Our 9 hour night bus journey wasn’t as comfortable as we had hoped. The bus itself was comfortable and even provided snacks, a blanket and had a toilet. Sadly the driver was a bit of a maniac and the roads were quite bumpy so the quality of sleep we got was not too good. We arrived in Kalaw at 4am and had until 8am to wait around for the trekking office to open. The only thing open was an open air tea shop which wouldn’t have been bad in the day but the evenings in Kalaw get down to 10 degrees so we all sat around freezing whilst drinking hot tea for 4 hours.
Finally we went to the trekking office and after a long winded hour and a half of sorting out 35 tourists into 3 groups we had been assigned a group of 11 and a guide. In our group was the 6 of us who had travelled to Yangon plus another 5 people who were either travelling together or solo. A big mix of Australians, Germans, a Brazilian girl a Polish girl, a guy from Colombia and Charlie. Our guide was a 19 year old girl from Inle Lake called Ooh Ooh. For 40,000 kyats each (around £23.50) we had our guide, 2 nights accommodation, 7 meals, a boat tour of Inle Lake on our arrival as well as our big bags transported to our hotels.
The trek to Inle Lake would take 3 days and cover 65km of hills. We set off at 9.30am for a mostly uphill walk through ‘jungle’. It was lovely but the jungle wasn’t the jungle we imagined, it was more of a forest. We made it to the viewpoint where we were given time for a rest and lunch. The view was amazing and we got to eat right on the end of it. We were given nepalese style bread with traditional Burmese Tea Leaf salad, non traditional avocado salad and lots of fruit. Our guide was a young 19 year old called Ooh Ooh who never seemed to get tired, whilst we all struggled uphill, she would just be powering on up front.We continued to walk for another couple hours before having a tea break in a local village in one of the villages house. He was retired and he and his wife looked after their grandson during the day whilst in kids were at work in the fields. The little boy was so cute and kept blowing us all kisses. We also found out that most of the people in these rural villages have their own language and there are around 500 different languages in Myanmar. This means that the villages are left alone but also that they cannot really leave their village as they do not know the Burmese language.We then continued walking until dark where we passed by local villages, rice paddies and plenty more amazing views.
We arrived at the village we would be sleeping in and were greeted by a lovely family who were preparing our dinner. The house was basic, as expected, with a shed squat toilet and thin mattresses lined up in the upstairs room with warm blankets for us to sleep on. The dinner was amazing and very filling consisting of a soup starter followed by lots of different dishes to have with rice. We were all so exhausted when we finished eating and were in bed by 9pm.
We woke up after a surprisingly good sleep to breakfast prepared by the family again. We ate, got ourselves ready for the day at set off by 8.30am. Ooh Ooh had told us today would consist of a lot of walking up and down and up and down and that it would be easy. It is amazing what she finds easy, whilst it wasn’t too hard the ups were quite steep still but not as steep as the day before.We stopped at a small tea shop for a break before heading off and continuing until lunch. We walked through paddies where we stopped where a family of 6 were working and Ooh Ooh translated as they explained what they were doing. They were ginger famers and they gave us lots of free ginger to make tea out of later. The male also told Ooh Ooh that he thought Charlie looked like a football player. We continued up to the village we were to have lunch in and were given a nice break out of the hot sun for an hour or so where a cheeky puppy chewed up one of Ooh Oohs socks. She didn’t want anyones spare socks so she continued the rest of the day and the next day with only one sock!
After lunch we got to walk past a 13th century pagoda which was really cool as it was so old and reminded me of the Angkor Wat temples. I also had some Haribo sweets/lollies in my bag and gave some to Ooh Ooh who had never tried them before. She loved them so I said I would save some more for tomorrow.We continued to walk until dark again but this time we got to walk along one of the train tracks, the trains here are so slow that if one was to come we would have plenty of time to move off the track but Ooh Ooh had timed it just right and as soon as we got off the tracks onto the next path the train went by. We also walked passed another village where Charlie, Heiki and I got chased by a water buffalo up hill. We escaped and had a rest at the top admiring the view. We continued to walk along little paths until we reached one of Ooh Oohs favourite views. We stayed there for a brief moment before being rushed up the hill towards to village we would be sleeping in to see the sunset.The sunset was really pretty and the view was one of my favourites on the trip. We also got to see all the villages coming back from their days work. We arrived to the village and met the next family we would stay with. We had a nice meal and they made a fire for us to sit around. The amount of stars in the sky was so pretty and it was so clear you could make out the milky way. It was such an amazing day to see how local villages live and we felt lucky to see its authenticity before tourism and technology changes it.We woke up and had a typical Burmese style breakfast of potato and rice which had really nice flavours for something so simple. Ooh Ooh put some Thanaka on all of us which is a burmese paste that they wear as protection from the sun.
We then headed off for our last day of trekking, all feeling a little sad that this experience was coming to an end. We walked through more villages where we got to see the local primary school and watch locals make bamboo baskets. We had a tea stop where Ooh Ooh bought some of the local red chewing tobacco that they wrap in leaves with different spices. Charlie tried one but said it wasn’t very nice. We continued to walk down all day finally arriving at lunch in a bamboo stilted restaurant serving home made food on the lake.
The whole trekking experience was amazing and we are both so glad we decided to do it. We met some amazing travellers and got an authentic insight into the culture here that we don’t feel we would have got otherwise.