1 day itinerary

Myanmar: Day Walks From Kalaw Without A Guide

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Walkers Behold.....

If you’ve made a trip, or are planning one, to Myanmar we are sure that Kalaw will be on your list. Famed for expansive walking routes across lush dynamic terrain, Kalaw is the perfect spot for some walks in nature. But while most guide books or guesthouses will tell you to book a local guide to set off on day walks, we will explain how you can enjoy Kalaw's amazing nature for free. Read on to explore our 3 day, guide free, walking itineraries....

Agricultural fields outside Kalaw

Agricultural fields outside Kalaw

3 x 1 Day walks From Kalaw With No Guide Needed

Thank you Marc from Thitaw Lay House for providing this amazing information as it really let us explore the area on a low budget without having to pay for a guide, not that there’s anything wrong with booking guides! You could include both the cave walk and mountain walk in one if it’s just a short visit to Kalaw but expect to walk for 6-8 hours.

Walk 1: Walk To The MyinMathi Caves Without A Guide - 4-5 hours

Tips: You may want to bring a torch or a fully charged phone as there can be power cuts in the caves! Remember the route as you walk, it will make the return voyage much easier. For extra fun you could leave markings on the route to aid you return journey :-) Bring water because there aren’t any shops until you reach the caves. Expect the walk to take 4-5 hours including 45 minutes in the cave visitor area.

The internet is very slow in Kalaw so you may want to download these notes in Bagan or Mandalay before you arrive.

Directions

• Starting from outside Thitaw Lay House follow the road up the path for 200 metres, at the turning, leave the road and continue straight into the forest towards the green building.

• Follow the gravel paved forest road for around 5 turns as the road tapers into a path, watch out for a big fig tree, follow the natural path for around 400 metres (ish) until you arrive at a Y. Take the left path.

• The path lightly descends and gradually become an ox-cart road, for those compass welding walkers you should be walking south to south-east.

• Expect to pass a little brook before leaving the forest area and arrive at a lush green agricultural valley. 

• Follow the ox-cart road until you reach the MyinMathi Village where you will meet friendly villagers and high-fiving groups of children.

• Continue walking into the village for around 500 metres and take a right where the road splits. Keep walking and you’ll pass an old bridge and then the path starts to climb a small hill towards a huge monastery. Turn a slight left at the monastery to the top of the hill and then down until you reach the National Road.

• The Pagoda is visible from the road, follow the road into the cave visitor entrance where there will be many locals who have come to enjoy this religious site. We were the only westerners in cave during our visit. Give a small donation.

• Return using the same directions or grab a motorbike taxi.

kalaw - walking routes

Walk 2: Additional Walk To The Mountains Near MyinMathi Caves Without A Guide - 5-6 Hours

Tips: Remember the route as you walk, it will make the return voyage much easier. Bring water because there aren’t any shops until you reach the caves. This a whole day trek so expect the walk to take 5-6 hours. If you have already walked to the caves the first 1.5 hours is the same walk.

Directions

• Starting from outside Thitaw Lay House follow the road up the path for 200 metres, at the turning, leave the road and continue straight into the forest towards the green building.

• Follow the gravel paved forest road for around 5 turns as the road tapers into a path, watch out for a big fig tree, follow the natural path for around 400 metres (ish) until you arrive at a Y. Take the left path.

• The path lightly descends and gradually become an ox-cart road, for those compass welding walkers you should be walking south to south-east.

• Expect to pass little brook before leaving the forest area and arrive at a lush green agricultural valley. 

• Follow the ox-cart road until you reach the MyinMathi Village where you will meet friendly villagers and high-fiving groups of children.

• Continue walking into the village for around 500 metres and take a right where the road splits. Keep walking and you’ll pass an old bridge and start to climb a small hill. Halfway up the slope take the second (horizontal) road to the right and climb and descend for 20/30 mins until you reach a hill tribe village.

• You’ll soon spot 2 lion statues guarding the stairs to the hilltop. Climb for an hour or so and enjoy the stunning view at the top.

• Return the way you came back to Kalaw or you could continue onwards to MyinMathi Caves by following the guide above.

Ox and cart on the way to MyinMathi

Ox and cart on the way to MyinMathi

Walk 3: Peaceful Walk To A Hill Top View Without A Guide - 2 Hours

This is a short easy walk just outside of Kalaw, we haven't drawn it on the map as its easy to find by following the instructions. 

Directions

• Starting from outside Thitaw Lay House follow the road up the path for 200 metres, at the turning, leave the road and continue straight into the forest towards the green building.

• Follow the gravel paved forest road for around 5 turns as the road tapers into a path, watch out for a big fig tree, follow the natural path for around 400 metres (ish) until you arrive at a Y. Take the right path (the left path will take you to MyinMathi caves).

• Follow path up to the Telecom compound where you should walk a few step up the concrete path but don’t not enter the compound. Instead, turn right passing a few alters and spectacular trees until the path circles the hill top.

• Enjoy the great views as you reach the meditation cabin, why not relax and take in the stunning environment. Afterwards, continue to the pagoda and the hill top. 

* Walk back the way you came or take the 585 steps down from the pagoda to the road below.

Sun passing through the trees near Kalaw

Sun passing through the trees near Kalaw

We hope you have found Thitaw Lay House’s instructions, presented by Studio Mali, helpful. With this information you should feel confident in tackling local day walks on your own without having to pay for it. We found the routes incredibly beautiful and surprisingly diverse and we would go as far as saying they are as idyllic as some of the landscapes on the highly rated 2/ 3 day treks from Kalaw to Inle Lake.

As you can see from the map above, the Kalaw day walks bring you within very close distance to the starting point of the 2-day trek to Inle Lake. If you’re interested, and adventurous, you could tackle the 2-day trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake on your own without a paid tour, we have written up our advice on the 2-day trek here:  Myanmar: 2-Day Trek From Kalaw To Inle Lake Without A Guide Or Tour

How To Get To Kalaw 

Bus

Kalaw is easy to access, most travellers will journey from either Bagan or Mandalay then trek on to Inle Lake. There is the option to travel in reverse from Inle Lake to Kalaw but be prepared to walk against the continual tide of trekkers coming towards you! The preferred route is the 2 or 3 day trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake. From Bagan you can book a VIP air conditioned coach for around 12,000 kyat (£6.50) pp. This is a 3 seat across coach that fully reclines if you need to sleep on it. They leave in the morning at 7.30am and the journey takes around 8 hours. There is also a night coach, ask in Bagan for timings and costs, all guesthouses can book a seat for you but always get a second price for comparison.

Train from Thazi to Kalaw

Train from Thazi to Kalaw

Train

We traveled to Kalaw from Mandalay by train which was a cheap, slow and scenic way to get there. It also includes a stopover in Thazi so it would suit a traveller on a low cost 2 week trip like us. We have written about the Mandalay, Thazi and Kalaw train ride in our 2 week itinerary here: Myanmar: The Ultimate 2 Week Travel Itinerary For Backpackers

Our beautiful room at Thitaw Lay House

Our beautiful room at Thitaw Lay House

Where To Stay

We stayed in one of our favourite guesthouses of our entire round the world trip in Kalaw! Thitaw Lay House and it’s smaller Thitaw II site are incredibly relaxing and well priced guesthouses. Another benefit (that became a benefit by chance) is that it’s not in the centre of Kalaw, which means you get to relax in quiet green gardens just 15 minutes walk from the train station/ city centre.

There were a few reasons we loved staying at Thitaw Lay House. Firstly, the owner Marc and the team are really friendly, runs a tight ship and provides all the information you’ll need to enjoy anything from a 3 day to a 5 day stay in Kalaw. The breakfast was also very good, imagine freshly baked banana bread along with homemade bread, jams, egg and rice all served in traditional Burmese lunch pots. We booked a standard room but by a strike of luck were upgraded to a family room at 4 times the price.  Even with a standard room the Thitaw Lay House is cheaper than most double bedrooms in Kalaw centre, our room was 26,940 Kyat (£14.61) per night.  

Although the best part is that Marc provides detailed information on the local walks that can be done without a guide.  We are using his information to help others enjoy some the amazing local walks out of Kalaw.

700 Kyat / 37p Shan noodles at Parami

700 Kyat / 37p Shan noodles at Parami

Where To Eat

If you’ve been on your feet all day you'll be wanting some good grub to refuel in the evenings. We stayed in Kalaw for 4 days, which gave us time to try out a few options and we found some really tasty cheap food we’d like to tell you about. Of the more touristic restaurants we enjoyed was Paradise Spa which sells yummy Mexican food at medium prices, around 2,500 Kyat (£1.30) per dish.

But our favourite spot was Parami restaurant in the centre of Kalaw (see map below). Parami sold tasty, cheap, Burmese and Indian food like the chapati and daal for 500 Kyat (23p) and Myanmar's ubiquitous Shan noodle soup for 700 Kyat (37p). If you’re on a budget you can’t do better than Parami, you can see the menu here. Other cheap fun can be found by grabbing bottled beers and watching the sun go down in the town park, you might be lucky enough to be joined by a local cow as we were. 

 

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Thailand: 1 Day Itinerary In Chiang Rai

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1 DAY ITINERARY

 

IN CHIANG RAI

 

Chiang Rai is an interesting city, nestled in mountainous jungle-caped landscape of northern Thailand. We had heard so many good things about the Rai so our visit was tainted in sadness as we were limited to just a day, due to a last minute flight to Bangkok for New Year. We'll need to come back and spend a few more days here.

To make our short trip even more interesting we challenged ourselves to enjoy as much culture, food and temples we could we squeeze into a single day and keeping to our $25/ £22 daily budget! With the challenge set and timer counting we awoke early with purpose, drive and just 1000 Baht to get us though the day. We normally like to travel slowly and spend a good bit of time in each place, so it was quite fun to change it up and set some time and money parameters, you should try it. Be aware that there is plenty more to do in Chiang Rai than stated here, but this is a good one day itinerary to start off your adventure.

 

Drink Fresh Coconut Milk In The Market  

This was one of those stumble on-to-it moments that only happened because we had a 50 minute wait for the bus to White Temple. I'm glad we missed the earlier bus because just two streets back heading north east from the terminal 1 bus station, you’ll find an interesting indoor market with everything you’d ever need to make the best Thai curry. We were fascinated by the coconut pulsing machine that turned the white fibres into coconut milk right in front of our eyes. The lady running the shop saw us gawping at her machine and beckoned us across to try her product. The taste was exceptional! An earthy creamy flavour that is nothing like the canned mass produced stuff from home. Locals were picking up their milk in plastic bags, curry pastes and vegetables for the day and seemed really surprised to see us there. The market was a great start and the perfect time killer in between buses.  It is called Sirikorn fruit & veg market and is situated just a couple of roads north east of the bus station.

Ali enjoying some freshly squeezed coconut milk

Ali enjoying some freshly squeezed coconut milk

White Temple / Wat Rong Khun

You may have seen many temples and monasteries across Asia but we doubt you’ve seen one quite as surreal as the White Temple. You can find the art installation temple 20 minutes out of Chiang Rai travelling south west. Getting there is easy, you can choose between a local bus from bus station terminal 1, which costs 20 Baht (45p) per person, or order a private taxi via your hostel for around 250-300 Baht (£6). Our budget meant we opted for the bus which runs every hour, there many people you can ask at the bus station to find the bus, everyone we spoke to were super helpful. The bus chucks you off at a busy road but from there you can already see the streams of people gliding to the attraction, and what a site it is. Envisage complex ornate shapes merged with dark graphic imagery made all the more strange by the gloss white it is finished in. Even though it’s very busy, it’s worth braving the crowds and you’ll leave wishing more temples were like Wat Rong Khun. Make sure you don’t miss the abstract mural behind the doors as you enter the temple, as artworks, we can’t think of more thought provoking pieces! Entry is 50 Baht (£1.10) per person.

Wat Rong Khun temple

Wat Rong Khun temple

Getting back to Chiang Rai was pretty easy. You could pay for a taxi at 250 / 300 Baht (£6) or wait at the bus stop for the hourly bus. We started waiting but were squeezed onto a passing locals taxi who took us to bus station for 20 Baht (45p) and Mark got to stand on the rail at back, like a dog in a convertible car:

 

Dine On Khao Soi At Pho Chai

We discovered Khao Soi via another blog and since devouring our first portion in Chiang Rai it has become a firm favourite of ours, although it’s quite hard to find out of northern Thailand. It’s a noodle dish in a deliciously rich coconut milk curry soup served with boiled egg, slow cooked meat (we opted for chicken), deep-fried crunchy noodle topping, fresh onion, lime, and pickles.  The dish is wholesome and zesty. The Pho Chai restaurant had a flurry of customers, which is the sign of quality in Asia’s noodle kitchens. You can find it about 300 metres south of Chiang Rai’s clock tower on Jetyod Road. The best thing, for those hard budgeters, is the price, because a bowl of Khao Soi will cost just 40 Baht (90p). Lunch sorted, now for more surreal temples!

Northern Thailand’s Khao Soi - a dish inspired by Burmese cuisine.  

Northern Thailand’s Khao Soi - a dish inspired by Burmese cuisine.  

 

Black House / Bandaam Museum

We’d already visited the light side in the White temple, now it was time to enter the dark; namely the artist Thawan Duchanee’s alternative Black Temple. This is one of those places that you don’t want to read too much about because it’s better to just go and experience the sheer abstract wonder of an artists lifetime of work. Duchanee was surely a thorn in the side of the conservatives of Thailand who would have struggled with his dark subject matter. But this artist had such a clear vision for portraying the dark side of Thai culture he would eventually be celebrated. Black House is the impressive, now government funded, collection of dark, gothic and animalistic artworks all in one place. From huge wooden penises to chairs made from antlers that are all housed in magnificent stained black temples, this was the highlight of our day costing 80 Baht (£1.80) per person.

Thawan Duchanee’s Black Temple

Thawan Duchanee’s Black Temple

To get there you’ll need to return to bus station terminal 1 and board the half hourly bus, again ask at the bus station to find the right one. The cost is 20 Baht (45p) and takes 20 minutes heading north east. This route isn’t as busy as the white temple so make sure the conductor knows where you want to go, he’ll give you a nod at the correct stop. Once off the bus follow the street and ‘Bandaam Museum’ signs until you reach the attraction which is about 10 minutes walk from the main road.

Getting back was harder as we waited on the main road for 40 minutes and no large taxis came by so we started get prices from tuk tuk drivers who wanted 300 Baht! Eventually we bartered with a driver and got back to Chiang Rai for 50 Baht (£1.15)

 

Wonder The Back Streets Of Chiang Rai

We got back to Chiang Rai late afternoon and went for a vanilla milk for 50 Baht (£1.15) in a coffee shop and did an hours blogging, biding our time until dinner. If you’re looking for backstreet bars and eateries then returning to Jetyod Road is good start. You’ll find all manner of local and western restaurants and bars that have a chilled atmosphere. If that’s not relaxing enough then why not indulge in a massage, there plenty of massage parlours around Chiang Rai. When your stomach starts to rumble then you know it’s time to hit the night market for some cheap eats.

A Thai girl at the Black Temple

A Thai girl at the Black Temple

 

Night Market For Dinner

From 5pm onwards the market sellers set their stalls, light their BBQs and place the Chang’s on ice.  In the night bazaar you can enjoy live music, social atmosphere, plenty of places to sit and watch Thai families eat together. A little tip, the beers are a bit pricey in the market so grab a beer from a 7/11 outside the market for 50 Baht (£1.15) although we didn’t indulge in beers this day. The market is easy to find as it’s a stones throw from the bus terminal and the amount of choice is little bewildering. Marinated meat on sticks, seafood, curries, just take your pick. We tried a Yellow Curry - 80 Baht (£1.80) and Seafood Tom Yum - 100 Baht (£2.30). The yellow curry was delicious made fresh in just 2 minutes but the Tom Yum was not to our taste, spicy and sour watery curry with squid and prawns. But dessert was where the real treats lay, it would be rude not to try mango sticky rice and there’s plenty of vendors to deliver the sweet fruity punch, which is priced at 40 Baht (90p). It consisted of fresh mango, sticky rice, coconut ice cream, pink sweetened rice noodles and a crunchy crisp topping.

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Homemade Sweets & Ice Cream

We were full, bursting, but then we spotted a huge queue of 20 people snaking up to an inconspicuous stall helmed by 3 ladies. It looked like they were selling children’s sweets but we had to take a closer look to find out what it was. They had 4 deserts that ranged from gooey coloured rice balls, hot milk, sesame seeds, pink sweet rice noodles, coconut ice cream and their strangest creation; a salty egg yolk. The egg definitely offset the sweet flavours of its accompanying parts. You can find the stall on one of the street corners on Phaholyothin Road near the market, each dessert is 20 to 25 Baht (60p).

Salty egg yolk and ice cream, pretty decent taste

Salty egg yolk and ice cream, pretty decent taste

 

Sleep In The Airport

Our flight left at 6am so we didn’t see the point in paying for accommodation for a night if we’d need to get up at 4am. Of course all airports open all night right? Wrong. We settled down for bed at 10pm in the airport only to be awoken 20 minutes later by the security guard telling us we couldn’t sleep there, the airport was closing. Well we still weren’t going to pay for accommodation, so we planned to sleep till 11pm and just wait outside till 5 in the morning when the airport would reopen, a bit of a delusional decision in hindsight. At 11pm a few ladies from customer service came and woke us explaining they were worried about us and said we could stay in airport this once, ‘get in’ we thought. We were gifted the airport as our hotel that night and we were the only ones, plus a few guards. We did think about making a Christopher Walken weapon of choice music video but we might have upset security. Our taxi to the airport cost 150 Baht (£3.30).

We had the airport to ourselves

We had the airport to ourselves

Total spend for the day: 1001 Baht / £22.75

Other attractions

Of course there many other things to do in Chiang Rai.  We have listed some attractions we were interested in but didn’t get to see:

  • Mae Fah Luang Art & Culture Park
  • Hilltribe Museum & Education Center
  • Oub Kham Museum
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VIDEO

Why not watch our travel video from Chiang Rai?

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Thailand - 1 Day Itinerary In Chiang Rai, by Studio Mali
 

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