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Published: February 2nd 2012
Now traveling with Julie, we met Christoph and Elizabeth in Bagan. The two of them from Austria were backpacking together taking a five month holiday from work. Over dinner the four of us decided we would head to Kalaw and do a three day trek to Inle Lake. The direct bus to Kalaw was sold out so we decided to catch a bus to Meiktila where we would then transfer to another bus to Kalaw. It sounded simple enough.
The first fifteen minutes of the bus ride were normal, no problems. But it soon became apparent there was not enough space on the bus to fit everyone. In the main cabin there about 50 or more of us piled in, and on the rooftop climbed another twelve, all of whom happen to be monks. For six hours we made our way to Meitkila. Up on the roof and dressed in their robes, I have no idea how the monks managed to stay warm.
Arriving in Meiktila the four of us were relieved, though relief quickly turned to anxiety as we were accosted by drivers who wanted to take us to Kalaw. Finally after some bargaining we settled on a
price. The four of us hopped into the back of the pick-up truck ready to leave, though to our surprise it wasn't for another hour till we left. Again folks remember, when traveling through Myanmar let-alone anywhere in South East Asia, you can never believe what anyone tells you with regard to time. What we were told would be a four hour truck drive to Kalaw was in actuality six hours. Six hours not on a bus, but in the back of a pick-up truck. As night fell so did the temperatures and as we huddled together to stay warm the advenutre slowly turned into one cold fucking ride. In hindsight it was a great ride, though at the time, I think I used up all of my Valium.
Arriving in Kalaw late, the four of us made our way to our hotel and crashed. The next morning, awoken by the sounds of people eating breakfast, I crawled out of the room wanting to talk to some people about the trek to Inle. It was then that I met Nimrod, Ohad, Atar, Noam and Sahar. Five Israelis who were leaving for a three day trek in the next hour.
Telling them about our situation they invited us to join them for the trek. Running back to the rooms I woke Julie, Christoph and Elizabeth and told them that we had an hour to leave. An hour to get our bags together, book a hotel for Inle Lake and make our way to meet our guide Joon. Everyone was still in bed, though after some convincing, everyone rushed to get their act together. Really, none of us wanted to spend a day in Kalaw.
Onward and upward. The trek followed through the hills along roads, railroad tracks, farms and villages. The landscapes changed dramatically. From dry step, to wet rice patties. Our guide Joon had been leading treks for the past fifteen years. He was not just knowledgeable, but a fun guy to be around. For $10 a day we had three hot meals a day, accommodations in a local village, a Buddhist Monastery, and a guide. Surprising to us all, our first night was freezing cold. We woke in the morning to frozen icicles spread across the fields of grass.
The nine of us got along very well. I practiced my Burmese with Joon, and my Hebrew
with the Israelis. The first night was spent huddled around the camp fire listening to the stillness around us, while the second night we listened to chantings of the young monks.
The third day we arrived at the the bottom of Inle Lake in the early afternoon. We left Joon and the nine of us explored the lake by boat. Many areas of the lake are touristy, though you are still able to wander through channels finding its purity. Floating gardens, houses and temples all sit right on top of the lake. After some exploring we headed to Nyung Shwe to find our hotels.
I spent three days in Inle. The first on the water, the second biking, and the third adventuring around the surrounding areas. Biking around the lake I met a family that invited me in for tea fruit. They spoke zero English so good to us all that I had started picking up Burmese. I took a portrait of the family that I printed and gave to them as a gift for their hospitality. Again, I can't help but be blown away by the kindness of these people.
Myanmar 2012. I'm happy I got
here when I did. Give it two years, and things just won't be the same.
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