Sunday, December 21, 2014

Kalaw - the former British Colonial Town and
the Colours of the Shan Hills

See the locations on Kalaw Google Map

Picture by marhas
Aung Chan Tha Zedi marks the center of Kalaw. It's just beside the central market:

Picture by Patrik M. Loeff

Inside central market you find alleyways with shops:

Picture by Hella Delicious
Stopping for a chat

Picture by marhas

Picture by Shaun Dunphy

Picture by Shaun Dunphy

Picture by Hella Delicious

Picture by Shaun Dunphy

Surrounded by mountains, colourful hilltribe villages, rivers, pine woods and bamboo groves, the hill station of Kalaw (1320 m above sea level) sits on the western edge of the Shan Plateau. It's popular for the cool climate during the summer months, when the rest of Myanmar is significantly hotter and more humid. And it's well known for trekking. Pyi Daungsu Lun is the main road, along which you'll find the market, horse-drawn carriages, hotels, trekking companies and restaurants.

Kalaw was a former British colonial town and you will find a number of churches such as Christ the King church and other British style buildings. Tudor-style houses sit amongst English rose gardens, making an interesting contrast to the traditional Burmese villages that surround the town. But there are also plenty of examples of Asian architecture in Kalaw.

Picture by marhas
Khone Thae Street

Picture by marhas
Everest Nepali Restaurant

A mix of Shan people, Indian Muslims, Bamars and Nepalis (Gurkhas retired from British military service) form the population. The area around Kalaw is home to the ethnic groups Pa O, Palaung, Taungyo, Dan-u and Ter O, who live scattered across the hills in villages. Every 5 days the hilltribe people join the regular market vendors in Kalaw and make the market grow. And you find an abundance of meat, vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices.

Picture by Hella Delicious
Making samosas

See the gallery by Eat.Live:Travel.Write. But you will also be surprised to find a fair trade shop:

Picture by marhas

RDS fair trade shop: The Rural Development Society (RDS) was founded by Tommy Aung Ezdani. It raises projects to improve the living conditions for rural villagers, among them: a children’s home in Kalaw, libraries in several rural villages, water distribution, reforestation, building brdges and selling local products in the shop. A Swiss society is supporting these activities (more).

Kalaw is the main setting of the novel The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker. And he visited Kalaw in 2012 and wrote about Aung San Su Kyi's visit, military men buiding expensive houses and corruption (read). See video.

Picture by mcolemail
Kalaw seen from Thein Taung Paya

Where to stay in Kalaw:

Amara Mountain Resort: An old colonial house from 1909 and newer buildings set in an English garden atop a hill. No aircon, but you won't miss it because the climate up in the hills is not too hot. The hotel has no heating and can be cold in winter. There are fire places in the dining room and in the rooms. Bikes are offered. Credit cards accepted. See picture and picture2.

Picture by Shaun Dunphy

Central Motel: Across the market. See picture of Twin Room and picture of hotel.

Eastern Paradise Guesthouse: No. 15, Thirimingalar Street. Mixed reviews on

Golden Kalaw Inn: Read review by are we there yeti?. Quite good reviews on

Golden Lily Guesthouse: Many critical reviews on See picture on thatsofarah

Green Haven Hotel: Shwe Oo Min Street. Set in beautiful gardens near pine forest. Rooms are a bit small. 20 minutes walk from the town. Free bikes. Quite good reviews on See their Facebook-Page.

Picture by Green Haven Hotel

Hilltop Villa Mountain Resort Kalaw: Ward 3, Bo Gone. Bungalows on top of a hill, about twenty minutes to walk to town centre. Good reviews on See their Facebook-Page. And see picture 1 and picture 2.

Picture by Michael Geminder

Honeymoon Villa: Small hotel set in a beautiful garden on a hill. With rooms in the main house and bungalows. Ten minutes to walk to the town. Good reviews on

Picture by Honeymoon Villa

Honey Pine Hotel: Read review by are we there yeti?. Rooms clean and small, according to quite good reviews on

Hotel Dream Villa: Partly a restored colonial residence and partly a modern fake, overlooking scenic mountains. Basic rooms, some small according to good reviews on With restaurant up the road. See picture.

Picture by Hella Delicious

Kalaw Hotel Mountpleasant Group: 84/A, University Avenue Rd,3rd Qr. See picture.

Nature Land Hotel 2: No 10, Thida street, Infront of Kalaw Middle School. Very good reviews on See their Facebook-Page.

Picture by marhas

Pine Breeze Hotel: On a hill overlooking Kalwa (about a five-minute walk from the market). The walls of the rooms are thin. Good reviews on

Picture by marhas

Pine Hill Resort: From 95 USD. No 151 Shwe Oo Min Road. On a hilltop with pine forest and palm trees, twentyfive minutes to walk to town centre. The reception and lobby building is one of the oldest British Colonial houses in the country. A new block is built in 2014, there may be noise from that. The breakfast is served outside unter a tent. It can be cool in the morning. Reviews on point to the construction issues. See pictures and Facebook Page.

Pine View Inn: See picture.

Seint Hotel: Good reviews on

Thitaw Lay House: Family-run B&B. Two large Myanmar-style bungalows with terrace and attached concrete bathroom and one spacious wheelchair-friendly studio in main building. 15-minutes-walk to Kalaw-center. Bordering a monastery and a protected forest. Run by a Myanmar women and a Belgian man. See Thitaw Lay House on Facebook. Wonderful place according to reviews on

Winner Hotel: Pyi Taung Su Road. On the main road, therefore front rooms are noisy. Good sized rooms. Quite good reviews on

What to see in Kalaw

Aung Chan Thar Pagoda:

Picture by Shaun Dunphy

Thein Taung Monastery: On a hill. A good place for sunset. Take the stairway. Picture of Stairway an more pictures of Thein Taung Monastery..

Hsu Taung Pye Paya: Myoma Kyaung Hsu Taung Pyae Pagoda. See picture and picture 2.

Picture by Ronald Woan

Picture by Ronald Woan

Picture by Ronald Woan

Shwe Oo Min Paya: The walk from the market takes around 30 minutes. Shweumin Pagoda is built inside a natural limestone cave and filled with golden Buddhas. There are some Buddha images inside the cave that were commissioned by King Narapataesithu. See video and video 2.

Picture by Hella Delicious

Picture by Hella Delicious

Picture by Hella Delicious

Hnee Paya: A 500 year old Buddha image made from laquered bamboo. The pagoda lies to the south part of Kalaw in Pinmagon Monastery of Pinmagon Village and it takes about 10 mins drive from Kalaw. Mam Pagoda. Pinmagon Monastery. which is an old and highly revered pagoda featuring a Buddha image made from woven strips of bamboo. See video. See pictures. Read: The unknown History of lacquerware in Myanmar

Picture by flappingwings

Picture by Hella Delicious

Picture by Hella Delicious

Catholic Church of Christ the King: See picture and picture 2.

Where to eat in Kalaw

Most of Kalaws restaurants and food stalls surround the market. They offer a special range of foods: the dishes of Indian and Nepali rail workers who migrated here during British rule as well as the local Shan food.

Everest Nepali Restaurant: Very good food from Nepal according to reviews on

Pyae Pyae: Shan noodles, the best in town.
Sam's Family Restaurant: Known for the food, but even more for trekking services, according to reviews on

Thirigayha Restaurant: Initially run by seven sisters with Irish roots, therefore known as the Seven Sisters Restaurant. In an old colonial house. Myanmar, Chinese, Indian, Shan and European kitchen. Often tour groups come to eat. Very good reviews on

Thazin Restaurant:

Thu Myaung Restaurant on the right side of the stairway to Thane Taung Pagoda

Picture by Hella Delicious

Food stalls and tea shops around the market

There is also a KBZ bank ATM next to the market, just off the main road where bus passengers are dropped off.

What to do around Kalaw

As you hike through the countryside you will pass pine woods, bamboo groves, a rugged mountain scene and you will discover hill tribe villages, where the people are warm and welcoming. You will watch them weaving their colourful clothing and roll cigars from the leaves of the Thanatphet trees or harvesting chili, rice or vegetables. Therefore Kalaw is well known for trekking, for example to Inle Lake. Independent trekking guides you find at A1 trekking kalaw. Ko Min has a good reputation as guide ( and Also Sam's Family trekking company has.

Myin Ga Village, a monastery and the Taung Yoe: Read about Taung Yo dresses here.

Picture by marhas
Myin Ga Monastery

Picture by marhas

Picture by marhas
Fields behind the monastery

Myin Ma Thi village (temple und caves): Some kilometres from Kalaw (about 30-40 minutes by bicycle). At Myin Ma Hti there is a long cave below the mountain. The caves are just over one thousand feet in length, writes, "lined by stalactites and natural formations on the walls that are known for their uncanny resemblance to life-like objects". Each formation has been named, with titles such as "headless human body structure", "rock Brahmany duck", "elephant tying pole" and "Angel’s grinding stone". There is another part of the cave known as "rock drums", where multiple protrusions of rock make different musical pitches, and "Angel’s Pond", an always-full inner pond that collects water seeping from the wall is supposed to bring outer beauty and inner cleansing. See picture.

Palaung village of Pinnabin (also: Pein ne bin): The Palaung belong to the Mon-Khmer. It takes about two to four hours through the hills to the village of the Palaung tribe. At first a steep track leads down into a narrow valley, where the Palaung cultivate tea, damsons and mangoes. The track leads across the valley and then climbs very steeply again to the Palaung village of Pinnabin, on top of a hill (see picture). The Palaung people used to be animists, most of them have have converted to Buddhism. Now they practice both. The women wear colorful red and blue dresses and cultivate large leaf tobacco to wrap cigars. They used to live in longhouses - now two of them are left. Read more on Travels with Sheila ans more about the Palaung here. See pictures by Corbin Smith.

Picture by Jialiang Gao
Palaung women near Kalaw

Trip from Kalaw to Pindaya and then to Nyaung Shwe with car driver: 65000 Kyat.

Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp: Located 15 miles (24 km) down from Kalaw and it takes a 45-50 minutes drive by car. Read Green Hill Valley: responsible elephant tourism in Myanmar

Trekking routes:
See Trekking Map

Kalaw to Indein (Inle Lake), 3 days: Palaung village Tar Yaw, Pa-O and Taung Yo villages, nights in Pyin Thar Village and Hte Thein monastery: Map and description.

Picture by Jordan Sitkin
On the way to Indein

Kalaw to Khaung Daing Village (Inle Lake), 3 days: Palaung villages Pein ne bin and Taung Ni, Zedi Gone village (Pa-O and Danu), Hin Kha Bin village (Pa-O), Lwe Ma Khan village (Danu), Khone Lwin village (Danu), night in monastery. Samong Kham village (Danu), Kan Tan village (Danu and Hta-Nought), Kambani village (Danu and Hta-Nought, Sue Pan Inn village (Taung Yoe), Wah Gyi Myaung village (Taung Yoe), here night stop at a monastery. Map and description.

Picture by Tee La Rosa
On the way from Kalaw to Inle Lake. See more pictures of Kalaw to Inle Trek

Kalaw to Tar Yaw and Yar Aye Chaung villages, 3 days: Ywar Thit village (Danu), Tar Yaw village (Palaung), Tar Yaw village (see hand made weaving work), view point with small shop (Nepalie people), night in Hingar Gone village. Myin Taik village, Lay Ein Gone village, night in Yae Aye Chaung village. Thit Hla village, Ywar Pu village. Map and description.

Pindaya to Kalaw, 4 days: Htut Ni village (Danu), See Kya Inn village, Taung Myint Gyi village (Palaung), night in Taung Myint Gyi monastery. Kyaung Soe Gone village (you pass by Pa-O, Palaung and Shan people), night in Hmwe Daw monastery, situated on a hill. Thit Yar Bin village, Naung Ye village, Tha Ye Oo Hmin caves, smaller than those in Pindaya, but more quiet, night in Na Wah Taung monastery. Myin Ka monastery (Pa-O). Map and description.

Impressions from trekking around Kalaw:

Picture by opalpeterliu

Picture by Paul Arps
Pa-O Village east of Kalaw with Chili drying in the sun

Picture by Paul Arps
Pa-O women harvesting chili

Picture by Paul Arps
Pa-O girl

Picture by Leon Meerson

Picture by Paul Arps
Pa-O woman

Picture by Carsten ten Brink
The flora of Kalaw

Picture by Martha de Jong-Lantink
Butterfly (Redspot Jezebel) seen in Kalaw

Picture by Carsten ten Brink

Picture by Shaun Dunphy

Picture by Paul Arps
Hills west of Inle Lake

Picture by imke.stahlmann

See photogallery Kalaw to Inle Lake and read Trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake and enjoy the pictures here.

See video Trekking around Kalaw and video Kalaw - Little England in Myanmar and video Overnight stay with a tribe family near Kalaw

How to arrive in Kalaw

Buses from Bagan leave at 4am and arrive in Kalaw around 15am (11000 Kayt).
Buses from Mandalay (13000 Kyat) depart in the evening and arrive around 2-3 am.
Share taxis towards Taunggyi depart Mandalay at 8amand arrive in Kalaw around 4pm. The front seat costs Kyats 30 000 while the back seat costs Kyats 25000.
There are also slow train services. Take an afternoon or evening train from Mandalay to Thazi (timetable), stay overnight in Thazi and take next morning the train from Thazi zu Kalaw at 5am or 7pm and arrive after six hours in Kalaw (timetable) - this is a scenic journey. Read more on The Guardian. See video on Youtube. Or fly to Heho Aiport and take the train from Heho to Kalaw. The journey from Heho to Kalaw takes around an hour by taxi and costs 30000 Kyats.

More discoveries around Inle Lake:
Inle Lake - where people live on the water
Hotels and Resorts around Inle Lake and in Nyaung Shwe - and Reviews by Guests
Nyaung Shwe Restaurant Picks
Trip report Kalaw-Pindaya-Inle Lake
Wine tasting around Inle lake
Pindaya Caves - a fascinating Pilgrimage Site
Kakku: Thousands of Stupas around a Pagoda - a Magical Place
Burma Bible


  1. Great post :) Where did you get the trekking map with all routes? It'd be very helpful to have it on our trip to Kalaw next week. Many thanks! Sari