15.03.2013 - 15.03.2013 40 °C
This morning we went to breakfast early and the sun was still rising. The view from the rooftop dining area was beautiful and we almost fell off our seats when we got a choice or breakfast. Every single place we have stayed in Myanmar offers a choice of eggs and sweet dry toast for breakfast. We are starting to not be able to stomach any more. But here you can chose from the obligatory eggs and toast, pancakes of two Burmese dishes. We both had pancakes and honey for breakfast and it was delicious.
At 8 am we headed to reception to wait for our boat tour. There were several other people waiting and we ended up sharing our boat with three other people. The cost of the boat was 18000Ks so we paid 3600Ks each. They were all lone travellers and really nice from three different countries, Germany, Finland and Japan. Our boat driver, Kolim was really friendly and made our day really fun. We set off down the river towards the lake a first stopped off for fuel and to pick up Kolim’s son who helped him drive.
The lake is beautiful and when we entered men were posing as fishermen and asking for money. The fishermen on Inle have a distinct way of rowing with their leg which is very famous. The lake was peaceful and flat with the misty mountains in the distance. There were lots of real fishermen out and when we arrived the lake was covered in birds that flew off when we sailed through them. It was really fun and Chelsea loved it. We spent some time slowly navigating around the lake, watching the local fishermen and families on their boats and then we headed off down the water into a small village. We went to a local silversmiths where you could see people making bespoke silver jewellery and could buy. We had a wander around and looked at the handicrafts and boarded the boat again.
This morning the weather was nice. It was cool as we sped across the water and it was misty but as soon as it got closer to midday the heat soared. Around 10.30am we arrived at a local market and Inn Dein Pagoda. We browsed the stalls which were filled with antiques, jewellery, art and clothing and made our way to the pagoda through an assault course of sellers trying to convince us to buy things. You have to pay a 500Ks camera fee if you want to take pictures but the temple and the walk up is really interesting. Half way up there is a ruined temple complex with stupas and pagodas which look similar to some in Bagan. You can walk around the ruins and it is really nice. The ruins have half been taken over with plants and the detailing on the stonework is good.
There is a long climb up to the top, winding through market stalls. At the top is the temple of a thousand pagodas. There are hundreds of gold spires which you can walk around. Chelsea enjoyed this but Liam was feeling a little ‘templed-out’. We have done a lot of sight-seeing since the start of our trip in Asia and he has reached his temple limit for the time being.
When we got back to the boat the sun was blisteringly hot but when we got going on the boat it wasn’t too bad with the breeze. Our next stop was lunch. We ate with our boat companions at a small place on the water. All the houses, shops and restaurants on the lake are made of wood and are on stilts next to, or in the lake. Wooden walkways and bridges connect them all and the small inlets coming off the lake are a maze of winding rows of houses.
After lunch we visited the Phaung Daw Do Pagoda where Buddhists can apply gold leaf to several central figures. We are not sure what they are as they just looked likes balls of gold to us but maybe this is because after years of gold leaf the images have been distorted.
After another trip further on the lake we visited a traditional weaving workshop. Here we were taken around the workshop and we got to see the ladies who work there in action. It is amazing to watch them and it is an extremely skilful job. All the weaving is done on traditional wooden machines by hand and they showed us the different types. One is done from the lotus plant. The stems are delicately cut and the raw substance is taken out and made into yarn. This is then weaved into clothing. They sell their cloth in a shop and we had a look around. It is extremely expensive, a lotus scarf costs seventy five dollars and a silk one costs fifty dollars. Liam’s mouth dropped open and the girls working there couldn’t help laughing at him.
After boating through another village we visited a cigar workshop. It was very low key and small with around half a dozen women sat on the floor making cigars. They roll them by hand and are extremely fast. You can sit and watch them and try the cigars if you want. They make two different types. One flavoured one with tamarind, brown sugar, tobacco and banana inside and one a stronger cigar.
Visiting all the workshops is extremely interesting. You can freely walk around and see how they make their handicrafts and you are under no pressure or obligation to buy. Getting to the workshops is also good as you boat through villages. The houses look beautiful on the water and the people who live there just get on with their day to day lives. People paddle around the houses in their boats and children sit on the steps with their feet in the water. In the distance is the mountains and bamboo sticks protrude out of the water everywhere making lovely silhouettes. It is a gorgeous tranquil setting.
By this point it was later in the day and the sun wasn’t as strong. We visited the floating gardens where people grow fruit, vegetables and flowers in vast areas on the water. Long pieces of earth that float are planted and people tend to the gardens by boat in small river ways between each line of earth. It is unbelievable how they have got such a huge area of earth to float on the water.
Through the gardens was our last stop, the Nga Hpe Chaung Monastery. There wasn’t much to see here apart from a building with a Buddha image and lots of cats lazing around. Apparently this is called the jumping cat monastery where cats have been given the divine gift to jump. We were giggling about this a little and when Chelsea asked if the cats still jump we were told that they can only jump half the year and there is no jumping at this time. We wanted to laugh but we managed to hold it in. We sat in the shade here for a while with a monk who was playing angry birds with us all on his IPad (were not making it up we swear).
Kolim, our boat driver then gave the options to do next. We could either wait at the monastery for three hours for the sunset of we could visit the tomato garden and head back. Our entire group except Chelsea opted for the tomato gardens so we set off for a look. It was similar to the floating gardens. A vast array of floating tomato plants in lines. We stopped and you could get out one at a time a take a turn standing on the floating earth. We gave it a miss as we were convinced we would fall through and Kolim laughed and said it was safe, jumping on the floating earth.
On the way home he let one of the lads in our group drive the boat and we made a few stops to watch the fishermen and take some photos.
We thoroughly enjoyed the boat trip and at only 3600Ks each it was a real bargain we thought. It was a full day out from 8am to 4.30pm and our driver and our group were really nice people. The lake is beautiful. It is a serene landscape with water lilies and fishermen dotted around. We enjoyed the workshops and found the villages on the water really interesting.
We got dropped off back at the river and walked through town to our hotel, had a shower and we went straight back out for some tea. We found a small place that was advertising cheap food so decided to try it. Chelsea ordered pork curry after a confusing conversation about beef curry she had with the waiter and Liam ordered chicken. We also shared a potato salad. The curries were ok, not very authentic but tasty enough but the salad was amazing. We had a beer and walked back to our hotel. Today has been one of the best days we have had in Myanmar, really fun and exciting. Tomorrow we are hoping to rent a bicycle and have a ride around the area and lake.