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Published: November 21st 2012
Each country that you visit seems to have at least one incredibly beautiful place that will stick in your mind for a long, long time. You’ll find yourself in some boring meeting at work or perhaps just driving along the highway and your mind will wander to an experience that is engrained in your memory. Burma has many of these, but it was Inle Lake that really captured our interest. After the amazing views afforded by hiking near Kalaw, it hardly seemed possible that it could get better, yet it did.
Our drive from Kalaw to Inle Lake took a detour to Pindaya to check out the natural cave in this area. We left late that morning due to the fact that our vehicle required a new fuel module (or something like that) we were told. We passed the time watching the election results come in from the U.S. on Aljazera TV. We had to laugh because we had asked a couple of friends to send us emails concerning who won the election thinking we might not be able to get any American news while in the country. Well, that plan didn’t work out because we rarely had
internet but we almost always had the news so we were able to watch early election returns. We were in the hotel lobby with people from Atlanta, Belguim, French and the local Burmese all seem interested in how our election turned out.
Our guide was teasing us a bit and didn’t really give much information on what we were going to look at in the cave until we arrived. The cave is actually in the side of a mountain and you take an elevator to get up there or walk far too many stairs. We were in awe of this large natural cave that is filled with more than 8,000 Buddha’s. They are in all shapes and sizes. Some are less than a foot tall, but many are quite large. Each Buddha has been donated from a Buddhist and the name and date of the donation are available to read. There were some young twenty something Chinese kids playing hide and seek in the maze of Buddhas. This cave is fascinating and worth the extra time to take a look.
The topography of Burma changes every few hours. We headed from Pinadya to Inle
Lake on a backcountry dirt road that took us through the heart of many local villages. Families smiled and waved and took a good look at the novelty that we are in this part of the country. This route allowed us to experience the acres and acres of canola flowers and cauliflower in bloom. What we have seen that Burma will not have to deal with any shortages of either anytime soon.
Inle Lake is simple and yet breath-taking. We spent nine hours on the water traveling from village to village and pagoda to pagoda. We stopped to take photos of fisherman as we first entered the lake. Several will come along side your boat and pose so you can take photos and yes, they expect a small tip. As you continue further out into the lake you’ll run into the real fishermen that are working hard. We learned they harvest a type of seaweed and we noticed their boats were completely full. One guy was bailing water out of his outrigger because he had weighted it down too much with the seaweed.
The ride in the longboat afforded us a fantastic view of
the lake and a sense of peace as well. The weather was beautiful and the scenery stunning as the smattering of overhead clouds only helped to grace the hilly scenery surrounding the lake. Being in and near the water is a peaceful experience for us both.
From our point of view this lake is truly captivating, one of the special places on earth. Inle Lake is surrounded by 300 villages. It is the second largest lake in Myamar and is only about seven feet deep at most. From the water we stopped to visit several pagodas, no surprise there. We went to a shop where they make fine papers and beautiful umbrellas. We visited a small village of long neck women, which we had first seen in Thailand. This time we were able to touch and feel the brass coils they wear on their necks and we were shocked to realized these adornments weigh more than ten pounds.
In this area there is a floating village that has some similarities to the one we saw in Peru. The difference in this one is they have created floating farming where they grow tomatoes. It is
very interesting to ride in the boat up and down the farming rows watching all members of the family farming. The houses were on stilts and the floating gardens surrounded them. It is fascinating agriculture. Necessity is the mother of invention.
As you gain an understanding of Burma it causes one to pause. On one hand they are on the precipice of developing and being able to provide a more lucrative life for their families and yet they will loose the uniqueness of this charming lake area.
Looking around Burma it seems the labor is provided by 14 year old children whether it be in restaurants, working along side their parents in the fields, fishing or in the tobacco factory. This was an eye opening stop. We watched a group of six young girls stuffing the tobacco and rolling cigarettes. They usually make 1,000 cigarettes each day. Their wages are $3 for 1,000 cigarettes. It is amazing how fast they work as your eyes can barely keep up with it. We were told that this job is done by women because they have the fine motor skills to do this work efficiently and roll
the cigarettes tightly.
These blogs are written fairly equally by both of us in collaboration but here is a note from MJ:
Before we left on the trip I asked Dave to let his hair grow long like it was when we first met. He said ok, depending on how it went. The experiment lasted three months. He didn’t cut his hair our last four weeks in California and waited until Inle Lake to go to a barber. It was really looking horrible and needed a trim. As it turns out gray hair is not as manageable as brown hair and so with age it was not a good look! The barber did an excellent job and the hair cut cost $1. Dave gave him $5. If you find yourself needing a haircut in Inle Lake don’t hesitate. The pictures will tell the story. Our friend Michael got a trim also. Place we stayed:
Aune Mingalar Hotel – Nyaung Shwe (Inle Lake)
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