“We are satisfied (with) our lives”
…the guide said, in response to my comment about Myanmar being dubbed one of the happiest countries in the world.
“Money doesn’t matter to us – if we have money, we share with other people.”
So here I was, too sick for the three day mission from Kalaw to Inle Lake, but just healthy enough for a day trek around Kalaw in Myanmar (Burma).
I went with Ever Smile trekking company, which was located up and away from the main road in Burmese humble home-style business fashion.
I was the only person called for the day trek, most of the other backpackers were there for the two or three day hikes, so I got a tour guide to myself. Fortunately, he was a lovely young dude who did a wonderful job guiding me around and giving me extra information all day.
The guide, whose nickname is Tharr Tharr, took photos for me, held my hand so I didn’t slip, caught me when I did (more than a few times), waited with me so I could watch a local event, plucked three leeches off my body, even drove me on his motorbike to the bus stop so I could book my ticket after the trek. Very pleased with him and would recommend this company!
I paid 17, 000 Kyats for the day, including lunch.
Many tourists will use MapsMe or Google Maps to find their own way around, but I’d heard from a couple of travelers who did this that it was easy to lose your way. The paths aren’t that clear and the maps aren’t that accurate either – probably due to Myanmar still being very much off the beaten track.
I was happy with my choice to use a guide, considering I was travelling alone and that he showed me so many things I wouldn’t have known to look at otherwise.
He pointed out dragon fruit plants, ginger plantations, translated what hill tribe women said, sap on trees for their fires (Burmese electricity is unaffordable for most), explained how rice grew in the paddies, told me a horror story about leeches, which went like this:
In Mandalay there was a very bad story that occurred with a girl who worked in a rice paddy. He said that there are many leeches in rice paddies and they can climb onto the people who work in them. So a girl had a swollen tummy, which her brother eventually suspected was pregnancy. He questioned her, assumed she was lying, and beat her up.
When she ended up in hospital they opened her up to find that a leech had crawled inside and had been sucking all her blood. The end result was that she died…though I was unclear whether that was due to the beating or as a result of the leech or operation.
Needless to say, I was completely freaked out – and checked myself often!
Along the way, I saw many friendly locals and hill village people. It was a very peaceful place, and a lot cooler in temperature than other parts of Myanmar.
The air was actually really fresh, and was a welcome break from the dust of Bagan, and the smog of Yangon. I also got lucky with the weather, since it was technically monsoon season!
The views of the mountains and hills were stunning. The little scenes of hill families along the way were priceless.
We stopped on the way back to watch a local “Rocket Festival”. Tharr Tharr explained that each village has its own thing, with his village taking part in a “Balloon Rocket Festival”. It was only men there, of all ages and descriptions, including a few monks.
There was drinking, betel nut, and pure boy excitement over their toys. The rockets were shot into the clouds and over into the mountains. The farthest ones would win prizes.
At the end of the day, we strolled downhill towards Ever Smile, and he gave me a lift on his motorcycle to buy my bus ticket and drive me back to my hotel (but not before warning me that he drives like James Bond!).
I was completely buggered, and glad I hadn’t booked more than the day trek.
Along the way, Tharr Tharr joked that we were actually on our way to Inle Lake over the next few days, and that he’d arrange for my luggage to be sent there.
I did feel a little sad that I wasn’t doing more than a day, but a sickly feeling after lunch reminded me that I’d made the right choice…this time around.
Next time, I will definitely do a three day trek!