Kalaw, as seen from above...
Itâ€™s six thirty and time to get up. Looking out our window we see that it is still a bit hazy and it looks chilly but, considering that we will be walking in the hills all day, we probably wonâ€™t be cold for long.
Breakfastâ€™s at 7, but before we can dig in we first have to make our way downstairs to the lobby, where we have to go up a different flight of stairs to reach the dining hall. Itâ€™s rather cold in here, most likely the insulation of the room isnâ€™t up to the latest European standards. Our entire party is seated on one long table and breakfast is served swiftly. Supposedly the lady who owns the hotel sees it as a personal challenge to offer her guests a different breakfast every day for the duration of their stay.
Unfortunately the array of breakfasts starts with the standard toast with jam and/or egg. The fruit juice is good though...
A woman we encountered when walking in the hills around Kalaw.
Itâ€™s a little before eight when we start our day long walk through the hills surrounding Kalaw. It doesnâ€™t take long before it is warm enough to take off one layer of clothing (and the road weâ€™re taking is rather steep, so that helps warming up things, too). Just outside the village some people are filling buckets with water from a shared tap next to the road. The woman whoâ€™s turn it is, is so busy staring at those silly white folks (us, that is) that she doesnâ€™t notice that her bucket is full and the water is flowing down the street.
Soon thereâ€™s no sign of civilization whatsoever to be seen.
We are encompassed by hills with no signs of human interferance, except for the track we are walking on and an occasional crop field. We stop for a short period of time every half hour to regroup, some have more trouble overcoming the differences in height than others. The tracks are mostly well passable, but they are very dusty. The sand has the structure of ash, whirling up high when we walk by.
The children were either begging, or like this one, selling home-made souvenirs.
We pass through a couple of villages where ethnic minorities live, but it is obvious that many tourists have preceded us. The children are either begging or selling something. The people are dressed in beautiful colours and most of them are willing to pose for a picture, hoping to get some Kyats for that of course. I like to take pictures from a distance, catching people as they are. In the village of the Palaung we can have a look inside a house, thereâ€™s a reason for that of course, inside everybody present has a go at selling their goods and, many succeed.
We buy a kind of colourful vest for 8000 Kyats, which undoubtedly will make a good gift for someone. We get a nice cup of tea and after that we put our shoes back on and continue our walk. After quite a climb in the scorching sun we get to the Nepali â€śView Point Restaurantâ€ť. This is where we will have lunch, and my greatest fear is that the waiter will come and tell us that there is nothing else but Dahl Bat, in my opinion a dish that should be banished from all the menus in the world. To my relief the man serves chapatis with some kind of mild curry. Also not one of my favourites, but at least it is edible. The view from where we are sitting is fantastic, taking my mind off of the food. Itâ€™s a very simple establishment with a medieval toilet, but we are quite happy with it. While dining Rudolf is telling his famous stories again and everyone sitting within range is all ears.
This boy was an exception, he was so busy playing that he hardly noticed us.
Before moving on again we buy a couple of bottles of water, because in this heat we are loosing lots of fluids.
Immediately our track starts going up again, leading to a cart track that we follow for quite a while. On our way down again we encounter some small lorries with a single stroke engine, that are litteraly crawling up the hill, cooling fluid splashing from the top of the engine and leaving a trail of droplets of oil on the track. Theyâ€™re making a terrible racket, bellowing huge clouds of black smoke.
A girl with her goods at the ready, but I saw her before she saw me...
Our group is getting along very well and while chatting the time flies, but most of us donâ€™t mind taking of their walking shoes at 3 pm when we are back in Kalaw again and calling it a day. Trudy hits the shower right away and I crash on one of the single beds (we use the double bed to sleep in).
We are not going to stay in our room for the rest of the afternoon, because Wim invited us to have a drink with him and his mate.
He told us where they would be, but inspite of our efforts, we shall not find them. We just pick one of the little places that looks inviting to us and order a couple of Star colas, this used to be Pepsi, but nowadays it is produced in Myanmar and someone changed the name. It tastes just as good as Coca Cola, but it is four to eight times cheaper. When the man brings our drinks, he also puts four small bowls with cookies on the table. We taste three different ones, because my sweet tooth wanted something to his liking. When we leave we have to pay 1200 Kyats for everything we've had. We check out the local market, that is just about to close (but we do manage to buy some cookies for possible emergencies) and then we walk back to the hotel, where we have another lovely shower and do nothing but be lazy for a while.
A rather modern looking village high in the hills around Kalaw. We had our lunch break only a 15 minute walk further on.
We go out for one last time today, to Tha Zin for dinner.
When we walk in, Rudolf and Anne are already there. Ad and Wim arrive only minutes later. The food is excellent again and it sets me back only 7600 Kyats for two complete meals. The owner makes me promise that, if someone I know is planning on going to Kalaw, I give him a bar of Cadburies chocolate so he can bring it to Tha Zin. The Asian chocolate is no good, the man says, and he loved the British chocolate so much in the old days.
The view from the View Point Restaurant, where we had chapatis for lunch.
Trudy goes back to the hotel early, because her stomach is upset, I stay a little longer to sea the old man show his card lesson to the other four.
When I get back to the hotel at 9.45 pm, Trudy is already sleeping.