I arrived in Kalaw at the beautiful hour of 5AM. We had arrived early. If the bus driver hadn’t tapped me on the shoulder, I probably would have opened my eyes in Inle lake. My travel buddy Jelle and I were the only ones to get off at this stop. It was freezing! I didn’t expect temperatures that were barely above freezing level. There were two touts waiting, dressed in winter coats and hat, asking us if we needed a taxi or accommodation. They could have stayed in bed, because I was planning to do the trekking straight away. Jelle and I had a quick talk and eventually we decided to check into the Golden Kalaw Inn, where we paid 5 dollars extra for the early check in, and spend a night in Kalaw anyway. At least we were well rested after that.
Kalaw is very small. We checked out a trekking company, the market, the pagoda with the shimmering mirrors and climbed up the steps to the monastery to check out the view. In the afternoon we went for a walk, where we mostly had to turn back because of military blocks. Somehow there was military terrain where the map only showed roads. We saw an old church, still from the British time, and had a quick chat with the pastor, who seemed very zen, almost high on something. He walked around super calmly and occasionally gave some instructions to the kids that were around. When we headed back we saw a lonely restaurant and had an amazing noodle soup.
Eventually we found the road to a temple with a cave. Actually, two caves. I was a bit disappointed to see another soldier blocking the road. However, this soldier kindly let us in and pointed at the temple. The road passed through a golf court and behind that was the temple. The first of the caves was fairly big, stuffed with Buddha statues. The ground was wet at times because water was dripping from the ceiling. They’d put mats on the floor to walk on, but it really didn’t do much. We also checked out the second cave. Now this one seemed a bit more primitive. It was very damp and in a lot of places a lot smaller. Still it was filled with Buddha statues. I was too scared to go too deep, but Jelle discovered a whole passage that got smaller and smaller. I didn’t like it very much. The place was barely lit. Really creepy.
In the late afternoon we had to confirm a trekking for the next day. The one where we wanted to go first didn’t seem to have a very nice group though. Just before we went to confirm it, we met another Dutch guy, Mat. He said he’d booked a trekking as well. While we were at the trekking office, Jelle ran back to the hotel to ask about the other company. Praying they still had room, we cancelled the first one and made our way to Eversmile. There was plenty of space. They seemed to have unlimited space and just create a new group when necessary.
That night we went for dinner with a Dutch crew of seven. It was great to get to know them, since they were all going trekking the next day! After a very small dinner we had a rum sour, the local drink, at the Hi bar. It was such a cool place. It was absolutely tiny, with a mix of locals and tourists. A guy was playing guitar and singing and there was a smoky atmosphere. It didn’t get late though. After all, we had some walking to do the next day.