Despite the fact that my true loves in life are developing countries, open spaces, mountains and beaches I’m not one to get too excited for multiple day hikes in the wilderness or camping. That’s not to say that I don’t love the idea, I just like the idea of it with a spa, delicious food and extra blankets (aka luxury style which is slightly out of my budget).
I then stumbled upon the highly revered ‘Uncle Sam’, (who sounded like a bloody legend), operating 3 day treks in the heart of Myanmar, the country where power and luxury is scarce (not to mention lack of good food, food-Myanmar = coffee-Paris, get me).
Uncle Sam lives up to every expectation, you’ll find him in Kalaw, in his family owned and run restaurant (an exception to the bad food), immediately greeted when you walk in to a giant portrait of the legend himself. He’s a 70 something, Chinese Myanmar(-ian?), who’s only rule for the trek in to have fun (OK Dad!), but really the one hour of chatting with Uncle Sam remains one of the best hours of my life to date.
There are 2 options for treks, both beautiful, and both well worth the $40-ish dollars you’ll spend to do them (another bonus is they transport your pack to each nights accommodation, so zero weight on your back).
The trek itself is perfection, once hearing a photographer declaring the country as ‘the most photogenic’, I can completely agree. Every hour or so the country changes, from lush dense forest, to charming woodlands, working land and rocky mountains, you can simply not be disappointed by a single view. Alongside this, the trek, be it called, is one of the mildest around; with gentle uphill climbs and a relaxed pace you really do get to appreciate the beauty.
Uncle Sam won’t be joining you on the tour himself, age isn’t in his favor, but the young guides who work for him are nothing short of amazing and pretty damn funny.
Along the way there are plenty of tea (and candy, do try the coconut leather specialty) breaks and each night you’ll be overwhelmed with a banquet cooked by the guides.
Accommodation wise it’s not luxury, don’t expect a shower, the only bathing you’ll be doing is in one of the local rivers (probably joined by buffalo), and the beds are the traditional Myanmar mats on grounds which personally I love. The houses are beautiful loft buildings belonging to the wealthier local families, and are laden with blankets (10 points) in these spotless homes. You are welcomed in as one of the family, and despite language barriers you will adore the company of these beautiful humans and playing with the local kids.
The treks finish with a send off lunch and traditional boat ride to Inle Lake, another world in itself.