“Inle Lake really is the jewel in Myanmar’s crown” my Friend Jo had said to me when I was planning the trip to Myanmar. Jo had been living in Myanmar for about a year and travelled throughout the country and it was here she said that I would see the natural beauty of this nation.
Continuing on from our visit to Mandalay and Bagan, Bert and I flew from Nyang U (Bagan) to Heho airport and shared a cab with another travelling couple to Nyaungshwe, the township at the northern end of the Lake. From Nyaungshwe we took a long boat to our accommodation at the Novotel Inle Lake Myat Min.
The hotel was quite nice, villa’s set out around the waters edge, although lake frontage was at a premium tariff. Our villa was had a few nice touches obviously set up for our arrival, small flowers on the bed, the room was aired and the air conditioning on. Unfortunately the wifi wouldn’t work and after a couple of calls and trips to the front desk and even after maintenance came to look at it, it was decided to change us to another room. The new room, was hot and not set up for our arrival, so it was a little bit of a downer for us.
The next morning we headed out of the lake for a full day tour of the surrounding villages. Inle Lake is a total of 116 square kilometres so it was going to be a pretty full on day. One of the first things we became fascinated by was the amount of people living OFF the lake in traditional ways, such as the fishermen who balance on one leg with their other leg on an oar to move them around the water while netting fish.
Then there was the fascination that the people live ON the water. The townships were overwater with the buildings on stilts as the water can rise some 5 metres between the dry and wet season.
Around the buildings, the lake becomes streets as people make their way around the canals in dugout long boats.
The lake really is the lifeblood of the townships, water is life. Here one woman washes the dishes, while another washes clothes and a third washer her hair.
At one point we stopped at a village market and went ashore and met one of the Long Necked Kayan Hilltribes famous for the heavy brass rings the women wear around their neck. The rings give an impression of a longer neck by pushing down the ribcage. By 9 years of age, a girl will have 13 rings weighing 4kgs, by age 17 there are 14 rings weighing 6kgs and by 20, 24-25 rings weighing 8kgs!
Many villagers make their way with their humble goods and fresh produce daily to the markets from their villages up to 50 kilometres away the guide informed us.
Lunch stop was at an over water restaurant where Myanmar beer washed down some yummy spring rolls and whole baked fish washed down with a Myanmar beer.
One of the last stops was the Nga Phe Kyaung monastery, known as the Cat Jumping Temple.But its a bit of a non event. Many decades ago, some monks taught the cats to jump through hoops and it appears they were trained rather cruelly to do this. Today, the cats and their kittens roam the otherwise slightly boring temple, although the ornate teak carvings inside are interesting.
It was a very long day, traversing the lake by boat and while we did see some wonderful sights, we did feel we had put our hand in our pockets a bit too much at some of the stops, I guess tourism is relatively new in these parts and I guess everyone wants a piece of the pie.
After we were dropped back at the hotel, we watched the sunset over the lake, cocktails in hand which was stunning, then we understood why Jo calls it, the Jewel in Myanmars crown.
Bert and FreakyFlier paid for the accommodation and day tour independently.