Kalaw in Myanmar marks its presence as the beautiful hill town on the world tourism map. For any soul that is seeking for a mecca to have the best hill trekking experience, then some of the answers possibly point to the impressive Kalaw.
About Kalaw in Myanmar
Kalaw is a gorgeous and appealing hill town in Kalaw Township, Taunggyi District, in the Shan State of Myanmar. The town has an elevation of 1320m, around 50km from the idyllic Inle Lake, and 70km west of Taunggyi. Its setting offers the panoramic view of the rugged mountain scene which inspires every thrill-seeker and artist. In particular, Kalaw is the primary setting of the famous novel “The Art of Hearing Heartbeats,” by Jan-Philipp Sendker. That said, the history of Kalaw is linked to the British colonial time, resulting in lots of colonial buildings there. For tourism, the key of this hill town lies in the unique and exciting trekking, which also relates to the activity of photography and art. Kalaw itself is blessed with the laid-back vibe, the fresh air, and the picturesque landscape. While some appreciate the view of the colonial buildings along the trekking routes, the others admire the natural conditions for trekking with the forested hill, the challenging trails, and the primeval forest. In some points, the trekkers can see the traditional ethnic villages, the flower-lined streets, and the Buddhist temples, etc. And if trekking further, you reach the interesting Inle Lake – home to the unique leg-rowing style in Myanmar.
What to See and Do in Kalaw Myanmar
Walking Tour to Kalaw Town
Besides groups of colonial buildings, Kalaw Town owns the bustling market in the center of the town for people around the hill to sell their items. Just a walk around the town, you will be interested in the local stylish food stall, café, and restaurant. Don’t miss the culinary chance to experience the local cuisine! There must be some dishes that you desire to taste. Also, you might come across the sparkling Aung Chan Tha Stupa which is characterized with the silver-and-gold glass mosaics. Take pictures of the extraordinary and iconic stupa in the town, and then share with the world that you are here, in Kalaw, to capture the flashy Aung Chan Tha Stupa. Whether you’re keen on sightseeing or actual experiencing the local lifestyle, then a town tour is fun and knowledgeable.
Trekking in Kalaw
Passing by the lively town, are you ready to trek? For exploring the ethnic lifestyle fully, it’s recommended to experience the long trekking of two or three days. The trekking trails might allow you to meet some ethnic people of Danu, Pa-O, Taung Yo, and Palaung. Perhaps, you’re the seasoned trekkers already, but the best trekking in Kalaw should go with the knowledgeable guides. They help point out the exact location of the hill tribe villages, the hidden pagodas, and the magnificent hilltop. You can reach out the good guides via the travel agents’ or the hotel’s support. Otherwise, it is possible to trek solo. But notice that most of the local villages are unlikely to speak English! Therefore, the safe trekking requires you to have GPS, the pre-loaded map, or the map in hand. In fact, trekking opportunities are boundless in the trekking mecca – Kalaw.
Exploring the Surrounding Attractions of Kalaw
If you trek toward the surrounding areas of Kalaw, don’t miss the attraction of Inle Lake! The famous Lake is idyllic and inspiring with the unique leg-rowing lifestyle. Once you get there, expect to meet some local fishermen who use one leg to row their boat and another leg to stand still. Capture the memorable moments and enjoy the quiet atmosphere in the Lake! Images of the fishermen and rowers who have the water-based livelihood will teach you much about the different culture in the different part of the world.
Thein Taung Pagoda
This is the long-lasting pagoda that hosts a Buddhist monastery. The site welcomes both local and international visitors coming to do homage to the Buddhist statue and also learn about mindfulness. Staying in this pagoda, even for minutes, can calm your mind considerably.
Shwe U Min Pagoda
People know about Shwe U Min Pagoda as the cave preserving the golden Buddha statues. The cave is so mysterious that none can conclude exactly when it was created and when people put the holy Buddha statues into there. It is a consecrated, religious cave to see around Kalaw.
Myin Ma Thi Village
Enjoying a bicycle ride from Kalaw for 30-40 minutes, you will get to Myin Ma Thi Village where to find a giant cave to set foot on. The village itself has the traditional houses of the Burmese surrounded by the lush greenness. The laid-back atmosphere and the scenic view here delight the guests.
Nee Paya (with bamboo strip lacquered Buddha image)
This pagoda lies in Pinmagon Monastery of more than 500 years old. The pagoda is historic and noticeable for its longevity, as time passes. The Buddha image inside the pagoda is now lacquered and gilded, making it incredibly eye-catching and sacred. So, just don’t miss the beautiful bamboo strip lacquered Buddha image!
The village of Palaung tribe appeals to any trekker who has trekked through Kalaw hill town. Trekking through the dense hills, you see this little village in a narrow valley where the Palaung people cultivate the cheroot, tea damsons, and mangoes on the hill. You might need the local help or the tour guide’s instruction to reach the Palaung Village.
How to Get to Kalaw in Myanmar
The flights arrive at Heho Airport, which is 26km southeast of Kalaw. The domestic flights to Kalaw can be from the locations of Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, Kyaing Tong, Lashio, or Tachileik. From the Heho Airport, take a taxi to reach the town center or your booked hotel. For saving some dollars and cents, it’s advised to book the taxi service in advance through your hotels. Otherwise, there are choices of buses and pick-up trucks.
Of course, people can drive to Kalaw. Just around 70km from Taunggyi to the west and 50km from Inle Lake, Kalaw can be reached smoothly by road. Check if you can find any motorbike or car rental service in your place to self-drive to Kalaw. Alternatively, buy the bus/coach ticket to get there.