Bagan to Kalaw: A worthwhile sacrifice

Bagan to Kalaw in Myanmar (Route on map)

Bagan to Kalaw in Myanmar (Route on map)

We left the archaeological splendour of Bagan to a small town called Kalaw after a great four days of cycling in and around temples, losing ourselves in our respective books and drinking Burmese beer.

Dagon Beer from Myanmar

Dagon Beer from Myanmar

We were thrilled to hear that pick-up time for our bus journey to Kalaw was 04:45 am. We were even more pleased to realise (with one eye open and the other shut the following morning) that we secured the very last two seats at the rear of what felt like a 60’s manufactured-bus. Of course, we were in Burma, right? So, we weren’t really expecting air-conditioning (despite a fabulously comfortable bus journey between Yangon and Mandalay). Nonetheless, we were fine! Very ‘zen’ about the whole thing, in fact. I suppose, it was hard not to be, particularly after Cambodia.

 

Bustling morning market in Kalaw, Myanmar (Burma)

Bustling morning market in Kalaw, Myanmar (Burma)

The majority of the journey was fine. Yes, it was hot. Yes, the entire middle row was full of locals stacked on top of each other on the floor. Yes, I couldn’t really use my arm rest. No, I didn’t really have any space under my seat as the luggage compartment was full and it was used for excess luggage. Yes, there was no air-conditioning and we breathed pure dust through the half-opened windows of the bus for 6 gruelling hours. But, as I said, I felt fine. After Cambodia, it was hard not to. The drivers were friendly and safe. The locals were smiling and non-complaining. Why rock the boat? What’s the fuss?

Thanaka-wearing market trader selling bananas in Kalaw's morning market in Myanmar

Thanaka-wearing market trader selling bananas in Kalaw’s morning market in Myanmar

It all changed for me in the last hour… Admittedly, I’m surprised I didn’t find my insides scattered on the side of the street. By the time we set out of the bus and arrived in Kalaw, my stomach felt so upset from the bumpy, dirt roads and the winding, rolling hills that I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to exit the bus. Luckily, Kalaw is located in a hill, elevated region, and it’s cooler. Not only did this instantaneously make me feel better, but knowing our purpose – that is, to go on a 2 day adventure trek in the openness and genuine isolation of the Burmese countryside – certainly made the journey a worthwhile sacrifice.

Burmese market trader selling vegetables in Kalaw morning market in Myanmar

Burmese market trader selling vegetables in Kalaw morning market in Myanmar

I’ve added a few pictures from Kalaw market above, and I’ll save details of our trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake in Myanmar’s Shan State for my next post! 🙂 I hope everyone is doing well.

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