaves, and then spitting out a reddish-brown liquid, but I wasn't sure what it was. Apparently it is a stimulant, and so many taxi drivers chew these leaves in order to stay awake for long hours of work (nearly every taxi driver I saw had red teeth!) The betel leaf is combined with a special nut, tobacco, and a lime paste. You can find little stands with people making and selling these all over Myanmar. Gaby and I tried ones without tobacco, but the combination of betel leaf, the nut, and lime made our mouths a little numb and created a ton of saliva... haha kind of gross. And we we had reddish brown spit for awhile afterwards.
Preparing betel leaves for chewing
Trekking Day 2
The next morning, we had breakfast and then laced up our (soaking wet and muddy) shoes to begin another day of trekking. One of my friends described the trek as "physically a 3 out of 10, but emotionally a 13," and I think I have to somewhat agree. It was a mentally strenuous two-days. The mud made everything so slippery, and so we were all constantly focusing on not falling. I had to laugh at the end of the hike though, as I remembered the first few hours trekking, when I was trying to keep my shoes clean and dry... by the end of the second day, we were all stomping through giant mud puddles that came halfway up our calves!
This was a tiring but fun two days, and I especially enjoyed my time trekking because of the great people I was with! Inle Lake was a beautiful reward to arrive at in the end.
-- The best stories are found between the pages of a passport --