Inle Lake


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Asia » Burma » Mandalay Region » Inle Lake
January 17th 2008
Published: January 30th 2008
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We arrived in Inle Lake via Heho Airport which was amazingly high-tech. The baggage carousel was the best we've seen so far and consisted of a group of guys ferrying the bags directly from the plane and plonking them on the arrivals hall floor. After collecting our bags we had about an hour long taxi ride through the mountains before we arrived in Nyuang Shwe which is where most tourists base themselves in the area.

The first day we took it pretty easy and explored the town a bit which took all of about two minutes. We had lunch at a little Indian place with the cutest friendliest cat we have seen so far! It jumped up on knee and made itself comfortable which made Bianca’s day. After lunch we booked in for a horse-trek for the following day through the mountains.

The trek was pretty amazing. We were on horseback with 3 Burmese guys walking along beside us...very colonialist and a little strange as we had been under the impression that we would all be riding. Along the way up the mountain we stopped at a some caves which monks live in, then a primary school (where we had yummy biscuits) and then kept heading up until we reached our guides auntie's house at about 1pm for lunch. We were originally supposed to have lunch in an earlier village...but none of us were hungry so we kept going. When we arrived at his aunties house, she spent about an hour making our lunch- cooked over a wood fire - while the Burmese guys drank a drink which was about 1/2 a bottle of rice whiskey, 1/4 beer and 1/4 passion fruit(super sweet) fruit drink...delicious. They proceeded to drink the whole bottle of rice whiskey, which was on top of the other whole bottle they had already gone through.

Lunch consisted of; rice, a roasted peanut dish, traditional Burmese soya bean and fish paste dish (ewww) and bamboo soup (a little less eww than the fish dish, but still not nice). Our guide offered us white powder to put on top which was 'opium powder'...we both declined...the peanut dish, but the opium was very filling making the trip home an interesting one...

By the time we arrived home at about 5:30pm Scott could barely walk because his butt was so sore and mine was a tad tender
Bianca's 'horse'Bianca's 'horse'Bianca's 'horse'

Our horses were so tiny! More like shetland ponies
too. (I will try and get a video of Scott sitting down - it’s the funniest thing ever!)

The day after our trek we took it pretty easy as we were both a little sore. However we did book in for the lake tour for the next day.

The tour was the most touristy thing we did in Myanmar. We got on the boat at about 8:30 and headed down the canal to the lake. The lake was massive and quite spectacular. At some parts it was so wide you couldn't see either edge. As it was still quite early in the morning, everything was a bit misty and looked really beautiful. The lake is farmed quite heavily in parts. The locals have built basically floating platforms from reeds which are held in place by long bamboo poles (the lake is up to 8meters deep in places). On top of these platforms they grow lots of tomatoes and cucumber. There are also a lot of floating villages on the lakeside which look quite impressive. We saw a house being built by about 100 people. Apparently when you want to build a house, your friends all help you for free and you just throw a big party (food and alcohol supplied) when it's completed to thank everyone. Not a bad system, however apparently the party often costs more than it would have to pay someone to build the house.

Eventually we made our to a 'cigar factory' which was more like a shop with 3 Burmese girls sitting on the floor with their big basket of tobacco rolling cigars for show. After the cigar factory we moved on to a silk and lotus flower weaving factory. You can pull apart the stem of lotus flowers and get a thread, which is very expensive and once woven looks a little like rough cotton. Apparently it smells really good when its washed and often rich people get their son's novice monks woven from it when they do their stint in a monastery. The robes cost them about 1000USD.

From there we continued on to the market. The location (and therefore size) of the market in Inle Lake changes rotates on a 5 day system. We left our tour until the Thursday so we could see the largest market which is held towards the southern end of the lake, right on the boundary of where foreigners are allowed to go. Because of its location, we got to see some of the local tribes which ordinarily tourists can’t see. The market was quite large and very busy, but basically it was just a food market with some locals in brilliant traditional costumes.

After the market we headed to one of the many floating restaurants for lunch. It wasn't all that spectacular but the view was really nice. After lunch we got back in our boat and headed to a silversmith workshop, which wasn't particularly thrilling. From the silversmith we headed to see the long neck women. The Paduang or ‘long neck’ women are the ones in National Geographic magazines with the amazing gold coils around their necks which they continue to add to as they get older, thus producing an amazingly long neck and giving them a somewhat lollipop like appearance. We saw three ladies, but basically they were just there for show. Two of them were sitting on the floor weaving, while one was standing in the corner so everyone could see the coils round her legs as well. However, we both got to hold some sample coils, which are really heavy!

After the long neck women we went to a 'parasol making factory' - not wonderful, and then onto the Jumping Cat Monastery. Jumping Cat Monastery was pretty strange. The story goes that even monks get bored, so the ones at this particular monastery decided to train their cats to jump through a small bamboo hoop on command. Now days it’s just the local kids who show the tourists, but it was still pretty cool. The cats jump so high! I'm going attempt to train mine to do it.

Inle Lake was really really beautiful and we had a nice relaxing time there. Our guide for Inle Lake spoke approximately 11 languages fluently, including Thai, English, Spanish, Italian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese and French...amazing!


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Locals at the marketLocals at the market
Locals at the market

The black and orange traditional costumes cost about 300USD each
Jumping Cat MonasteryJumping Cat Monastery
Jumping Cat Monastery

Bianca was in love


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