Kalaw, once a colonial British hill station, now has become a post for travelers who want to trek out into Shan State. On the western edge of the Shan Plateau, it’s 70km west of Taunggyi, halfway down the Thazi-Taunggyi Road. Because of its average elevation of 1320 meters, the general climate around the town is cooler and provides a brief reprieve from the warmer, humid heat in the lower areas.
Within Kalaw, there are a few things to see like the bustling local market, the Aung Chang Tha Zedi stupa (sometimes called Aung Chang) covered with silver and gold glass mosaics, and the Hnee Pagoda that contains a 500-year-old Buddha made of bamboo. There is even a church in the town called Christ the King Church, constructed during colonial rule. The Shan food of the town is diversified with influences of Indian and Nepali flair because of the Indian and Nepali rail workers who stayed in the town during British rule.
From Kalaw, adventurers can venture out into the lush forests and visit the ethnic minority villages of the Danu, Palaung, and the Pa-O. The small town is also the starting point for treks to Inle Lake to the east. Such treks can last from two to five days depending on how many visits to villages the group makes. The terrain is easy to moderate, going through an ongoing rich panorama of rice paddy fields, pine forests, bamboo groves, and tea plantations.
Any trek from Kalaw is sure to have some spectacular views of the countryside, whether it be forest or farmland. Some paths to the villages are hidden, while others are used daily by the villagers who effortlessly walk by with a basket of tea or rice on their head. Most of the villages are only accessible on foot, which not only helps the environment by not using motorbikes or trucks, but it also ensures that the serenity of the villages stays intact, giving visitors lasting, peaceful impressions that they can relive for years to come.