In Myanmar, we did the two-day trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake. Before starting the hike, we spent one day in Kalaw and quite enjoyed it. It's a small town in the mountains, with friendly inhabitants and cooler weather than Yangon or Bagan.
After a short car ride, we started the trek and followed our guide, Kenneth, through forests, plains and agricultural fields. it was the dry season, so the landscape appeared like this.
The colours, the scenery and the conditions vary a lot from season to season. On the way we visited tiny villages where the increasing number of tourists passing by every day didn't seem to be having too much of an effect on the traditional way of life. This was a very picturesque newly-built bamboo house.
For lunch and tea we were welcomed by locals in their homes and had the chance to see how they lived. The cook was enthousiastic about catering to our vegan diet and prepared varied and abundant meals using local ingredients. He made sure that we would not miss out on our proteins, though. Here's the very cute crab he made from pears !
During the trek we saw many freshly-harvested chillies drying in the sun. Unfortunately pictures cannot portray their fantastic aroma.
Christmas star trees are quite common in this part of Myanmar. I had never seen them in the wild and I must admit to being quite impressed by their massive size and red leaves.
And this is how the rice paddies look during the dry season. Unfortunately there are no alternative sources of water other than the rain, so for a few months of the year, the farmers cannot grow any rice.
We spent the night in a monastery where we could experience for a few hours the lives of monks and novices. They were very welcoming and allowed us to participate in their prayers. Sleeping in a monastery was a new experience which I would strongly recommend to other travellers. Well, the rooster crowing at 3 AM and the bucket shower were small details...
Some other travellers decide to spend the night in a nearby village, in homestays. We did not try this but we passed by the village and found the atmosphere very pleasant, with local hosts being very friendly and making travellers feel welcome. If I had done the three-day trek I would have spent one night at the monastery and one at a homestay.
And this is our candlelight dinner at the monastery. I have already mentioned that our cook prepared very abundant meals for us, haven't I? All of this was just for two! By the way, the candlelight was not really a choice as the generators went off at 8 PM and by 9 PM we were asleep.
The next day we got up very early to take advantage of the cooler hours and to reach Inle Lake by lunch time. We didn't find the trek difficult but walking in the heat can be quite tiring. The first day we walked from the morning until sunset, with a long lunch break and shorter tea breaks on the way. The second day we walked from early morning until lunch time with a short coffee break.
This bamboo forest is the last stretch before reaching the Lake. We could see we were getting closer because the vegetation progressively became greener and thicker.
And this is the very beautiful dragon fruit we ate at the end of our lunch when we got to Inle Lake. Well deserved after the two-day trek!
After lunch we took the boat to our hotel and enjoyed the great view of Inle Lake.
We saw floating houses and gardens, as well as people on boats doing all sort of activities. This man was fishing seaweed from the lake.
The trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake was one of the highlights of our trip to Myanmar. It was a great way to discover Myanmar's best feature: its people. We had several spontaneous encounters with locals working in the fields or in the villages going about their business. The people were all very open to foreigners, always kind and smiling and ready to share information on their lifestyle and culture. Despite the increasing number of tourists travelling to Myanmar, this part of the country felt like it had not yet been touched by mass tourism. It was certainly one of the more authentic experiences we've had in our travels.