Kalaw is a twelve hour bus ride from Yangon, which was actually a pleasant surprise as I thought it would be 14. I took a normal air conditioned bus, and unlike the Thai tourist circuits, it was just locals beyond me and the French girls. The bus took the new highway between Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar’s new capital. Though still under construction, I imagine it is the nicest road in the country by far. It passed through nothing. After leaving Bago (which we took the old road to,) the new highway avoided all towns. Our first rest area was the largest, best equipped bus service plaza that I’ve seen in Asia. It wasn’t just nicer than any other bus rest stop in Southeast Asia, it was nicer than any I’d seen in Korea as well. It even had rows of Western toilets along with its vast array of sit-down restaurants. Clearly it was a government showpiece on its road to the new capital.
The second rest area was much more what would be expected. Off the new highway and on the old twisty roads, it was a shack with a squat toilet. In the interest of fairness, the second rest stop was run by the NLD, the pro-democracy party of Aung San Suu Kyi, a nice contrast since the first stop was so clearly government/junta run.
After a small bit of sleep, the bus pulled into Kalaw at 2 a.m. One hotel tout was waiting, and I was the only person to get off the bus. The tout took me to the Golden Lilly Guesthouse. At this hour, I suppose I didn’t have a whole lot of choice.
The night manager let me in through the locked gate, found an open room, and I settled in. It was a far nicer room than I’d had in Yangon. No fan needed, it was cool in Kalaw. “How much is the room?” I asked, knowing that it was likely every other hotel in town was closed at this time and that my choices were this room and the street.
Done. I didn’t even check in. Hell, I didn’t even get a room key. The night man headed back to sleep, as did I.
Kalaw was a nice place to hang out the next day. I went to the town market, to a tea shop, and ate at a couple local places, but mostly I just sat on the patio and wrote. The main attraction of the town seemed to be the weather, well out of the punishing heat of Yangon.
I’d envisioned some sort of Cameron Highlands type place to hang out in for a couple of days, but the city of Kalaw itself was no Tanah Rata. The main draw in town is trekking to Inle Lake, so rather than dally around town I opted to join a trek the next morning. I’ve got a whole lot more pictures in the next post on the trek itself, but for now here’s a little look at Kalaw.