March 4-7, 2016: Trek from Kalaw to Inle-Lake

This well-known trek is one of the most popular touristic things to do in Myanmar. Though it isn’t particularly challenging (unlike some other treks we’ve done – Havasupai and Annapurna, to name a few), it is a fantastic way to be immersed in the nature and culture of northern Myanmar. So we rolled into Sam’s Family Restaurant and Professional Trekking Guide Service, as they come #1 recommended from every single person we talked to, and booked our trek.

We were joined by our friend Frans, a Dutchman whom we had met while spending the night at the monastery at the top of Mt. Zwekabin in Hpa-An! I love that aspect of backpacking in Asia – meeting a fellow backpacker at the top of a mountain and then spending a week with them exploring an unknown country. Good times!

Read on to hear more about the trek and see pictures of the incredible scenery we got to take in with our own eyes. If you ever find yourself in Myanmar, I highly recommend doing this trek. Though some people may say it’s overrated, we thoroughly enjoyed it and would gladly do it again!

Miles walked:                 48
Miles transported:       ~380

Kalaw

After a grueling 19 hours of vomiting monkitos (baby monks)…

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Kalaw - 1

We finally made it to Kalaw. I gotta say, one thing I had noticed about Myanmar (and Asia as a whole, really) is how prone to motion sickness the locals are. There wasn’t a SINGLE bus ride we took in Myanmar where at least one person wasn’t vomiting. And interestingly enough, they usually happened to be monks! Anyway, we got to Kalaw at around 1 pm, found our guest house, caught some much-needed Z’s, and made our way down to the famous Sam’s Family Restaurant to book our trek:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Kalaw - 2

Spent the rest of the day exploring the tiny town of Kalaw. Though there was a temple there, we had seen and lost enough phones in temples, so we decided to nix it in favor of some good old mindless wandering. After checking out the market and loading up on yummy snacks for the trek, we made our way back to our guest house to call it an early night, but not before running into this cutie-pie, my nephew-dog Jackson’s long-lost Burmese twin!

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Kalaw - 3

Woke up bright and early the next morning, just in time to catch the monkitos requesting their alms:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Kalaw - 4


Day 1: Kalaw to Setgergone

Arrived at Sam’s Family Restaurant, packed up and ready to go. After meeting our awesome guide, Momo, and our fellow trekkers – Frans (the Dutchman), Miguel (from Argentina), Iveta and Ilona (from Czech Republic) and Yang (from China) – we took off! Began with a quick stop at this aloe plant:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 1

Made our way through some beautiful hills, fields and farmlands:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 2

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 3

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 4

Took a quick and scenic break along the river:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 5

Navigated obstacles:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 6

Stopped for lunch at a mountain top, where we enjoyed some incredible views:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 7

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 8

Walked through Hinkagone (a Palaung tribe village):

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 9

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 10

Continued on through the hills and fields:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 11

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 12

Until we came upon the train tracks:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 13

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 14

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 15

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 16

Which we followed all the way to the Myindike Station, where we took a break and enjoyed some delicious tea and cookies:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 17

And on we went:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 18

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 19

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 20

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 21

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 22

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 23

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 24

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 25

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 26

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 27

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 28

Setgergone – a Danu tribe village and our final destination for the day:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 29

So close!

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 30

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 31

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 32

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 33

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 34

This guy’s got the right idea in mind:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 35

We made it!!

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 36

Our sleeping quarters at the homestay:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 37

After settling in and enjoying an ice-cold outdoor bucket-shower, we went to town on the delicious local feast that was prepared for us:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 38

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 39

And topped the evening off with a $1.5 bottle (or two) of local rum, you know, to make sure we got a good night’s sleep…

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 1 - 40


Day 2: Setgergone to Pattu Pauk

After a surprisingly decent night’s sleep on straw, we took off for Day 2 of our trek! We started with a pretty steep 200 meter (~700 ft) ascent up a mountain, capturing some gorgeous views of the valley we were leaving behind as we ascended:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 2 - 1

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 2 - 2

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 2 - 3

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 2 - 4

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 2 - 5

Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that Francy did this entire trek in his flip flops? As we’d shipped back most of our trekking gear and hiking boots after Japan, Francy was only left with flip-flops as footwear, and though I had managed to find a cheap and crappy pair of sneakers, we couldn’t find a closed pair of shoes large enough for Francy’s gigantic western feet. So he had no choice but to do the trek in these super structurally sound and hiking-appropriate babies:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 2 - 6

On we went, making our way through Linpan and Thayet Pin (two Pa’O tribe villages):

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 2 - 7

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 2 - 8

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 2 - 9

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 2 - 10

Stopped at Nantain (a mixed Pa’O-Taungyoe tribe village) to rest and have some lunch. Though it was like, 8 million degrees outside, poor Yang didn’t want to expose her skin to the sun and was cooking under layers of clothing:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 2 - 11

After lunch, we hiked two hours on a flat, dusty path, until we arrived at a beautiful spot along the river to enjoy our shower for the day (no joke, this was actually our only opportunity for a shower that day). But not before crossing this rickety bridge… kidding! We didn’t actually have to cross it. Imagine? That thing looks ancient:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 2 - 12

After our showers, we took off for the final leg of Day 2, passing through some more beautiful fields and landscapes:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 2 - 13

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 2 - 14

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 2 - 15

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 2 - 16

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 2 - 17

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 2 - 18

These guys do NOT stop for you… you either get out of their way or get run over. Those are your only two options:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 2 - 19

Arrived in Pattu Pauk (a Taungthu tribe village), where our night’s homestay awaited us:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 2 - 20


Day 3: Pattu Pauk to Inle Lake

The group ready for our last haul of the trek! From left to right: Momo (our fearless leader), Miguel, moi, Frans, Yang, our gracious homestay host, Francy, Ilona, and Iveta:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 1

Adorable village kids doing whatever it is village kids adorably do:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 2

And off we went, navigating more deadly mules right off the bat:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 3

And making friends:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 4

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 5

Enjoyed some more incredible views:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 6

Made our way through Kyauk-su and Nan Yoke (Taungthu tribe villages):

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 7

Where Frans enchanted the youngins:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 8

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 9

Tried to take a little break, but the group was attacked by a relentlessly annoying bee:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 10

So we took off for the home stretch:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 11

After stopping for lunch in Tone Lé (an Innthar tribe village), where we unfortunately didn’t get any photos of the group’s “last supper”, or rather, “last lunch”, we walked our last kilometer to a boat that would take us across Inle Lake to Nyaungshwe, our final destination!

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 12

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 13

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 14

Off we went!

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 15

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 16

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 17

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 18

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 19

Trust me, it fits… how they manage to not scrape the sides or tip the boats while squeezing through these gates at amazing speeds continues to blow my mind ’til this day:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 20

We somehow made it out of the canal without capsizing and enjoyed our first proper views of the lake, thankfully unobstructed by this flock of seagulls:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 21

‘Take Your Kid To Work’ Day:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 22

Getting close!

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 23

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 24

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 25

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 26Pulled into Nyaungshwe, ready to enjoy some ice-cold Myanmar Beer to reward ourselves for a long and hot but exhilarating 3-day, 75-km trek:

Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek, Day 3 - 27

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