Travel

Myanmar – Part 4 – Inle Lake

I wanted to go by train to Inle Lake but it was a too long journey. First you have to take a train to Thazi, stop there overnight, then take the scenic train to Shwenyaung and finally take a taxi, a bus or a tuk tuk to Nyaung Shwe. So once again, we travelled by plane, the flight to Heho taking only 30 minutes. We flew with Air Bagan one more time. And the service was as excellent as the first time. We were even served snacks on a such short travel! Basically, we took off, we drank and ate and we landed.
 
I don’t know if you heard or remember about the incident but an Air Bagan’s plane crashed at Heho airport on the 25th of December 2012, killing 2 people and injuring another 11.
As we were in Myanmar only a couple of weeks after the crash and as my boyfriend is quite scared of flying, I couldn’t tell him otherwise he would have refuse to get in the planes. But once we were safe on the ground and I knew that we wouldn’t fly with Air Bagan again and after all the compliments he made about our 2 flight experiences, I couldn’t hold it and told him. He called me all names you can imagine but it was done! Moreover, it’s never safer than to travel just after a crash as all the checks are reinforced.
 
From Heho airport, there is a 1 hour drive to Nyaung Shwe.
We shared a taxi with an Indian couple that spotted my boyfriend when we were waiting for our luggage.
We got acquainted during the ride and learnt that they lived in Sydney and that the wife spoke perfectly French because she has been an au-pair in Paris for one year a long time ago. There were so nice that we decided to share a cruise on Inle Lake with them too.
Before arriving to Nyaung Shwe, the taxi stopped and we had to pay a tourist tax of $5 per person.

Once again, we had no accommodation booked so the taxi left the 4 of us at our new friends’ hotel. We checked the prices there but it was too expensive for us so we left them to look for a cheeper place. And once again, a taxi driver showed us the way to a guesthouse near the canal. My boyfriend, the most picky one, went to check the room. He chose a room not facing the canal to not be disturbed by the motor noises. And he did well because he almost didn’t leave the room during the 4 days that we stayed there.
 
After lunch he began to have strong stomach ache. 
The day after, we were supposed to take the boat tour with the Indian-Australian couple but I went to their hotel to cancel. My boyfriend was sicker than the day before and I didn’t feel very well myself. We spent the whole day spleeping. 
The second and third days, I explored the city alone or with my boyfriend when he occasionally felt better. Otherwise, he spent his time playing Worms and I had to drag him out to eat at least once a day.
We had a huge first aid kit that my doctor-mother made especially for us but nothing seemed to work. He was very angry against me and “my stupid ideas” to travel in non developed countries. He kept saying that he was going to die. I tried to reassure him but I was quite worried myself. Most of the times, when he’s sick he overreacts (as every man does) but I could say that he wasn’t this time and that he really was in pain. There was nothing I could do except keeping asking him if he wanted to be repatriated to France, which he flatly refused. 
 
On the fourth day, he pushed me to take a cruise on Inle Lake without him, the reason we were there after all. I shared a boat with 4 Korean women. 
After the ride on the canal, at the entrance of the lake, we stopped to have a closer look at a fisherman. But the ugly truth is that he was a fake fisherman, he didn’t fish, he just made the show for tourists and then asked for money. Not what I expected! 

Traditional fishing technique

Fortunately, I spotted true fishermen later. 

Fishing with spears
Fishing with a net
Mix of fishing techniques

They are very famous for their unique rowing style: with one leg! It allows them to have a better view but also to have their hands free.

We then also passed in front of many wood and bamboo houses built on stilts by the Inthar people. 

The main “street”
A bridge
A nursery school
We first stopped at a market which was more than overcrowded.

The funny part was that the 2 older Korean ladies took the 2 younger Korean girls but also me under their their wings even if we didn’t understand each other! They asked to try everything they didn’t know and made me try too! I was sometimes a bit reluctant but I couldn’t say no.

Then, we visited many workshops: cigars, weaving, blacksmith, silversmith, umbrellas… It was interested but it lacked of authenticity as it was too tourist orientated.

We also visited some temples, as you can expect in Myanmar with temples  almost everywhere.
We had lunch nearby the Hpaung Daw U Pagoda that we visited before. It houses five small golden images of Buddha, which have been covered with so many gold leaves that it’s impossible to see their original structure.

After lunch, we asked our captain to go to Shwe Indein Pagoda. It wasn’t included in the tour but we wanted to make the most of our day.
It was a very nice ride on a small creek with paddy fields on both sides. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll be able to spot some water buffaloes in the field or in the creek itself.

We arrived to a small village and went directly to the stairs as we had a tight schedule.

I really regret that I didn’t take the time to buy the nicest paintings of monks I’ve seen during the trip. Once at the top of the stairs, we were surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of stupas. Some older that other. As usual in Myanmar, they like to mix old and new.

With my Korean friends
On our way back to Nyaung Shwe, we stopped at the Nga Hpe Kyaung Monestary, famous for its jumping cats. Unfortunately, we arrived to late to really enjoy the place and see the cats performed. I don’t even know if they were still performing at that time but they for sure don’t any more. However, the place is still full of cats.
We finally finished by the floating gardens before going back to the guesthouse.

The ride back was very nice as the sky took wonderful colours.

I have mixed feeling regarding this boat tour. I can definitely not say that it  left me a lasting memory. What I enjoyed the most what to catch scenes of daily life. 
But I’m quite concerned about the future of Inle Lake as there doesn’t seem to be any regulation regarding tourism and pollution. They should think about it before it becomes too late.
 
The fifth day was the day we were leaving to enjoy the beach. My boyfriend was such in a bad state and we both wondered how he would make the trip. I was so desperate to see him like this that I went to see the local doctor. Contrary to my expectations, he was a young man dressed as a Western guy (jeans, t-shirt and red Converse) and he spoke perfectly English. He told me that he studied Medecine in the US, which reassured me about his qualifications, and gave me some medicines but it’s quite hard to make a prescription without seeing the patient.
 
We didn’t explore the Inle Lake area as I wanted. Indeed, we didn’t make a trek and we missed one of the temples I absolutely wanted to see. But when one is sick, especially in such a country, it’s better to take it easy so I don’t have any regrets.
 
After all those adventures, we were very looking forward to doing nothing in Ngapali Beach.

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