Kalaw is an old hill station located high up in western Shan State with scenic views, refreshing climate and a laid back atmosphere. It is regarded as Myanmar’s trekking mecca for good reason, and still has plenty of old colonial-era buildings in place.
A stay over in Kalaw is perfect for the travellers sign up on the Myanmar local tour package that are interested in a little exploration. it is not only great for trekking throughout the local area to soak up the countryside consisting colourful flower-lined streets and hill views, but also makes it possible to experience the multi-day trek. A planned trek to Pindaya or Inle Lake gives the opportunity to experience great scenery, as well as to see the local hill tribes.
One of the major attractions in town is the market with items and produce sold by the local villagers. A further reason to explore the market area is the rich choice of food stalls and restaurants. The cuisine is quite diverse with plenty of dishes related to the local Shan community, as well as Nepali and Indian dishes.
The centre of Kalaw has a great choice of hotels and cafes that provide a useful internet service, and a nearby ATM makes it easy to draw out money using a Visa or MasterCard.
A great festival taking place in town is the Tazaungman Full Moon Festival, which is held between October-November each year, and makes it possible to enjoy local street parades, fireworks and parades.
Exploring the local area on foot is pleasant and comfortable year-round for those enjoying a Myanmar travel tour. The cool season is great, but does bring with it a lot more crowds. The rainy seasons will give the more relaxed and quiet time, but it will make it more difficult to trek in the local region.
How to get there
Travelling by bus is likely to be the most practical and comfortable option to reach Kalaw. There are regular bus services from a variety of locations, including Yangon and to Mandalay with the cost in the region of $8.50-$11.50.
Where to stay
Most of the accommodation in Kalaw is mid-range, yet very acceptable with rooms including the must-have amenities. Plus, there are a few upmarket places that are further out of town to interest the wealthy locals and groups o the Myanmar tours and holidays. With the increase in tourism in the local area, many of the hotels are upgrading and renovating to help create the most pleasant stay.
A stay at the Eastern Paradise Hotel is well located and only a short walk to the central market and main road. It has friendly and welcoming staff with rooms that are quite plain, but still includes Wi-Fi, a desk, soft mattress and hot and cold running water. The rooms are kept clean and cost in the region of $15-$20.
The Dream Villa Hotel is based in a mansion type building with a large and well landscaped garden. Each of the spacious rooms comes with huge windows and shared balcony. The cost to stay at this hotel is in the region of $40 to $100 per night (room size and amenities affect the price).
Well located in the centre of town, the Winner Hotel is a great place to stay on the Myanmar travel packages with great rooms and a friendly receptionist. Most of the rooms costing $20 to $40 per night include air-con, minibar, Wi-Fi and flat-screen TV.
Eat and drink
The central market region of Kalaw is perfect for the traveller to experience the local street food scene with a varied, diverse range of cuisine, including local Shan, Nepalese and Indian fare.
The local Shan dishes are delicious and fresh and quite similar in many ways to the cuisine in northern Thai. There are plenty of noodle dishes with a curry styled sauce, rice crackers, steamed ginger chicken, tamarind prawns, salads and soups.
A great place to visit for a refreshing drink is Smile which is great for the traveller interested in the cheap options. This place has a great atmosphere with the chance to watch the world go past or talk to the friendly locals.
The Kalaw Central Market is a lively place to shop that sells the local wares produced by the local village people. Plus, there is a larger market in town that takes place every 5 days. This market specializes in the local produce and great to experience new tastes, smells and sights.
Things to see and do
A trek to explore the rural region of the Shan highlands by foot is a great experience and makes it possible to see the native animals and plants. The type of treks can range from the short 1-day tour that make it possible to see the local villages, while the multi-day tour that lasts for 3 or 4 days is great to reach a destination like Inle Lake, as well as plenty of places in between. Most of the treks in this region are open to hikers at most fitness levels. On the multi-day trip there is the option to stay overnight in a Shan village. By staying in the village on the Myanmar travel guide it is possible to get a first-hand view of the local life and traditions, while also getting involved in activities like preparing lunch or helping on a nearby farm.
Climbing to the top of Cloud Hill makes it possible to see the Thein Taung Monastery while also getting stunning views of the surrounding valley.
The Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp has been set up to help care for the poorly and ageing elephants, while also encouraging the ethical treatment of these magnificent animals when it comes to entertainment. By visiting the camp it is possible to learn about the best techniques for caring for the elephant while also getting the opportunity to bathe and feed them. A further part of the project includes planting trees to help with issues related to re-forestation of the local area.
For the travellers that like to watch local festivals, the Tazaungman Full Moon Festival takes place on the full moon in October or November. During this time the local town is alive with fireworks, music and street parades.