A Travellerspoint blog

Inle Lake back to Yangon.... Our last day in Myanmar

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Yesterday was a slow day. We got up and went for another yummy breakfast of pancakes with honey and packed our bags up ready for checking out. We decided to find the bakery we got the bread from for our picnic and sit and have a drink and some lunch. The cafe/bakery/Internet cafe/beauty salon is actually really nice. It is one of the nicest cafes we have seen in Myanmar. We sat on the deck under a beautiful parasol and ordered two lemon ice teas. Chelsea ordered a ham sandwich and Liam ordered a pate sandwich. We know this sound boring but we were really excited for the prospect of unsweetened bread! Our meals were delicious. Home made pâté and cured ham, it was lovely.mwe sat there all afternoon drinking lemon ice teas in the shade until it was nearing the time of our bus. We checked out and waited for our pickup at the hotel. We have booked it through our hotel and it has cost 13000Ks to Yangon with a picku to the bus station.

The pickup ride was a bumpy one but we were talking to a German lady who ended up sitting behind us on the same bus. The bus departs from the bust station (just a pull-in at the side of the road) at 5pm but it was a little late. As usual it was arctic cold, the locals had their woolly hats and scarves at the ready and we had jumpers, scarves, a towel and a blanket on top of our normal clothes. We read our books until it was bed time and then attempted to get som sleep. it was one of the more uncomfortable journeys we have had and took around 11 hours to get to Yangon. We stopped off a few times to stretch our legs, bought a snack for tea and played with a puppy for half and hour. Chelsea loves how many puppies there are here and they are always so friendly and fussy.

We arrived at Yangon bus station at 5.45am this morning and as usual were harassed by taxi drivers who we had to ask to give us a few minutes as we needed to get our bearings so early in the morning. We shared a taxi with the German lady and another lad from England. A few people tried to overcharge us, almost double what the price should be but one man agreed to 10000Ks. That is 3000Ks more but he agreed to take us to our individual hotels. As soon as we set off he got a flat tyre and we all had to get out and unload our luggage so he could change it. Several people started to approach us again but we waited for the man to change the tyre. It was done at formula one pit stop time as he was afraid we would be poached off him but it managed to stay on the whole journey.

Our room was ready at Hninn Si Budget Inn and we checked straight in and went to bed for a few hours. Hninn Si is as nice as before. It is twenty seven dollars a night and it exceptionally clean and tidy. After our little snooze we went for a walk. Yangon is unbearably hot but wasn't that busy on Monday morning. We went into a local cafe for lunch and both had mutton curry with a naan bread and unlimited free tea. We forgot how good and cheap the food was in Yangon. It cost us 2800Ks for lunch and it was delicious.

For the rest of the day we have relaxed in our room, sorted out our photographs spoke to some of our friends and family and ate some junk food, pizza flavoured crisps and biscuits.

We went out for tea next door to a Chinese place. We didn't know what anything on the menu was so ordered two things and rice. Chelsea ended up with slices of pork fat and some unknown substance that we think was a vegetable or seaweed but are not sure and Liam ended up with a pork broth that was mainly fat and bones. It was all a little too weird for us and Chelsea had to politely leave hers. We went to a bar further down and had a few beers and some BBQ'd ocre with chilli dip which was nice.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Myanmar but as the pace has been fast we are a little tired. We had been told about the hospitality and the friendliness of the people of Myanmar but we didn't quite believe it until we got here. Everywhere we have visted the people have been smiley and friendly, always happy to help and sometimes just wanting a chat because they are curious. Everywhere we have been people shout hello and wave and it really makes the place special. The towns we have visited, especially Inle Lake and Bagan have been amazing. Bagan is a place like no other and is unbelievable. Inle Lake is a peaceful and quiet place. Yes there are lots of tourists in Myanmar but you only have to walk ten minutes to be off the trail and totally alone which is quite unlike the rest of Southeast Asia. As we have walked or cycled around we have gone hours without seeing another tourist. A lot of the places we have visited we have seen very poor families and often we have seen huge piles of litter and waste but this is still a developing county with a huge influx of tourists which they cannot yet handle. The accomodation is very expensive compared with other accomodation in South East Asia but in our minds the place is worth it. We are really glad we decided to visit.... Now for a few days relaxing somewhere with a pool or beach we think though.

Posted by Chelsandliam 09:54 Archived in Myanmar Tagged inle_lake yangon myanmar Comments (3)

Picnics, Cycling and Sunsets around Inle Lake

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After exploring the lake by boat yesterday, today we decided to rent some bicycles and go to see some less explored areas. We had been given an article from our friends who we met in Langkawi and then again in Yangon regarding a route that they are going to put on their website The Leaping Lemur so we decided to use this as our base.

Again for breakfast we had pancakes and honey, we are savouring it before we have to return to the dreaded eggs and then went out. We decided to go to the market and buy some food and have a picnic whilst we were out. As it was Saturday morning the market was absolutely rammed full of people. We shuffled our way around completely lost looking for the best produce. It was really quite claustrophobic with the amount of people, the tightly packed stalls and the tarpaulin over our heads meaning we had to duck. We went to a stall to by some tomatoes, Liam said he wanted 5, the lady showed 6 fingers so Liam said OK, the next thing he knew she was pilling tomatoes into a bag, it was way more than we wanted. Chelsea came to the rescue and explained we wanted 6 tomatoes not 600 kyat worth. The lady looked confused and took some out of the bag. We paid 200 kyat and still got way more than we wanted. We then bought some grapes which was far easier and went to a bakery where we managed to find a French baguette. The bakery is apparently also a café, gallery, hairdressers and salon according to the sign outside. We were happy with our baguette as we have not had real, unsweetened crusty bread in three months.

With our picnic in hand we went in the search of some bikes. We asked a place in town that had bike outside but the owner wasn’t there so we went back to our guest house as they advertise bike rentals. Chelsea asked but was told the bikes are in really bad condition so she went next door. Next door to Remember Inn a little old lady rents really good bikes for 1000Ks a day. She was really lovely and couldn’t speak a word of English but was full of smiles. We rented the bikes and headed off following the directions we had been given. We wanted to visit Maing Thauk village to see a bridge similar to U Bien that we missed due to being ill in Mandalay. It was easy enough to find just a lot further away than we expected. We excited Nyaung Shwe on the east side past a police station and took a right, then we followed this road for a good hour, at one point we stopped to ask a lady if we were going to right way has we did not expect to go this far. She said it was 16 miles further, we didn’t think this was right so carried on and it was only another fifteen minutes ride. Luckily it was all flat and we have become to really enjoy the cycling. It was through farmland with the mountains to our left. The downside been the immense heat and there was no shade on the roads so we were constantly in the sun. It was so hot at one point that the tarmac on the road had started to melt. We rode along a narrow road mostly past farmers’ fields and the occasional small village until we came to Maing Thauk. The village was beautiful set in a valley surrounded by mountains and had a section of Inle Lake running through it where the occasional boat would come past. The bridge is amazing if a little rickety. It is quite long and separates the land part of the village to the homes on the water. We walked for a while and then found a sheltered section on the bridge and sat and had our picnic. It was completely silent apart from the occasional boat and we had a great view off all the huts of the village, the mountains and the lake. We sat there for a long time admiring the view and relaxing, we ate our picnic, sharing some of the grapes with some local kids that walked past. It was picture perfect.


We only left this village as we had planned to visit a vineyard that is next to Inle Lake. We had been told about it before we got here and had been looking forward to it since. We had to ride most of the way back, luckily the midday heat had resided somewhat. The vineyard is called Red Mountain and produces several type of wine. It is sat on a hill that we were unable to climb on the bikes had to get off and push. The views from the top though were amazing; you can see the entire valley, with mountains and the lake on the left with the town on the right. It was around 3pm when we got there and it was very quiet so we got a great table at the front so we could appreciate the view, and we decided to stay until sunset.
To fill the three hours wait we decided to have a tasting of the wine. They offer a taster for 2000 kyat each where you can try four wines, Sauvignon Blanc, Inle Rose, Shiraz and sweeter white called the Last harvest. We got a small glass of each and was given a small booklet explaining the wines. Chelsea favourites were the Sauvignon Blanc and the Rose, Liam preferred the Sauvignon Blanc and the Shiraz. After the tasting we were still an hour shy of sunset so decided as it was our last real sightseeing day in Myanmar to celebrate and get a bottle, we chose the Sauvignon Blanc. We sat there until gone 6pm, talking, drinking wine and looking at the sunset over the valley; it was a great ending to the day.


Apart from the hair raising ride back in the dark the rest of the evening was uneventful. We had a meal near our hotel after returning the bikes then came back to our room. Our meal was quite nice. Chelsea had a potato curry with rice and Liam had pork noodles. We are exhausted, and a little sunburnt after today (Liam has managed to burn the back of his left hand only). Tomorrow we get an overnight bus to Yangon where we will spend the 18th before flying back to Thailand on the 19th. No plans for tomorrow apart from some relaxation and maybe a visit to the café/hairdresser/salon/bakery.

Posted by Chelsandliam 07:47 Archived in Myanmar Tagged inle_lake myanmar Comments (3)

Inle Lake by Boat

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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.

Posted by Chelsandliam 07:12 Archived in Myanmar Tagged inle_lake myanmar Comments (2)

Hsipaw to Inle Lake

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We had another very slow day yesterday as we knew we had a very long journey to Inle lake. We booked the bus yesterday and it left Hsipaw at 3.30pm, we were not due to arrive in Inle until 5.00am.

We made it through breakfast and went back to the room, we didn’t need to check out until noon so we relaxed, and slowly packed. Once we had checked out we decided to get some lunch so we would not need to eat again until we arrived. We went to the Chinese restaurant we visited on the first night, Chelsea ordered the same as before pork and rice and Liam ordered a Thai soup. Both were delicious and both were giant portions so we did not finish. We ate slowly though and managed to pass another hour on before paying up and making our way back. We sat in a common area in our guesthouse until it was nearly time for our pick up and we went and got the obligatory bus supplies, crisps and water. Chelsea has stumbled upon pizza flavoured crisps that are now her favourite thing in Asia. She says we have to buy them at every opportunity. At least this time she actually waited until we were on the bus to eat them.

Our pick up collected us at 2.30pm and took us to the ‘bus station’, it was a table at the side of the road with pictures of buses. On the plus side it was smack next to a bar so we went and had a couple of beers whilst we waited for the bus to turn up. It was of course late, several big new coaches came and left, none of which was ours, then a slightly dilapidated old bus came into sight and we knew it was here. We took our seats and were immediately impressed as for the first time we were provided with a little pillow. This made sleeping on the bus a lot more comfortable, even with less than ideal leg room. The air con was constantly on full blast so it was freezing. Even the locals were cold and all had extra layers in hand luggage, we don’t understand why if everyone is cold and knows it is going to be cold they just can’t turn it off. It is so cold some locals bring woolly hats and gloves….

The journey itself was one of the better ones we have had. We made use of the light and read for the first few hours. When it became dark we were amazed that the overhead lights worked, again a first of our overnight journeys. We had a toilet break in a little town in the middle of nowhere and at about 9.30 tried to get some sleep. We both managed on and off to sleep through the rest of the journey which is a pleasant change, normally Chelsea is fast on and Liam is constantly moving trying to get comfortable until he gives up.

We arrived just outside Inle Lake in Shwenyaung a little after 5am. We had to get off here and get a taxi to the town of Nyaungshwe where ours and most of the guesthouses for Inle are. The taxi took around 20 minutes and we shared with other tourists and paid 2000kyat per person. We then had to pay the Inle Lake entry fee of $5 each at the entrance to Nyaungshwe. We were dropped off at our guesthouse first and then had the biggest shock of the night. Our room was ready. We would not have to sleep in the lobby or on the roof or in a staff members room, we could go straight to our bed. It remains to be seen if we will have to pay for an extra night. We are not sure how it works as we are booked in from the night of the 14th and turned up and 5.30am on the 14th.

After some much needed sleep, and a shower, by the time we were ready to go out it was almost midday. We had a small walk around the area our hotel and called at a little café for some lunch. It was a very small place with half a dozen tables, and we ordered a fish cake salad. At first they said they could not do it but then they said if we were prepared to wait it is ok. We had no plans for the rest of the day so we ordered a couple of drinks a waited. The wait was not very long at all and the salad was delicious. Fresh vegetables and fish cakes covered in coriander, lime and chilli dressing. Chelsea started to have bad headache and was still tired from our overnight journey so we came back to the room.

Our room is large with an attached bathroom and plenty of furniture but it needs some TLC. The wallpaper is coming off the walls and there is a fridge which is seriously rank and a TV that has no channels and will not tune in. It is clean though for the most part so we cannot complain.
We were ready to go out again around 3.30pm. We went a little further afield this time, exploring the remnants of todays market, a couple of souvenir shops and then called at a café for a chocolate milkshake. The town of Nyaungshwe seems nice from our first impressions, it is not very big but we like that and there are plenty of restaurants and cafes to spend a couple of hours in.

We decided to return to the place we had dinner for lunch as it was so nice earlier. This time we ordered the curry they do, beef with potato and chicken with potato. Unfortunately it was disappointing compared to our dinner and lacked much flavour.

Tomorrow we have booked a boat trip on Inle lake, there are lots to see and the boat will take us around the main sights. We have arranged it through our hotel so that other guests can also book on so it lowers the cost per person as you just pay the flat fee of 18000 kyat for the boat. We are both looking forward to this and just need to get some rest for our 8am start.

Posted by Chelsandliam 04:45 Archived in Myanmar Tagged inle_lake myanmar Comments (2)

A lazy day in Hsipaw

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Today we have not really done anything in particular. The main reason people come to Hsipaw is to trek. The one day trek that we have seen centres around a waterfall and since our guest house informed us that as it is dry season there is no water in the waterfall we decided to give it a miss.

Instead we had a slow day exploring the town and river. We had a lazy start, ate breakfast and sorted our bus to Inle Lake. We have booked this with our guest house and it is costing 15000Ks each. We set off late morning on our walk. We walked around the small town to the market area. The town has small quiet streets with a mix of buildings. Most are really old wooden buildings but occasionally there is a brand new, brightly coloured one that sticks out like a sore thumb. The market was a lot bigger than expected and crammed full of stalls. Mostly they sold clothes and there were lots of tailors set up with their sewing machines. There were a few stationary shops and toiletry stalls and we browsed the shops ducking under the packed stalls while locals smiled and said hello to us.

We carried on our walk through town and went to a café on the river. We sat there for most of the afternoon watching life on the river, drinking iced coffee and eating spring rolls and chilli sauce. The view was beautiful; we could see the river and the mountains in the distance. Men were washing their cows in the river and boats of families we chugging up and down fishing. There were also boats with groups of children on them who would anchor down and then fill the boat up with rocks from the river bed. When the boat was so full it was almost sinking they would take the boat up river to unload and then come back to collect more. We are not sure why they were collecting the rocks but we watched them for hours wondering.

We carried on our walk through the streets, walking up to a temple and past several longyi makers and a park. It is a very small and quiet place and we were surprised to find so many tourists here. We have seen more westerners in Hsipaw than we have in our entire trip through Myanmar. The local people are extremely friendly and as you walk people and children shout hello and wave.

After our slow day we went back to our room and showered. We went back to our coffee shop from yesterday with the many doors that say ‘not toilet’ and shared a beer and talked. By the time we knew it, it was dark and we were really hungry so we went next door to a really nice riverfront restaurant and had some tea. The place was beautiful at night looking over the river and we sat by candlelight eating and drinking. The meal was delicious and we treated ourselves to a gin and tonic. When it came it was just a neat gin with a slice of lemon and the lady didn’t understand tonic so we partook in a gin and sprite, not conventional we know but it was still nice. We sat there for hours until the staff looked like they wanted to kick us out.

It has been a slow and boring day but has been lovely and relaxing. Walking around the town calling in cafes is exactly the sort of day we needed. Tomorrow we head down to Inle Lake, our last stop before leaving Myanmar. We are excited for the lake, but not so excited for the 14 hour bus journey to get there.

Posted by Chelsandliam 04:42 Archived in Myanmar Tagged myanmar hsipaw Comments (1)

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