When I think of trekking, my mind automatically goes to week long treks in Nepal, which I’ve never done but it’s on my list. When I traveled to Myanmar (Burma) on a last minute trip in July I was driven by the history, culture, temples and textiles – but not trekking. I met up with a friend who’d been recommended a 3 day, 2 night, 70 km trek through rain forests, valleys, villages, and rice fields from Kalaw to Inle Lake. This was my very first trekking experience…and wow, am I ever grateful I stumbled into it.
Getting to Kalaw
Wherever you’re coming from, whether it’s Bagan, Yangon or Mandalay there will be easily accessible information for your onward travels to Kalaw. If you’re unsure how to book transportation, ask your hostel or hotel for this information. They will either be able to book and organize your trip for you or point you into the right direction to give you all of your options. I traveled by bus from Bagan, costing $22 USD for a VIP bus and took roughly 7 hours including a stop for lunch and bathroom breaks. VIP buses are more expensive since having air conditioning and more wiggle room in your seat. There are day and night bus options, all offering a variety of prices and departure times.
For those of you who’ve traveled parts of Southeast Asia and have been on these types of journeys before, I would like to remind all the ladies (or anyone needing it) to carry toilet paper/napkins and hand sanitizer for bathroom breaks if you don’t want to completely ‘rough it’. They’re not the most pleasant facilities… but hey, that’s just part of the experience in this part of the world isn’t it?
Depending what time you arrive in Kalaw you may still have time for some last minute preparations or shopping for supplies at the local markets in town which close at 4pm. Having come to Myanmar straight from Bali my clothing options for the mountains were limited and the only shoes I had were an old pair of flip flops. Take my advice and come prepared with a comfortable pair of trekking shoes or boots. I invested in the only shoes that were somewhat appropriate for my journey at the local market for $4 USD. All I can say is you get what you pay for…
Recommended Things to Bring:
- Rain coat (you can buy at local market for $3-$4 USD)
- Proper trekking shoes/boots
- Multiple pairs of socks
- Shower items
- Layered clothing (weather dependent)
- Bug spray
- Cash for water, snacks, souvenirs, etc
Ever Smile Trekking
Before choosing to go with Ever Smile Trekking I went to four different trekking companies in Kalaw to see what each service had to offer. As soon as I arrived to Ever Smile I instantly knew they were the right company to go with.
Our tour group was pretty full at 15 people. You have the option to pay a little more for a private guided tour although I preferred to be in a group to meet fellow travelers and to share the experience. It all depends on your preference! My group included people from Switzerland, Venezuela, Israel, South Africa, England, Spain, etc…. with ages ranging from 21-56. As you can see it was a diverse bunch, everyone had something different to bring to the table and stories to share – we had so much fun together!
The total price of the trek was 40,000 Kyat (roughly $33 USD) which includes:
- Luggage transfer to your accommodation in Inle Lake (book ahead)
- All meals
- Morning and afternoon tea
- Two night stay in local villages (bedding provided)
- Local tour guide to answer any and all of your questions
- 1 hour boat ride across Inle Lake
Our tour guide, July, was absolutely incredible. July completes these treks a few times a week depending on the season and has been out with groups trekking nearly everyday for the past 7 years, at her young age of 25. She has excellent English, very informative, helpful and truly kind. I cannot say enough good things about her and would recommend her for anyone doing this trek.
Although the majority of the trek is on flat land, you’ll be walking long distances each day. I would recommend for those interested to be moderately fit, otherwise you may struggle.
I completed this trek in July 2016 which is rainy season. Even though it rained on and off, the valleys and rolling hills were some of the most beautiful and lush I have ever encountered. The views were absolutely breathtaking often leaving me in ‘aw’ staring into the vibrant greens with a refreshing breeze upon my face.
After each day completed, once we all had a chance to clean up, sit down for dinner and share some celebratory drinks, my body and mind felt overwhelmingly accomplished. This was my first trekking experience, I can guarantee it won’t be my last. I thoroughly enjoyed learning from July, having the incredible company of this particular tour group, our journey through the beautiful countryside and everything else in between. This has been one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. If you go into this oppourtunity with an open mind and willingness to learn, the possibilities of what you can gain or even pass on are endless – along with most things in life.
If anyone has any questions or would like additional information please don’t hesitate to contact me or comment below!