We’ve shared our stories and videos from our Kalaw trek, but figured we’d do a full review of the trekking company we used for those considering booking one. Which, if you read The Borderless Project regularly, know is something we only do when we really love something. And we really loved our experience with Aki from Eversmile Trekking, so here are all the details.
Review of Our Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar with Eversmile
Tour Guide: Aki
Cost: The price is about $12-18 USD per day, all-inclusive (depends on how big your group is), pay in kyat
Includes: Tour guide, 2 nights in local homestays, three meals per day and snacks (only breakfast and lunch on last day, tour ends around 2pm).
Does Not Include: Drinks (buy water along the way, large bottle is 400-500 kyat, less than 40 cents), entrance to Inle Lake ($10 USD or 10 euros or 13,000 kyat), accommodations on 3rd day
Trek: 3 day, 2 night trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake (This is the trek we chose, but they also do a 2 day 1 night to Inle Lake, as well as some other routes within Kalaw). The walk isn’t challenging, mainly flat or downhill, and certainly doable for anybody.
Food: For every meal we’d stop at a home along the route, where we would be served so much delicious and indescribable food that we could never finish. It was a great way to try delicious local specialties we’d missed in the big cities, and have someone explain to you what all of them are. Think piles of fresh fruit, avocado salad, bowls of rice, flatbreads, soup with every meal, different curries, cooked vegetables you’ve never heard of, and lots of meat and fish. They can accommodate vegetarians and other allergies or restrictions. Everything was homemade, prepared just for us, and incredible.
Accommodation: The homestays were lovely, in different family homes along the route. The stay was simple, but all that we needed. To prepare for the chilly nights they had multiple heavy quilts for each person, but you should definitely make sure to bring plenty of warm clothes of your own during winter. Also, they have showers but they’re outdoors and very basic, so bring some wet wipes or faces wipes, maybe some dry shampoo, and call it a day.
Bring: Good walking shoes, warm clothes for evenings, sunscreen, hat, athletic wear (don’t wear shorts in Myanmar, girls), shower shoes/flip flops for homestays, extra camera battery, extra memory cards, money for water and entrance ticket. Want to do some good? Bring notebooks and pens for the local schools you’ll pass, it’s what they need most.
When to Go: We went in January during the dry season, which meant that it was warm and sunny during the days, cold at night, and everything was dry. Because of this, the landscape is a lot of yellows, reds and browns, with some green. If you going during the wet season (beginning around March/April), you can expect mud and rain in exchange for some very lush scenery. Like most of Southeast Asia, this is when the rice fields are especially spectacular.
Why We Loved It
We loved everything. Rarely can we say that so fully, but we loved everything about this trek. We also especially loved Aki as a guide, and cannot recommend her highly enough. She was an open book on everything Myanmar, and if you know a little about Myanmar’s history you know how fascinating and rare that can be as locals are more often hesitant to speak too freely about it. We spoke to other who trekked with other guides through Eversmile, and all had great experiences, but it seemed ours was exceptional so I’d say you ask for her first (but if her trek is full, definitely still go with another guide!).
The landscape was the most beautiful we’ve seen in all of Myanmar, and Aki taught us so much about the land and culture, she formed a huge part of our perspective and understanding of Myanmar. The food and accommodation was amazing, and we met so many great people: locals and children along the way, other travelers in our trekking group, other trekking groups we encountered at food stops. Absolutely phenomenal trip, and the highlight of our time in Myanmar.
How to Book Your Trek
To trek Kalaw to Inle Lake with Eversmile you don’t need to book in advance, but you can email Toe Toe (the owner, and mother of our guide Aki) at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to let them know you’re coming. Otherwise, just show up when you arrive in Kalaw and stop by their house. Treks leave around 8:30am every day.
Heads up: Do not book with an agent anywhere. Eversmile doesn’t work with any agents as of 2016, and doesn’t plan to anytime soon. One guy on our trek booked his spot on the tour with an unauthorized agent in Bagan and paid more than five times the actual cost. Only pay upon arrival in local currency.
Questions? Have your own review of Eversmile? Share below!
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