Around 75 miles south of Mandalay, 3 days hike from Inle Lake, Kalaw is a beautiful little sleepy market town, sitting on the western edge of the Shan plateau at 1320 metres above sea level, was once very popular with the British in colonial times. The town is a mix of old colonial and wooden Shan style houses sprawling out over this hilly town, where is home to the descendants of the Shan people & local tribes including Indians, Shan, Bamar and Nepalese (Gurkhas retired from British military service). The surrounding countryside with lush green pines, bamboo groves and ethnic villages is a trekker’s great choice with walks to cater to all levels of fitness while the town’s lively market is all about the locals – no trinkets for you, here – just herbs, spices & food, some of which you may well end up eating later, for dinner.
This is the country’s excellent trekking point, with trails leading up into the mountains, passing through remote villages, fields & forest, past traditional longhouses (each of which are home to many families), tea plantations & monasteries. And the best thing is that you will get spectacular views across Inle valley as a bonus reward for any huffing & puffing. With the altitude over 1200 metres up, Kalaw is atually nice & cool, so you should not get too sticky.
It is possible for those who wish to do a trek from Kalaw either to Inle Lake or to Pindaya, sleeping en route in a monastery and a village chiefs house. This might be a very rustic trip but a excellent way in which to get a deep soak into the slow and tranquil pace of rural Shan life.
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