Kalaw to Inle: Henry’s Way

A Journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles
~Tim Cahill

It’s already been over a year since we set off on a trek from Kalaw to Inle in the Shan state of Myanmar yet here I am spending my Saturday night in a quiet corner of a café reminiscing about every step of the 60-something kilometers we trekked over a three days.

It was a chilly Saturday morning in Kalaw, I just had a light breakfast of bananas, watermelon and pancakes(sort of). I took my day pack out, dumped my backpack in the corner where all other bags were stashed and headed out of Golden Lily guesthouse. Julia and I then went to grab a bottle of water from the local store next door and before I knew it, we were already taking our first steps on our way to 20 more kilometers up and down the hills of Kalaw for the first day of the trek.

Looking back and putting things into perspective, it took us three long days of walking 7 to 8 hours every day to finish the trek. We all started off as complete strangers and by the time we crossed the first bridge, we became acquaintances and as soon as we crossed the railway, it was evident, we were on our way to becoming lifelong friends.

Kalaw Myanmar

This isn’t a travel guide or a narrative about the Kalaw-Inle trek. This is simply to introduce the people that made this journey.

Here they are:

The Thai-nadianTeachers
                    Lin and Morgan are from Canada but they’ve spent the past year or two(?) teaching in Thailand. Things are pretty normal when they’re 10 feet apart but bring them closer together and they create that fusion of happy energy that infects everyone within 100-meter radius. Please keep spreading those good vibes ladies.

The Detective
                    Julia the other Canadian who turned into my instant travel buddy just the day before, after a pre-sunrise breakfast and tea. Trekking for three days in Henry-made terrain is a good physical exercise but with Julia in the group, you get a good brain workout as well when you become instant detectives straight out of the CSI series. I mean, how the hell can a car not touch while that damn motorbike touch twice?! Hahaha! Those were really fun Julia, way more fun than going around the neighborhood carrying an anonymous amputated leg with you. Was it the pilot’s?

The Medium
                 Helena a.k.a Carrie Bradshaw(I had to research who she is, thanks Lin!) was the common ground for everyone. Considering we had three Canadians, four Spanish, two Burmese and of course the odd one out, yours truly, It was a ray of sunshine to have a celebrity translator for everyone straight from Sex and the City. We wouldn’t have connected the same way with everyone if it wasn’t for you and it’s not just because you translated in terms of language, it was your positive energy that allowed each one of us to connect deeply. I would chew that betel nut and tobacco shit in a heartbeat with you.

The Smart One
                    Rebecca is one-quarter of the Spanish team. She always seemed to have the answers to Julia’s brain fart-inducing questions. She stomped us not once, not twice but several times during the 3-day mind-fuck fest! She doesn’t talk much but when she does, she talks with so much substance that you just can’t help but listen and give your full attention to her. From Bagan to Pyin Oo Lwin and anywhere, it’s always a pleasure to travel with you.

The Gymnasts
                    Laura and Gorka the other half of the Spanish quadro. From back flips to front flips to handstands, we all know that these two can do them effortlessly but we also know that their strength goes way beyond the physical. Building a house from scratch? That takes more than just arm, leg and core strength, it takes mental and emotional strength, not to mention a significant amount of will power. But if anyone can do it, it’s these two. Their will power is only surpassed by the strength of their relationship.

The Guides
                  Mr. D real name – Deepak but we simply call him by that one-letter name. He knows his country by heart. He reminded us of how important local guides are. He didn’t just show us the way, he showed it to us through the eyes of a local and gave us a completely different perspective about the country by telling mind-boggling inside stories that would never make it to the pages of the most comprehensive guide books.
                       Henry
who could forget Henry? He’s the Mr. D’s apprentice. But who better to lead us than someone from the Pa’O tribe who lives in the hills we trudged in. We were literally trekking in his backyard and I bet he could find his way around those paths with his eyes closed. Heck, he even makes his own trail. Don’t believe me? Well, come to think of it, we were always the last group to leave the pit stops but despite all the detours we made, we would always end up arriving minutes quicker than the other groups.

They introduced themselves as our guides at the start of the trek but they became more than that at the end of the journey, they became our friends. These two complemented each other so well. Mr. D, knowing the ins and outs of Burma’s rich history and present struggles while Henry, with his youth is just a ball of energy who paved his own path especially for us. I must admit they weren’t always easy but I guarantee they were definitely worth it!

 Kalaw Trek Guides

By this time, we are probably in different corners of the world. But wherever we are at the moment, we will always go back to the memories we had. We’ll be trekking different mountains in our individual lives. Some steep, some pleasant but no matter what, we just have to keep going. At some point in our lives we were made to believe that there are only two types of path – paved and unpaved. Those that were made by people who came before us and those that we make for other people to follow. But sometimes life blindsides us with dead ends and the paths, paved or unpaved are nowhere to be seen. But then we should never forget that this isn’t actually a dead end but just a road block. When a trail is nowhere to be seen, remember that there’s always another way – The Henry Way.

Henry barely speaks english but as the journey was about to end, he uttered something that resonates with me to this very moment. And no, it’s not “why not me”. As we were walking down the red, dusty soil just before that big tree we climbed, He said “I feel so happy today, I don’t know why?”. I was taken back by the genuine emotion because it really shows. And he’s right, why do we constantly seek for a reason to be happy? Why not just be happy for no reason?

Kalaw Trek

Kalaw Dinner

Hti Thein Monastery

Chinlone

Tree

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Comments

  1. biboy bunal says:

    Nice master!!!! Pa basaha si reds ani para ma inspired ug samot! Hehe

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