Trek Kalaw and Meet Ethnic People

Kalaw is a former colonial British hill station in western Shan State of Myanmar (Burma), at 1320m above the sea level, 50 km from Inle lake. 

Kalaw has natural atmosphere, cool and refreshing climate, and breathtaking scenery. It is well-known as a trekking mecca of Myanmar and an ideal region for colorful hill tribe and agricultural life discovery.

Kalaw town is set amongst glorious pine forests. Many colonial-era buildings constructed by British in Kalaw remain with various states of decay. They are quaint, eerily quiet and seemingly undisturbed. 

Kalaw blends influences of Indian and Nepalese culture. This region has a significant population of Nepali Gurkhas, Indian Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims who were brought to Kalaw by the British to build the railway line. 

As an untouched and pristine region, trekking and visiting villages in Kalaw is an incredible way to acquire impressive experiences. These are some special places that you can trek in Kalaw.
++ Suggested tour: Trekking from Kalaw to Inle lake in 7 days with price start from $730/person

Trekking between Kalaw and Inle lake or to surround hills

From Kalaw, you can trek to Inle, setting foot on beaten tracks and getting tastes of the life of the local Danu, Pa-oh, Palaung, Shan and Taungyoe ethnic groups. 

Hiking Kalaw is an endless series of ups and downs through lush bamboo and teak forests but none particularly steep. You will be impressed by stunning cultivated land, pine trees, tea, cheroots, oranges, bananas, canola, lovely rice fields, corn, cabbages, eggplant, potatoes, other vegetables and expansive views of surrounding hills. On trekking roads, you will encounter truly non-touristy scenes of the local life, farming, cooking and even bathing. Children have impartial smiles, although they are carrying their siblings on their back. Young teenagers harvest tea leaves. Palaung people sing Burmese songs happily without understanding the words and making many mistakes. And it is fine if you are welcome to plant local trees for forest recovery.

Specially, along the road, beside villages, you can relax for lunch and spend night in monasteries. Going toward Inle lake, you can be overnight at Buddhist temples or local tribe farmsteads. 

In villages, there are many families living in a long house, about 7 families with over 60 people. For privacy, each couple of parents has a small walled enclosure where they sleep. Inhabitants in some villages produce a stack of handy craft and weaving products like fabric, scarves, hats, etc. Just only about five villages in Kalaw are permitted to host foreigners. 

++ Suggested tour: Untouched Loilaw trek to Kalaw in 06 days with price start from US$650/person

Local markets

Many local markets are rotating markets, typical outdoor markets, with nothing for tourists and everything belongs to locals like meat, agriculture products, herbs and spices.

Villagers from the surrounding hills come to the big central market in Kalaw town to sell their produce. There are plenty of beautiful and cheap handy crafts you can buy. Most of the town’s restaurants and food stalls stand surround the market and offer a wide range of food. Many dishes have origin from India and Nepal.  

Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp

Founded in 2011, this area has been well conserved landscape, and is a highlight of Kalaw travel. Local ecology, elephants and traditions of indigenous people are protected. Green Hill valley is the habitat of diverse birds, butterflies, orchids and bamboo forests. 

Taking a wonderful trek to Shan countryside in Green Hill valley, you can learn skills of the mahout (elephant driver) and take knowledge about tradition of elephant keepers. Joining in bathe duties for elephants if you want. Mahouts do not encourage elephant riding, but short rides can be carried out depending on the weather and health of elephants. Baskets must not be used on elephants.

Other special locations

Also in the centre of Kalaw town is the Aung Chang Tha stupa, which glitters by silver and gold glass mosaics. You can head up to the Thein Taung Pagoda, which is in the northern Union Highway (the main road through Kalaw). 

A pleasant walk south of the central market takes you to the Hnee Pagoda, where you will find a 500-year-old bamboo Buddha, and the Shwe U Min Pagoda (Shwe Oo Min Paya), a cave filled with golden Buddha statues. On these steps in the surrounding hills, you will find reminders of British colonial times, such as restored cottages and a different kind of religious monument – Christ the King Church. This is a great instance of active Christian worship in Myanmar, with popular daily mass and Sunday services.

Kalaw has the Tazaungman Full Moon Festival, which takes place in late October or early November, and features street parades, music and fireworks. 

Trekking in Kalaw can be enjoyed at any time of year, despite cool season is the most agreeable. Occasional rain shower can makes the trek tougher a bit. 

Joining a trek in Kalaw, you can stub a toe, catch a cobweb and perhaps slip in mud, but the rewards are spectacular scenery, the plain and peaceful village life or, well, just a lonely silent moment hearing twitters of birds and far rumble voices gone with the wind reaching you. 

More Readings related to the post:
>> Beautiful landscape of Shan State - Discover the wonderland in North Myanmar with natural masterpieces and ethnic unique culture
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