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Trekking from Kalaw to In Dein – Day 3

This morning  at the guesthouse, Mr. Hti made us crepes!  with fresh fruit and local honey.

We trade stories with other trekkers, brush our teeth in the open air “bathroom”…. then time to get on the road.


It is foggy this morning, but the road crew is already active in front of the guest house.  2014-10-30_2041

Young women moving dirt with their hoes and bamboo baskets to fill up potholes. Some young men were in the group, but the girls were definitely more efficient workers.  (Road work by day, peanut preparation by night!)


Village girls on their way to school, close to the wooden monastery.


The road climbs up toward a pass – the fog is burning off to reveal more colorful landscapes.2014-10-30_21312014-10-30_2118

Two happy trekkers with Mr. Hti!


People in Burma are mostly Buddhist, but many also practice animistic folk religion. There is a strong belief in the Nat spirits, some of whom are benevolent, some not so much.  Almost every home has a nat shrine, with flowers and fruit offering, to keep the Nats happy. Inside this roadside shrine is a bed for the resident nat, as well as food, water, flowers and a lit candle.

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A little further along, some young monks seem to have escaped their classroom..


At the top of the pass, there is a sort of café, full of trekkers and locals. Lots of Chinese motorcycles parked in front.



Dishwashing takes place in the open!


We make a short stop to rehydrate – and then push on: its all downhill from here to Lake Inle!

We get our first glimpse of the lake.  The water level in the shallow lake has been going down for several years, as deforestation brings more sediment down from the surrounding hills, and climate change causes more evaporation.


As we descend, the temperature is getting hotter. Would love to cool off like this guy…


At last we are at lake level – almost there – seven hours after leaving the guesthouse!


A few more minutes of walking, and we arrive at the river’s edge where our longboat is waiting to take us up the lake to our hotel.  Time for a well-deserved cool drink from a coconut. We made it!  Our trek is complete! YAY!!!



Trekking from Kalaw to In Dein – Day 1

The challenge was to trek from Kalaw to Lake Inle – a 60 kilometer distance – over three days. The guide books and websites say this is an easy walk – 4 or 5 hours a day – through picturesque landscapes and colorful villages. Photo ops!! The descriptions were all true—except for the hours!!!

After a solid breakfast, our Burmese guide Thêt introduced us to our trek guide Mr. Hti, and the 4 of us set off in a cloud of mosquito spray. Kalaw is a former colonial hill station – with a mixed population. Roads are narrow with oxcarts, Chinese trucks, motorcycles, Japanese cars all zipping around.  Traffic drives on the right, but most cars have steering wheels on the right…  Military vehicles move fast, and have the right of way – and this woman moved over a little too much to avoid one.  Our guides helped her get her front wheel out of the ditch, and we walked on.


Many houses from the colonial period remain… the British preferred to spend the hot summer season here in the cooler mountain region.

This colonial era house was occupied by the Japanese during WW2. Our guide Thêt detected hostile ghosts here, and refused to approach.


Kalaw train station, on the line from Yangon to Mandaly.  Switching is done manually.



Along the path, we see many of these water stations.  Earthenware jugs, with lids, that always contain fresh water for travelers.


Onward! Heading east.


Discussions and cultural exchanges with the guides along the way – life stories, experiences etc.  2014-10-29_3303

The guides consulted their cell phones regularly, and Thêt’s ring tone was Don MacClean’s song Starry, Starry Night. Coudn’t get that tune out of our heads all day….

Flaming flowers that brightly blaze, Swirling clouds in violet haze,
Colors changing hue, morning field of amber grain


You never know what will come around the corner ahead…..

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Always an opportunity to take a selfie with a new friend.


Around noon, we came to a one-room school.  The children were seated in  circles on the floor eating their lunches.  No adults were around.



The blackboard listed some English verbs: Running, walking, cutting etc.  The kids repeated  them after me and this made them laugh a lot!




At the entrance to villages, there is often a water station under a huge banyan tree (sort of ficus). Houses are constructed of woven bamboo panels – often with no windows, and just one door.  This keeps the sun out of the interior, so the house is cooler.  Corrugated metal roof – or thatch.


Solar panel on one pole, and TV antenna on another. This corner store has everything you need!

The village houses are made of bamboo, but the monasteries are more solidly constructed – and we saw many, many monasteries being built. People generously donate money or their time to earn merit – useful for future re-incarnations. These women were mixing concrete for bricks – the names of other donors were listed on the walls.



As we came to the Taung Gyi Chay village, we noticed a wedding celebration in progress!  A small booth had been set up in front of the bride’s house, and friends were gathering the gifts brought by guests.



We added a small contribution too, good luck for the new couple!


At last we came to the lunch stop…we were already running pretty late on our schedule.   Mr. Hti prepared our lunch in the local kitchen: a clear soup and fried rice with an egg.  Also some fried tofu with a fiery dipping sauce. Myanmar beer! We were HUNGRY!2014-10-29_1710


Mr Hti and Thêt investigate (and document) Annie’s iPhone 6 plus – rare!


So, OK, ready to visit the Buddha grotto in Myin Ma Hti, an underground complex of tunnels and caves, chock full of statues of Buddha.

This is a holy place (as always when Buddhas are present) so no shoes allowed.  Green plastic mats are on the floor, preventing slips on the dripping surfaces. There are dozens of buddha statues in the different grotto rooms (also some bats). Our guide Thêt sits us down within a circle of Buddhas for a meditation lesson….



It was pretty late after the grotto visit – about half an hour from sundown – and we still had quite a way to go to get to our overnight destination.  Our guides rustled up some young men with small motorcycles that were willing to give us a ride. Let me just say that straddling a moped in a trekking skirt is a challenge – there are videos of this … no further comment.

Just as the sun was setting, we arrived at the village of Lamine where we were to spend the night with a local family. 2014-10-29_3532

They served us a delicious meal on a high table between their woven-bamboo kitchen and the two-story house (also made of woven bamboo).


The couple in their 70s had 3 sons and 5 daughters, 4 of which were still living in the village. Their granddaughter was studying to be a teacher, and was happy to try her English on us! The house had just been wired with electricity a few weeks before, so there was a small TV set with 3 Burmese channels.  2014-10-29_1769


The “bathroom” facilities were basic, but we slept very well, and  the breakfast was wonderful!


Trek day 2 to be continued….