We got woken up by our bus attendant at 2:30 am, letting us know that we had arrived in Kalaw. We were about 2 and a half hours early. Dazed and confused, we got off the bus and tried to figure out what to do. We needed to find somewhere to sleep, but where? And how would we get there?
We started researching on our phones when some random dude came up to Hannah and told her he has a hotel for us. It was 15,000 kyat for the both of us, which would be about $5 each, so we agreed to it. We walked about 10 minutes to the hotel. It was pretty funny that neither of us even knew the name of the hostel, and we were just following around this random guy at 2 in the morning in Myanmar.
We got the hotel: Golden Lily. We were showed to our room, which was FREEZING. We quickly changed into pajamas and went to bed. I had a bit of trouble falling asleep; it probably took about an hour for my mind to finally calm down enough that I fell asleep fully.
We woke up at 7 and went downstairs to have breakfast, which was crepes filled with banana and jam. The crepes were most likely made with an egg, but I ate them anyway since I needed the fuel for the hike.
After breakfast we walked over to the Jungle King office to meet our trekking group. We would be trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake over 3 days and 2 nights.
There were two others there already: Ollie and Rob, who were friends from New Castle, UK. They had taken the night bus from Yangon, and had arrived in Kalaw a few hours earlier.
More people started to trickle in, and we introduced ourselves to each other. By the time it was 9 am, there were at least 40 people at the tour office. We were worried that everyone would be in our group– doing a trek with 40 other people wouldn’t really be the peaceful, bonding experience I was hoping for.
We ended up in a group of 8. The group consisted of Hannah and I, Ollie and Rob (English), Barak (YES LIKE BARACK OBAMA! From Israel), Phillipp (German), Erik (Austrian), and Herbie (Austrian). Plus our guide, whose name was Kun.
We started by walking through the town of Kalaw. We made our way through the morning market, then through a temple, and then walked up a path to start the actual trek.
This first part was mostly flat, with some hills. We walked through pine forests– the pine trees were apparently planted by the English people when they occupied Myanmar in the early 1900s.
We also saw a LOT of chili fields. I tried a piece of one. It was certainly chili. Really spicy, but not “omg I’m going to die” spicy.
After about 3 hours of walking, we stopped at a local restaurant for lunch. It seemed to mainly exist for the trekking tours. I don’t know why anyone else would eat there since it was in a pretty random location.
We ate fried vermicelli noodles with vegetables. The others had eggs, but I got one without egg.
We returned to the trek. We walked through more forests & chili fields as we continued to get to know each other. I kept thinking about how good it is for me to be in nature. You can’t help but be happy when you’re in it. City life is fun and exciting, but there’s really nothing better than being surrounded by pure nature.
We ended day 1 at a village. It was 4 pm, and we decided to explore the area for a bit before sunset. The village had one store, so we stopped in to get snacks and beer.
The shower situation was pretty basic: you essentially had to use a bucket and dump cold water on yourself. There was also no privacy, so you’d have to do it in your swimsuit (or get naked in front of everyone). We all pretty much just washed our faces and called that our “shower.”
We walked over to the west side of the village with our beers to watch the sunset. The other tour groups, who we had seen that morning, were also staying at the village that night so we all sat together.
It got dark and each group returned to their respective home stays.
Our group had dinner in a hut-like place, which I think was one of the village’s communal kitchen huts. It was a small room with an open fire place and a big pot hanging from the ceiling.
We sat around 3 tables, and the food started flowing. There were various vegetable dishes, one fish dish, endless (and I mean ENDLESS) rice, and some fruit. I accidentally had a bit of peanut (it was in one of the veggie dishes), but it was such a small amount that I was fine, thank god.
It was really nice to chat with the others and get their perspective on world events. At one point we talked about what we’ve seen in the media/learned about Israel and Palestine since Barak was curious. The consensus was that everyone knows way more about Israel than Palestine, and probably favors Israel just because we know more about it/have met people from there. In the US, and in other western countries, barely anyone knows much about Palestine/Palestinians, which is pretty strange once I think about it.
After our dinner that turned into more of an all-you-can-eat situation than your standard dinner, our bellies full, we all sat around the bonfire and chatted some more.
Exhausted, we went to bed in our mattresses, all lined up next to each other, around 9:30.