Thursday 26th / Friday 27th – Kalaw
We left Mandalay fairly early for the 260 km drive to the former British Colonial hill station at Kalaw. It’s high, so much cooler than the surrounding areas and has a fairly wealthy feel to it – sort of the Switzerland of Myanmar.Having sat on the bus all day, Wayne and I decided to do a couple of the short treks around town – firstly up to the Thein Daung Monastery up a steep flight of stairs next to the market before heading south out-of-town to the Shwe Oo Min cave pagoda.
It was a lovely walk, if a bit confusing at times and at one point we ended up walking through the local golf course complete with Army checkpoint – who kindly pointed us in the right direction. The pagoda is the usual set of pointed stupas, status of Buddha sat in a snake and more unusually a cave formation filled with statues and fairy lights. It’s quite odd, and unfortunately the stalactites and stalagmites have been damaged to make way for the paths and the statues but this is Myanmar and their beliefs put the Buddha first.
The next day we weren’t due to leave for the quick 2 hour hop to Inle Lake until 4pm, so we joined a group planning a 10km trek through the hills. The scenery is absolutely stunning, with narrow paths leading through a mixture of planted farmland, small villages and untouched hills.
Having walked for several hours we stopped at a hilltop viewpoint where an enterprising local had built a small cafe in amongst her roses and lemon trees, with a group of little circular huts to sit, have a drink and just admire the view.
The stunning scenery continued on the way back and we scrambled down a steep path through the woods, then around a lake before the trek back into town. What looked like 10km on the map had actually been 26km due to all the ups and downs so we were completely knackered but finally felt like we had earned a visit to the Poe Poe bakery for a late lunch of very odd pizza on a sweet bread base, and less odd, freshly baked donuts. Then it was back on the bus for the drive to Inle lake.