Inle lake cycle and Burmese wine

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Asia » Burma » Mandalay Region » Inle Lake
December 13th 2018
Published: December 14th 2018
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Breakfast today required you to hand in a voucher given by reception when you check in. Very odd system. It was a somewhat disappointing buffet containing mostly noodles and chicken stir fry. No cereal options. We ended up having banana and honey on toast which was quite good.

Just opposite our hotel there are a number of places you can hire bicycles. For the grand total of £2.50 we hired 2 bikes. Stephens has more gears but mine has a bell and a basket. We then peddled off to go around the west side of the lake. En route we stopped to buy bus tickets for Bagan tomorrow morning. Not only is the day ticket K10000 cheaper than the night bus but it won’t drop us off at 330am which seemed rather unappealing.

Peddling down the road we were soon passing farm land and small villages. We were unable to identify some of the crops, including fields planted with what looked like cacti. We could identify the rice, teak, sunflowers, peas, tomatoes and squashes growing. At one point we cycled past a herd of water buffalo and I was surprised to see a little boy sitting on one without
Child on buffaloChild on buffaloChild on buffalo

We watched him for a while - he did round the worlds and hung off the animals horns and it never moved at all!
the buffalo caring at all.

On the way we saw a sign for a ‘mountain viewpoint monastery’ so we detoured up there. The monastery wasn’t much to look at but the viewpoint was lovely and we could see across to the lake.
We then cycled past the hot springs (which seem to all be in a fancy hotel type complex now) and to the next village from where you get hire a boat to cross the lake.
Cycling around this village was quite interesting. There is a real mix of new buildings made with breeze blocks and traditional wooden buildings on stilts. The villagers are currently drying out all their crops and every flat space seemed covered in things, we could identify the sunflower seeds but the other things I didn’t recognise.

After a refreshing pineapple juice we decided to change our original plan of cycling back the way we came and got one of the many boats across the lake to the other side. This was a much more pleasant mode of transport during the hottest part of the day and I found loading the bicycles onto the wobbly little boat amusing. The walk to the boat in the first place was more interesting than expected - we walked along a narrow, slippery path by the channel, and then across a very rickety little bridge consisting of 3 planks which bowed under the water as you walked across, to finally reach our boat. We motored past the rest of the village that’s in the water, past some floating gardens, across the lake, past more floating gardens and got dropped off on a jetty in the next village. We were surprised how many of the houses we past were only accessible by boat. Walking down the wobbly jetty we spotted a pretty thatched restaurant on stilts and stopped for lunch. The view was great, the food good and it was an interesting experience sitting somewhere that swayed as people walked around...
Unsurprisingly the toilet was just a hole above the water - not ideal for the health of the lake.

Cycling back along the lakeside towards Nyaungshwe we passed more farming. The road on this side is bigger and busier than on the other side and the houses look more modern.
Being flat it didn’t take long for us to reach the road to the Red Mountain Winery. The reviews for this place aren’t great but we decided that trying the local wine sounded fun anyway. They don’t do wine tours but you’re welcome to wonder around and all the vines are labelled with what variety of grape they are. After reading the reviews we decided not to do the wine tasting (apparently you get 4 tiny portions of wine and a laminated sheet about them). Instead we sat on the deck in the restaurant and enjoyed 2 different glasses of wine - their rose and Sauvignon blanc. Given or low expectations they were actually very drinkable - the Sauvignon blanc was nothing like what it usually is but was a pleasant enough white if you ignored that! The view over the lake is very good and I felt it was worth the visit.

From here we cycled back down to the road and up to The Coffee House which also has great views of the lake and is near Inle Horse Club. I wanted to have a nosy at the ponies but the cycle up here was quite long, up a very bumpy road and by the time we got near it it was raining so we went straight to the coffee house. The views here are also fantastic and it has a very pretty garden. I was rather disappointed to find nothing sweet on the menu apart from fruit though when they have ‘cake’ and ‘bake’ written on their walls! Hot chocolate wasn’t an option either.
Hungry and a bit cross I ordered a tea and Stephen a cappuccino. His coffee arrived with a biscuit. Despite first being told I wasn’t allowed one with tea one soon arrived and I felt much better afterwards. The tea, coffee and biscuits were all excellent.
It should be called ‘The Bar’ or something though as the alcohol menu was by far the most extensive.

Being such a cloudy day the sunset was fairly non-existent so we cycled off before it got dark. Fortunately it’s not far. We picked up some snacks for tomorrow’s bus journey from SK bakery, returned our bikes, and found an Indian for curry.

Very tired we returned to our hotel for a shower and some much needed sleep.

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