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Planning a temple run in Myanmar? Here’s a complete guide to help you navigate the country’s vast transportation system while staying sane!
Myanmar street food is an eccentric mix of its neighbors with its own twist. Find out Burmese’s favorite street eats such as their breakfast staple here.
Many of Myanmar’s most popular destinations have gained fame because of the phenomenal sunset and sunrise views they offer; arguably the best in the world!
From the historically rich and mesmerizing city of Mandalay, a perfect next stop on your trip through Myanmar is to Kalaw. The town sits 151 kilometers (93 miles) south of Mandalay in the hills, surrounded by rolling fields of farmland. Kalaw, like Mandalay, has a striking appearance due to the pagodas that dot the town with gold. One pagoda worth visiting is the Shwe Oo Min Pagoda, a unique sight which has been built within a natural cave. Kalaw is also a great place for food, where you can try a diverse range of fresh produce plucked from the nearby lakes, farms, and fruit orchards. A trip to Kalaw would not be complete without taking the famous trek to Inle Lake where you can meet the Intha people who live in stilted villages right on the water.
Traveling from Mandalay to Kalaw can be done quite easily by bus or minivan. Both options are very affordable and allow for stops along the way. Minivan travel can be slightly quicker with the right operator, but not by a significant amount of time as buses take 6 hours while some minivan journeys take 5.5 hours. If you are traveling in a large group, minivans are a logical option, while bus travel might be better for individual travelers or smaller groups.
Arriving in Kalaw you will have the chance to explore the vibrant culture of Myanmar while allowing the small town atmosphere and natural surrounding landscapes to relax and refresh you.
From Mandalay, there are several possible roads that can take you south towards Kalaw. Departing from Mandalay you will no doubt pass by many striking pagodas of which there are so many, it doubtful you will have seen them all. The region of Mandalay is filled with rivers, and as you leave you may pass over the Myitnge River. Nestled in one of its bends is the Snake Pagoda, where you can hold some slithering reptiles.
As you get closer to Kalaw, the region will become hilly and greener with agricultural scenery. Not far from the town you may pass Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp, where previous worker elephants are now taken care of and allowed to roam in the jungle around this reputable retreat.
A fast way to get from Mandalay to Kalaw is with the Standard Minivan service operated by Shwe Inle which takes around 5.5 hours.
The cheapest option for traveling from Mandalay to Kalaw is with the Tourist Bus operated by Elite Express. Ticket prices start at $9.
The most popular way to get from Mandalay to Kalaw is with the Tourist Bus by Elite Express. This is a very affordable option with lots of comforts and amenities but may pick up extra passengers en route.
Bus travel from Mandalay to Kalaw is a comfortable and cheap journey. There are VIP and Tourist Bus options on this route, both of which are well-equipped with reclining seats, blankets, snacks, drinks, charging ports and sometimes TV’s. You can really relax and enjoy the journey when traveling by bus, just make sure to bring a warm set of clothes and some earplugs or headphones, as the air conditioning and radio can often both be cranked up high. Along the way, the bus will make stops for the bathroom and to stretch your legs, as well as sometimes to pick up more passengers. When you arrive in Kalaw, you will be dropped off at an easily accessible and central location in the town.
Minivan travel from Mandalay to Kalaw has just a few operators to choose from, with some providing large vehicles for up to 16 people. This is the perfect option for big groups, as minivans can be cramped when full and so it is better to be sharing with friends. Minivans have good luggage allowance and make stops along the journey. Unfortunately, minivans are not much faster than buses, as they take around 5.5 – 6 hours to get from Mandalay to Kalaw. While minivans do not do accommodation drop offs on this route, it is possible to get free hotel pickup in Mandalay with OK Express.
There are approximately 6 departures per day from Mandalay to Kalaw.
The best time to visit Mandalay is between November and February during the dry season when the heat is unlikely to get uncomfortable and the chance of rainfall is low.
The best time of year to visit Kalaw is between December and February when the weather is at its coolest and driest. The high season in Kalaw is between March and April but shouldn’t be too busy with tourists even at this time.