Another bus, and whoops, we were in Kalaw. Kalaw seems like a typical drive-through village, although there is most probably more to see than we did. For many tourists, it’s the starting point of 1/2/3-day treks. We chose the latter option, organised by Jungle King Treks, for a very modest price. We were a group of 9 happy trekkers (4 Israelis, 2 French, 1 German and us), and a happy guide called “Joke”. The trek wasn’t too challenging, with about 20km per day, walking through valleys, forests, hills, fields and villages. The landscapes were pretty dry but still beautiful. Apparently, it can get really tricky in the rainy season, with mud up to your knees, water to your waist, and leeches until your neck! Eeech!
The highlights for us were usually the pauses when we got served plenty of different dishes ranging from rice noodles to curries, vegetables, and fresh fruits. Our guide always made sure that we were also tasting the local snacks and drinks (chickpea crackers, rice crackers, rice wine, etc.). Another highlight was the insight into the daily life of the tribes we met, mainly Pa’o. As it wasn’t the season to seed nor harvest rice, people were mainly busy picking and sorting chillis or weaving bamboo.
We were also really lucky and excited to spend the night in the house of a Pa’o family, in a remote village. The 2-storey house was fully made out of bamboo. The ground floor is reserved for the buffaloes (btw, they don’t eat them, just use them to pull carts and to serve as a living soil fertilizer). The upper floor is one big room that we shared with the whole group. Since everything is made out of bamboo (even the stairs), you can see through the floor and even smell the buffalo “fertilizing” the ground… Obviously, no electricity nor running water. Just a weak light bulb powered by a battery, and a big stone bucket of water in front of the house. The latter serves as a kitchen sink as well as bathroom, shower and laundry sink. The toilet is usually further down in the garden and consists of a little box with a tube leading our recycled meals a few meters away. Everyone in our group adapted easily to this new comfort standards, and we especially enjoyed the delicious food cooked by the village (particularly an outstanding pumpkin curry!).
After dinner, we shared travel stories, gazed at the starry sky, and listened to our guide telling us about local legends. The Pa’o tribes believe they are the descendants of a red dragon hatching from a black egg. Therefore, they usually dress in black and women wear red or orange headscarves.
The second night of the trek, we slept at a monastery full of young little monks. Several trekking groups joined so we ended up sleeping (or not sleeping) with around 30 people in the big hall. It was freeeeezing! It is easily above 30°C during the day but temperatures drop quite a lot after sunset, especially higher up in the mountains! We sure need to buy more warm clothes for Mongolia though, if all of our clothes aren’t even enough for Myanmar! We were woken up at 5:30 by the little monks starting their day with what seemed like a morning prayer.
All in all, it was a great experience, filled with beautiful landscapes, beautiful people, jokes, laughters, good food, a few beers, and of course a few blisters. Gosh, we were glad to take a shower after the three days (even though Quentin had a little dip in an ice-cold river on the way)!
Special greetings here to our group members, the Israeli crew and the Frenchies!