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Inle Lake is a must-visit place in Myanmar, it’s truly unique and should be on your Myanmar itinerary! Kalaw is a hill station town which isn’t really a popular place to visit in Myanmar but the reason people go there is to start the now famous Kalaw to Inle Lake trek which is a 3 day 2night trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake!
Kalaw to Inle Lake Trek
Visiting Kalaw after Bagan is a good idea as it is a bus ride away. Kalaw is used to tourism these days because of the many travellers starting their trek to Inle Lake from there.
There is a lot of accommodation on offer on Booking.com in Kalaw so have a look here to see if you can book something in advance, otherwise, I’m sure you’ll find a Guesthouse when you arrive and look around yourself which is what myself and my friends did.
I suggest waiting until you get to Kalaw to book the Kalaw to Inle Lake trek as there will be plenty of people selling the tour with different guides and probably, slightly different itineraries.
We had read about Uncle Sam’s and had heard their tours were good but after going in for a chat and hearing how many other people they had signed up to do the tour the next day and that they went on the ‘original route’ we decided that going with ‘Jungle Trek’ who our guesthouse (Golden Lilly Guesthouse) was working with would be the best option and it turned out to be the most amazing 3 days with an amazing guide!
Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake
We got up early the next morning, had breakfast, got our big backpacks all tagged and put to one side as they were taken to Inle Lake from Kalaw for us (thank god as there was no way I could carry my backpack with me!) and we met Cindy a 19-year-old Burmese/ Nepalese girl who was going to be our guide along with 4 other girls who were in our group.
In total, we walked 56km and it was a great experience, we kept a good pace and there weren’t many points where it was too strenuous as most of the land was fairly flat.
We walked through so much countryside which was constantly changing, we walked through villages where the local people were going about their day with the occasional smile and wave to us, we walked past school children on their way home or playing in the playground.
We had water buffalo constantly pass us with their farmers behind them, we saw chilli’s growing in fields, ladies picking them and then as we went through the villages people’s houses were covered with red blankets of chilli’s drying out.
Jungle Trek stuck to their word and we didn’t pass any other groups or tourists
Jungle Trek took out 3 separate groups on the day we left so we crossed over at the meal and accommodation points but they planned it very well so that each group was staggered and left separately and this was a major highlight for me as I didn’t want to be bumping into groups walking all the time from different companies, I wanted it to feel more natural and raw.
Cindy was a great guide too and was always stopping to tell us what we were passing, what was growing in the fields and she was generally a wealth of information despite how young she was! She was also a very positive little lady who is currently studying as well as working, she has plans to become a lawyer and she wants to be able to work and help out the poor people in her country.. such a sweetie!
For me the only slight downside of the trek was the accommodation, we knew it wasn’t going to be great due to the low price we had paid for the trip and we did do the Kalaw to Inle Lake trek on a budget! It wasn’t that bad but it was very basic so be prepared if you do do this trek (which I recommend you do!).
The first night we stayed in a house in the village and on the second night we stayed in a Buddhist Monastery, there was a line of mattresses laid out on the floor in each place and the bathrooms were outside which were very smelly squat toilets.
There were makeshift showers available but the temperature dropped so much in the evening and at night once the sun had gone down that we didn’t fancy having a shower either night but as we were all in the same smelly position it was ok!
The food was really good! We had 3 meals a day and stops to break up the morning and afternoon in tea shops where we made the most of the chai tea and they also had a selection of snacks.
On the third day, we finally reached Inle Lake, once we had had our last lunch we said goodbye to Cindy and got on a boat which took us from the South of the Lake to the North where the town is.
This boat trip was an experience in itself as it took about an hour and we went through the village that sits on the water and then the lake opens up and we saw fishermen fishing and although we did go back on the lake for a day trip a few days later I felt like I saw plenty of it on this boat journey alone and it was the perfect end to the trip!
I hope that helps! I would 100% recommend trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake instead of just getting a bus to Inle Lake!