Hints on where to stay, eat and what to do before heading out on your trek to Inle Lake.
We arrived in Kalaw at 3am, as promised by our bus company. We intended to stay at the Golden Kalaw Inn, but they told us they were booked when we rang the doorbell at 3. We spent the first night at the Golden Lily, right next door, for $7. The next morning, we transferred to the Golden Kalaw and had a double room with private bathroom for $12. Well worth it, and good breakfast. The toilet even flushed!
Eat and Drink
Cheap and much easier to find than in Yangon. Seven Sisters Restaurant, recommended in every guidebook, is recommended by us. Steamed fish wrapped in banana leaf was one of our favorite dishes in Burma. We also had a great draft beer at Thu Maung, on the road where the bus drops you off. For 1200K (about $1.50), we each had a beer PLUS bar snacks, soup, and watermelon.
See and Do
The real reason to come to Kalaw is to trek to Inle. That said, we enjoyed our one full day here and found the monasteries in town well worth a look. Shwe Oo Min Pagoda outside of town had over 800 Buddhas in a cave and a very friendly caretaker who was excited to meet Americans.
We did a three day, two night trek with Ever Smile. They came highly recommended on TripAdvisor. Our experience was slightly different, as you can see.
The bus from Yangon cost 15000K per person. It arrived exactly on time, was air conditioned, and the strange Asian music videos weren't as annoying as expected. The rest of the transport (i.e. the trek) was on foot.
Have any tips for backpacking in Kalaw? Let us know in the comments!