Two lovely days in Kalaw Myanmar a hill-station setting for a famous romantic novel – Best Blogs Series

A Palaung tribal woman near Kalaw, Shan State,...

A Palaung tribal woman near Kalaw, Shan State, Myanmar. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Pa-O tribal woman near Kalaw, Shan State, My...

A Pa-O tribal woman near Kalaw, Shan State, Myanmar. Pa-O is one of Shan State’s many tribal groups. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After breakfast, we transferred to Nyaung Oo Airport. We sadly said goodbye to Po, our brilliant guide, and our really nice driver in Bagan, and took a forty-minute flight to Heho, in the heart of the Shan State,Myanmar. We were met warmly by our new guide, a female this time, and driver.

After leaving Heho airport, we were driven through the rolling terrain and beautiful scenery, until Pindaya

Heho, Kalaw Township, Taunggyi District, Shan ...

Heho, Kalaw Township, Taunggyi District, Shan State, Myanmar Main Entrance of Heho Airport located in Heho, Kalaw Township, Taunggyi District, Shan State, Myanmar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

about two and a half hours later. We visited the famous and amazing Buddha caves filled with thousands of Buddhas and tiny meditation niches.  Most of the Buddhas had been donated by Buddhists from all corners of the globe and we were surprised to see so many from Australia. Afterwards,  we continued to a local workshop which made mulberry paper and traditional umbrellas by hand, these were used mainly as sun shades,  but because we had overweight baggage, we declined to buy any, beautiful as they were.

After a stop for lunch, we continued driving until we reached Kalaw, our base for two nights. Kalaw was once a British hill station, and is set high upon the Shan Plateau, with  trekking being the big draw for tourists like us, either short walks to ethnic minority villages or longer treks. Kalaw is at 1320 meters above sea-level, and just 50 Km from the Inle lake. We will get to blogging about Inle Lake soon, but Kalaw is special too.

For some wonderful photos of Kalaw open this link.

Kalaw was also the  location of a 1950s based romantic novel, published in 2012, where a successful New York lawyer finds an alternative life in Kalaw and years later his daughter goes to Kalaw to investigate and come across the unimaginable hardship and resilience of some of its people.

We were staying at a very quaint hotel but it was very cold at night!  Fast-forwarding, we had two freezing nights at our picture-postcard hotel. We had no warm clothes with us as we had shipped them home at an earlier date. The only form of heating was a lovely log fire but that was for about two or three hours  and a hot water bottle that didn’t stay hot all night. It was too cold to get up and put some more hot water in the bottle because the fire had gone out by that time! It’s times like these that make us remember how pampered we are in the West. This hotel was at a height of 1300 meters above sea level and was lovely and sunny during the daytime.

We had a wonderful trek in the hills, passing farms and many villages inhabited by the area’s ethnic hill tribes, including Danu, Palaung, Pa-Oh and Shan. We were accompanied by our regular guide and a second hiking guide, so there was little chance of us getting lost. Being very fussy about food hygiene in Myanmar, we declined the offer to have lunch in a local village house and decided to wait until we returned to Kalaw, about 2.30 PM. We later learned that a number of tourists had problems with village food due  to poor hygiene standards, so be warned if you are planning to visit Myanmar some time soon.

Anyway, we had a wonderful fresh river fish meal for lunch at a small family restaurant in Kalaw, inviting our female guide to join us. We met all the family, including the grandmother, who was a school-teacher before retiring and opening  this restaurant. She spoke excellent English and we had a wonderful conversation with her. As we were researching this blog and learned about the famous romantic novel, we thought again of this lovely elderly lady who was just like a character in the book.

After our late lunch we were taken around the outskirts of town to where the British influence still stood  in the form of luxury mansions, now owned by wealthy Burmese as holiday homes. Sadly some of these properties had been badly neglected and in a very poor state of repair.

After our tour of the city and its suburbs, we returned to our hotel where there was a sauna and thought how nice it would be to relax in it. We went inside only to find that the door did not close properly. Can you imagine a sauna with the cold air blowing through the door? We left the sauna and ran to our room for a hot shower as once again we were shivering!

The next morning, we left our hotel for Inle Lake and before doing so paid our account in U.S. Dollars bills, only to be given the ultimate insult, “Sorry but we can’t accept your dirty money”  – some of our notes were either crumpled or had stains of some sort or another and these are not accepted in hotels in Myanmar due to banking regulations. We managed to find enough “clean money” to settle our bill and were very pleased to be on our way to Inle Lake. If you are travelling to Myanmar remember:

  1. They do not accept credit or debit cards, at present
  2. They only accept local currency or clean or new US Dollar bills

Next blog is Inle Lake, probably one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Prague update – recommended goulash & dumplings to French tourists – Best Blogs Series

This evening we had dinner in an authentic restaurant in Prague – the prices are incredibly good value, especially compared to Frankfurt which is reported to be one of the most expensive cities in Germany.

To digress a bit, last night Marilyn couldn’t stop laughing at my choice of dinner in Frankfurt – a local Frankfurt delicacy – boiled potatoes, hard-boiled eggs and a sauce made of seven plus herbs – I can now understand why it didn’t get national or international recognition 🙂

Returning to Prague, we chose local specialities this evening, including pickled fish to start, washed down with a half a litre of the local brew, with goulash and two sorts of dumplings to follow! We got into conversation with three people on the next table – they were from Lille and they took up our recommendations.

Afterwards, we started to walk around the old part of Prague to get our bearings, as this is our first time in Prague.

It has been a long day. First thing this morning, we had to get a puncture fixed in Frankfurt – we are certainly glad that it happened in Frankfurt – our hotel insisted on somebody helping change the wheel and sending a member of staff with us to the tyre shop – German hospitality can really be exceptional!  We finally left Frankfurt about eleven this morning and stopped just east of Nuremberg for a coffee and a sandwich before heading each for Prague. The five-hour drive from Frankfurt to Prague was pretty uneventful except for the Satnav playing up a bit – it kept on trying to suggest off-road options to bypass the autobahn repairs.

The other thing to mention about Prague is that it’s really hot and pretty humid, with many people wandering round in shorts, T-shirts and sandals – all a far cry from our fleeces and waterproofs in Brugge on Saturday.

Hopefully, tomorrow we’ll do a bit of serious sightseeing.