When it got too hot in the lowlands for the British during the colonial era, they retreated to hill stations like KALAW. Today the climate is still part of the appeal, even if it can get a bit chilly at night in winter, and the town is a base for some excellent treks to ethnic minority villages.
Other than the market, which is open every day but spills out into the streets when it’s Kalaw’s turn to host the rotating market, there isn’t a lot to do in the town itself besides visit its pagodas. These include the mirrored Aung Chan Tha Zedi in the centre and small Thein Taung Paya, uphill from the Union Highway and notable mainly for the views back towards the town.Read More
Shan State markets
Shan State markets
A number of markets in this region operate on a five-day cycle, with three or four markets taking place on each day of that cycle. With the possible exception of the very touristy Ywama “floating market”, they’re fascinating places – particularly early in the morning – where people from remote villages sell their produce or livestock and buy essential goods. Tour operators, guides and hotel staff should know the schedule; and it’s common to visit the relevant market during a boat tour.
There are many options for one- or two-day treks around Kalaw, following trails through the hills to villages inhabited by Palaung, Danu, Pa-O, Taung Yoe and other ethnic groups. Don’t expect untarnished nature – there has been significant deforestation in the area, and the routes mostly run past fields and plantations – but nonetheless, these hikes are a great way to get a glimpse of rural life.
The most popular longer trek is to Inle Lake, which normally takes three days, although it’s possible to shorten it to two (skipping some of the route by car) or lengthen it to four. There are many different routes and finishing points on the western side of the lake, including Khaung Dine and Indein. Usually one night is spent in a village home and another in a monastery.
The trails can get very muddy during the rainy season (June to October), while in peak season the overnight stops on the Kalaw-to-Inle trek can become pretty busy.