4th-6th September, 2014
Our introductory boat ride to Inle Lake was somewhat marred by monsoon weather. We took shelter beneath our anoraks and clutched our bags to our chests as we crossed the lake. It was too foggy to see much.
The rain cleared by the time we reached Nyaung Shwe; the main outpost for foreign visitors. As a place in itself, it was pretty characterless. Tourist towns can often be tacky places, but there is usually at least at least some nice scenery for the balconies to face towards. Nyaung Shwe is a little bit away from the actual lake though, so the best you can get there is a view of the murky canal which is cluttered with boats and houses.
It seems that there are no reasonably priced digs close to the actual lake, which is strange as most of the natives live in beautiful water villages perched upon stilts over the water. There are a few swanky resorts in the middle of the lake but they are costly, fenced up, and only for the rich (I also suspect they are government owned). In Burma, hotels need to get a special licence to accept foreign guests, so I am guessing the price has been set quite high for the Inle Lake area.
So, it didn’t have a good view, but we did find a room. Roy and I had just come from a three day trek across the Shan Plateau and I was recovering from a cold, so we decided we would take it easy our first day there. By “take it easy”, what I mean was we had a relaxing morning and then hopped onto bicycles and spent the afternoon cycling around the lake. That is how Roy and I take it easy these days.
We visited Maing Thauk, a very picturesque village.
And just before sunset we went to the Red Mountain Vineyard for some wine tasting – which was a great way to finish off the day. I was so impressed with the wine that I even treated myself to a bottle of their 2010 batch called Late Harvest.
The next day we did a boat tour around the lake and we were joined by two Japanese girls we met along the way, Emiko and Mami.
This time it wasn’t raining. We were taken to lots of places around the lake. A local market, the floating gardens, a few temples, and many, many water villages. We were also taken to a cigar-making factory, a goldsmiths, a pottery village, and a textile workshop where they specialised in producing clothing make from lotus fibre.
Most interestingly, we got to see some of the fishermen at work, many of which were manoeuvring their boats across the waters in the traditional Intha style, which is unique to this area.
The reason they use their leg is apparently so that they can have both hands free to cast their nets. I also think (and I am just guessing here so don’t take my word on it) that being able to row while standing gives them better views of their surroundings, as Inle Lake is very reedy.
In the evening we had a quick beer in a rooftop bar, got something to eat, and then jumped on the night bus. The accommodation at Naung Shwe is so hideously overpriced that it is actually almost cheaper to catch an air-con sleeper out of there than stay in a dingy room with just a fan to keep the heat at bay.
Inle Lake is a very picturesque and beautiful place, so make sure to check out my photos, here.
The next stop Roy and I will be making is at ancient temples of Bagan!