En route to Inle Lake, we stopped for a night and 2 days in Kalaw, a small hill-town (with an altitude of 1320 metres) founded by the British for whom the Burmese plains were too hot. Indeed, it was the chilliest place we visited throughout our trip and surprisingly, it was one of my favourites even though we didn’t spend long there. It’s a peaceful town, most of the tourists who come here are hiking enthusiasts and trekkers as the hills surrounding the town offer fabulous opportunities if you are so inclined. We did a short hike for a few hours around the town and actually wished we had time in our schedule to attempt the hike to Inle Lake – sounds like quite the experience. If you’re more interested in food, however, it’s a place you can get a truly excellent bowl of Shan noodles for the loose change in your pocket (more on that soon!). And if you happen to be there on “big market” day, you’ll be enchanted by the sights, sounds (and smells) of the market which takes place along Merchant Road (though I don’t remember any street signs – we just followed our instincts!) . The market runs daily, though every 5 days local hill-tribes join the regular vendors so the market grows exponentially in size. Like the best markets, there is nothing remotely touristy about it and really nothing to buy (certainly no souvenirs!) – though we did buy some peanuts for snacks later.
The market supposedly starts at 6am though when we were there around 6.30, vendors were still setting up. It was a lovely, leisurely pace (and no tourists at that early hour the day we were there, though we did encounter a large group as we left around 7.15) and the perfect opportunity to see the locals going about their lives. I actually don’t remember taking many photos so I was surprised to come across these on my memory card – I do remember a lot of stopping and really looking at the people and their wares. Slowing down. Taking time to appreciate this extraordinarily special place.
If you happen to be en route to or from Inle, make sure you spend a day or two in Kalaw. It’s like no other part of Burma you will visit. And the market is truly worth he trip.
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Toronto folks: Did you enter my $150 Lee Restaurant giveaway yet?