Established by the British as a hill station with a more agreeable climate, Kalaw is a popular spot between Mandalay and Lake Inle for hiking.
The town retains a frontier feel and is home to a beautiful pagoda in the centre, Aung Chan Tha Pagoda, which sparkles at any time of day.
Up the hillside is the Thein Taung Monastery, which offers good views of the town, and is relatively attractive inside.
The main attraction of Kalaw though is the surrounding hills and villages. These can be explored on a day walk, or as a three day, two night hike to Lake Inle. I did a one day 20km walk which offered plenty of variety and things of interest, plus some reasonable hills for exercise.
Starting from town the landscape rapidly becomes more rural, heading up past green tea and orange plantations.
A visit to Taryaw village gave some insight into how they prepare the green tea for sale, and nearby was a well located pagoda.
The terrain changed again to forest, through a reserve set up by the British surrounding a number of reservoirs. They’ve been stretched to capacity by the rapid growth of Kalaw, particularly large new hotels.
The land is intensively worked, with a large variety of crops planted in these well organised fields.
On the way to Kalaw from Mandalay we stopped in Meiktila for a quick lunch, and I took the opportunity to explore the unusually roofed, and very red, Sutaungpyae Pagoda. It was also home to a monk in a display case.
From Kalaw we stopped at the Shwe Yan Pyay monastery in Nyaung Shwe, home to another teak temple, but more interesting was the neighbouring building, home to these tiny Buddhas.
We also briefly stopped at a beautiful lake near Poila.
To end with the Pindaya Caves, a worthwhile detour on the way from Kalaw to Lake Inle. Inside there are over 8,000 Buddha in a maze like cavern, with another better lit cave leading off from it. The sheer number of Buddha is overwhelming, though oddly I only found one reclining Buddha.
By the entrance was the unexpected sight of a giant spider, relating to a local legend.