I caught a 4am bus to the town of Kalaw in southern Shan state. Kalaw has become a common stop on the backpacker trail as one of the best (and most openly permitted) areas to trek around Shan state. The most popular one is a three-day walk to Inle Lake, another one of Myanmar’s main tourist attractions, which is what I ended up doing.
On the bus I had made friends with two fellow travelers, Eileen and Verena. When I saw them again over dinner we decided to all go on the trek together. Before the evening was through we had also managed to recruit two more: Greg and Malika, a french couple at the start of a year-long round-the-world trip.
The hike took us through several Palaung villages. We slept at one the first night and got to witness a funeral wake, which seemed like nothing more than an excuse for a few dozen guys to get together and gamble. Our guide, Chi, lost some money but Verena managed to win a couple thousand kyat.
The second night we slept in a hillside monastery. We enjoyed some Burmese rum Chi had purchased on the way over a great dinner - the best Burmese food I had during my time in the country was on this trek, thanks to our personal chef who hiked along with us. The young monks chanted for a couple hours in the evening as the sun went down… and then started up again at 5am. Chi had a fierce hangover from the rum and Verena suffered some severe exhaustion from the dry, dusty heat so we limped the final leg of the trip to Indein. From there we caught a boat across the lake to our guesthouse.
Inle seems like a place worth staying for a few days, but sadly my time in Myanmar is up. Using the end of my 30-day visa, I will have just enough time to make the 20-hour bus ride back to Yangon and catch my flight home to Bangkok.
And so I left.
[Sorry this post is crap. I have a lot of catching up to do on the journal entries. Move along…]