November 24th, 2017
Once you start searching for things to do in Myanmar and for the best way how to get to Inle Lake, it is guaranteed that you will stumble across Myanmar trekking.
The Kalaw to Inle Lake trek is the most popular trek in Myanmar. Other popular trekking destination is Hsipaw. We were very keen on doing trek in Hsipaw with Mr. Bike because of all excellent reviews and feedbacks we heard and read, but as we are in Myanmar just for 18 days in total and Inle Lake is one of the main attractions I wanted to see here (floating tomato gardens, wou-hou) we opted for 2 days trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake. (Hsipaw & Mr. Bike - we love Myanmar and we are definitely coming back!)
To get to Kalaw, we took a bus/mini-van from Bagan. You can book those busses pretty much everywhere in Bagan - at your hotel/ hostel or one of multiple travel agencies. Prices varies from 11000 Kyats to 15000 Kyats per person. Our bus driver picked us up at 7.30am from our hotel and we arrived in Kalaw around 3.00pm. Few times our bus driver made us to fear for our lives, but hey... that's another story!
Trekking companies in Kalaw will offer a 2 or 3-day trek, both of which are the same, but the 2-day trek skips the first day of trekking through tea plantations. Instead a taxi or mini-van will take you to the village (about 30 min drive from Kalaw) where the 3-day trek will spend their first night and you will start trekking from there. If you choose to do 3-day trek you will walk approximately 24 km on the first day, 26 km on the second day and 16 km on the last day. We opted for 2-day trekking and did 20 km first day (7 h of walking) and 16 km on the second day (6 h of walking).
Most popular trekking companies in Kalaw are A1 Trekking, Alex Eagle and Ever Smile. Ever Smile has the biggest groups varying from 10 to 12 people, while other companies focuses on smaller groups of max 6 people. We chose to do trek with A1 because we wanted to have more intimate experience, reviews on Tripadvisor were great and we thought that like this we will get all our guide's attention focused to us (Wrong choice! We were so jealous seeing Ever Smile group on the way having much more fun and more active and knowledgeable guide! If I would need to make a choice again I would go with Ever Smile, 100% - but that's again another story)
While trekking you will see Myanmar countryside, farms and villages, local schools and meet local people rushing to do their everyday duties. Trek is constantly up and downhills, expect to be trekking around 3 hours at a time, jumping from thin piece of land to another just to avoid the mud. It is not advised to go trekking with sandals or your favourite Adidas or Nikes. My boyfriend went trekking with his tennis shoes while I bought local trekking shoes at the market in Kalaw for 3 USD and, oh, I was so happy I had them after the rain started to pour down as I was muddy up until my ankles.
Both treks stop at a local village in the mountains for a homestay, you guide shows you where to sleep and where to shower (shower is literally a bucket of cold water), and where the squat toilets are located. While your cook makes traditional Burmese food for dinner, you can go to explore the village or have a beer with your fellow trekkers. (Here I must note that food was amazing, definitely the best we have had in Myanmar!)
Overall I would rate this trek as easy to moderate difficulty. I don't love sports very much and I managed it very well. The hardest part for me was the second day when our guide told us that it will be easy trek, mostly flat, however, we found ourselves trekking up hills and downhills most of the time, and going down a high mountain with lots of rocks and slippery surface and our guide literally running all the time few meters ahead of us, not caring much how we're doing and if his speed is appropriate. (Not good guide at all, told ya’, actually the worst I've had)
Anyhow, I am so happy we did this trek as it's definitely the best and most scenic way on how to arrive at Inle Lake.
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