Inle Lake - Shan State


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January 20th 2018
Published: January 24th 2018
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Sunday 21st January 2018

Early start this morning as the alarm gets us going at just after 6am. Shower, dressed and finish packing before taking our bags downstairs and dropping them off in reception. Then back to the rooftop for a spot of breakfast whilst we await our JJ Express pick up ready to start our journey to Nyaung Schwe the closest town to Inle Lake. What a lovely morning and we were able to watch the balloons 🎈 rising over Bagan and also look down onto the Main Street and see the monks walking along with their food pots calling in at different places for a food donation. Our guesthouse had set up a pot outside on a small table ready to offer food to any of the monks that called. Gaining merit and doing good things is very much part of the culture. At 7:45am the pick up bus arrived and we loaded up our bags and said fairwell to this lovely, sweet little guesthouse and headed to the main bus terminal in Bagan. On arrival there seemed to be disorganised chaos, but far from it........the locals knew exactly what they were doing it was just us foreigners causing the confusion! A check of tickets/passport and we were each given a sticker with bus number and seat number on it......us foreigners have to be organised. Bags were given numbered tags and then loaded onto the relevant coach. Departure was on time with this time 14 of us on this 36 seater coach. Just like our last journey we were offered hot coffee before departure and then on the coach, water, blanket and snack. The journey was mostly on normal roads not the highway and after just over 2.5hrs we called in for our first rest stop and driver change. Usual hawkers selling their wares but not pushy at all. As time moved on at about halfway thro the 9 hour journey we began to climb into the highlands......what a great experience, the views were spectacular and we really saw what rural life in Myanmar was about. Oxen pulling a wooden plough, like something from medieval times, people bathing and washing clothes in a river.....they really do have hard lives. A lot of the road we were on was being widened and we saw people with sledgehammers breaking rock for the foundations, then an army of men, women and children each armed with trays scooping up the stones and laying them on the mud surface ready to be compacted down. The tarmac came in 40gallon drums which were split open and placed on open fires to heat up the it was scooped out with a bucket or metal watering can and poured by hand onto the compacted stones! All this with no signs, safety gear etc....in fact most were wearing flip flops or sandals. Whilst it was a 9 hour trip we were never bored .....in fact we arrived 45mins early into Nyaung Schwe the town on Inle Lake. Off the coach to be accosted by the usual tuck tuck drivers looking for a fare.....it was £1.60 to our lodgings. Jumped on board and whizzed around the streets to the Aquarius Inn. What a find, entered into a world of peace and serenity. Lovely gardens and cool shady areas. Found reception and whilst they did the check in paperwork we were shown a nice shady spot in the garden and they bought out tea, nibbles and fresh fruit. Perfect. Then when our passports were returned we were given a map of the town, told about the area, things to do etc. When we were ready they showed us to our room - the best so far. It was nice and big, lovely large wet room and also a balcony. We both loved it. Unpacked, showered and changed before heading to reception to book our Inle Lake boat trip for tomorrow, then cycle hire the next day. The boat trip was either 18,000kyats for the two of us or 7,200kyats if we wanted to join another group of 3......we were not fussed either way but in the end decided to tag along with a group of 3 french people. Time for a short stroll around then a place to eat....went to the Htoo Htoo Aung restaurant which did local food. A nice if not specatacular meal but perfectly acceptable. Asked for the bill and had to correct the adding up.......all the items were on the bill but they had not added them up correctly and didn’t charge us enough. These people don’t have much anyway so there was no way we could just walk away. Back to our room and time for a read and lights out. Another early start tomorrow!

Monday 22nd January 2018

Up and at them just after 6am and breakfast at 6:45am. Today we are trying to repair european relations and are joining our French friends Marie-Ellen, Michel and Christof on a boat trip on Inle Lake. John promised not to mention Agincourt or the Battle of Waterloo 😂. A tad chilly this morning so have layered up ready for the off. At 7:30am our boatman arrived and a short walk to the jetty and we clambered aboard our long tailed schooner, complete with lifejackets and a blanket to wrap around you. Very soon we were whizzing along the canal leading to the lake with birds 🦅 flying alongside our boat. Marie-Ellen had written down some sort of route which she discussed with the boatman.....we left her in charge. Well what a fantastic day we had, visiting pagodas, floating markets, monasteries, heritage zone, floating villages and seeing daily life on the lake. Yes there were visits to cottage industries on the lake, silversmiths, metal smiths and also umbrella making but no pressure to buy. Had a lovely light lunch in the heritage centre. The scenery is spectacular and the people so friendly.....a brilliant day. We can not describe all we saw and experienced but will let the pictures tell the story. Back at 5pm, paid the boatman. It should have been 7,200kyats (£4) for the two of us.....we all agreed the trip was worth more so we paid 10,000kyats £5.60. After jumping off the boat back at the jetty, conveniently there was a hotel with rooftop bar offering 2 for 1 cocktails from 5pm......be rude not to call in and watch the sunset. So up to the roof we went and a Singapore Sling each! Nyaung Schwe like Nyaung U is a growing town, lots of unmade roads, small shops, hotels, guesthouses, market and backstreet workshops all set along a canal that leads to Inle Lake itself. It also does have a slight frontier town feel about it. After wandering around town for a while we headed back to the Aquarius Inn for a shower/change and off out for our evening meal. This time we went to Paw Paws....a place that does a lot of work to help mistreated young women who they help to educate, learn to cook etc. The meal was lovely with a couple of salads to start, Myanmar coconut curry for John and pasta for Sarah. It rounded off a perfect day. Back to the Inn and flopped into bed. Tomorrow it’s a lie in and then off on a cycle ride.

Tuesday 23rd January 2018

Awoke at just after 6pm to the sound of the monks chanting somewhere in the distance and outside dawn was breaking. Managed to just lay dozing till around 8am before deciding we ought to move and head down to breakfast. Full local and western selection and plenty of it. John opted for omelette and toast this morning. As yesterday just a little chill in the air which wakes you up but by 11am the sun has definitely warmed the place up and it’s t shirts, shorts and sun hat time. A quick bit of admin to be done, just needing to confirm transport to He Ho airport tomorrow morning for our flight to Yangon. Airport is about 25miles away. Admin sorted we were introduced to our trusty steeds and off we went on our cycle ride around the lake. First stop was down to the bottom of the road to the money changer before heading along the canal, over the bridge and the road out of town. Initially the road was busy but after about 20mins and once into the countryside it was much quieter. We pedalled along at a sedate pace, the weather being just perfect. We passed thro small villages and again had a real insight into rural life in Myanmar. As ever there seemed to be oxen pulling carts, bikes overloaded with goods and people working in the fields but with just hand tools. After about 2hrs we finally came into a village on the edge of the lake from which we could get a boat across to the opposite side. Of course firstly there was a bit of bargaining to be done. Initially the cost for two plus bikes was 10,000Kyats then it went down to 8,000Kyats before we settled on 7,500Kyats. Bikes and humans loaded we negotiated our way thro the lakeside village and onto the lake itself and set off at a fair old lick across to the other side, a journey which took about 20mins. Pulled up at a jetty, unloaded and strolled down the wooden walkway to a nearby cafe for a cold drink. Onwards, we went thro some lovely countryside and at about 1:15pm we conveniently arrived at the Red Mountain Winery. Time for some wine tasting. Had samples of the Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Muscat 2016, Syrah 2014 and Shiraz-Tempranillo 2015. Wine making is very new to Myanmar and whilst not up to French or New Zealand quality they were not bad and easily drinkable. The views from the balcony were stunning which did help. Wine tasting done we strolled to the outside restaurant area and decided to have a light lunch so it was calamari, fries and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc please! 😄 A lovely lazy lunch was had before we dragged ourselves back down the hill and boarded our steeds for the last leg of the cycle trip. Approached Nyaung Schwe down a dug up dusty road but soon found our little place. As we cycled in one of the girls came running out and helped us park up whilst also offering tea and fruit which we enjoyed sat in a secluded spot in the garden. Perfect end to a lovely day. Inle Lake for us is the jewel in the crown of all we have seen so far. Then back to our room to just chill for a couple of hours before shower, change and this time we decided to try the Dosa King restaurant which specialises in South Indian cuisine, curry, vegetable rice, naan bread, masala dosa and some deep fried spiced potato fritters......they also gave us a bowl of South Indian soup just as a sample. All washed down with a beer and coke. It was an excellent meal and better than many Indian curries we have had back in the U.K. Also the bill was so cheap...only £8 for the two of us. Feeling full we walked slowly back to the Inn and on the way to our room collected our laundry......the girls made us check we had every item back.....before again heading to bed. All this fresh air and exercise is making us tired. Tomorrow we sadly leave Inle Lake, such a pretty place and so glad we decided to add this to our trip. It’s a quick return to Yangon for our last night in Myanmar.

Wednesday 24th January 2018

Awake just before 7am and down at breakfast by 7:30am to enjoy some lovely pancakes with honey and jam, plus hot tea or coffee, fresh fruit and lovely home made biscuit. Handed in our room key and checked out. As a thank you for staying with them we were given two hand made paper lanterns, what a sweet gesture. This little inn is a real gem with rooms to fit all budgets. We went for the superior room at £23 per night. It was lovely, in fact the whole place is just perfect. Lots of small seating areas all in lovely shaded gardens. Nice dining area for breakfast. The best of course were the staff- young women/giris who were always smiling and could not do enough. Carrying bags, offering free drinks and fruit and every night rushed ou to welcome us back. Some spoke a little English but some did not.....made no difference they just tried so hard to make guests happy. This is the place to stay! Just after 8am our taxi arrived and we jumped on board and the girls all lined up to wave us off. A drive of 50mins to He Ho airport and on arrival we checked in and our rucksacks were whisked away, thro security and joined everyone sat waiting for their flights. Again it was fully organised chaos....this is a small suburban airport with flights coming and going like London buses. Each flight announced by an airline employee holding up a board and yelling out flight was boarding. At 10:10am we boarded and by 10:30am, on time we took off and headed down to Yangon an hour away. Despite the short flight time we were served an in flight snack plus coffee. Landed at Yangon, luggage recovered and straight out of the domestic terminal to find a taxi and a 10min drive to our hotel.......aptly named High Five. As we unloaded our luggage we negotiated a deal with the taxi driver to return at 2pm to pick us up and take us to the Taukkyan War Cemetery.....hang around for a couple of hours and take us back to the hotel. Checked in, welcome drink of juice and cold flannel on arrival. Room was sort of Travelodge style, clean and acceptable......booked our free transfer from hotel back to the airport for 3am😮.

At 2pm we were picked up and headed out on the 40min drive to Taukkyan War Cemetery which is immaculately maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Over 7,000 graves with some only known to god. Plus the Rangoon memorial which has 27000 names of those whose bodies were never recovered. A nice quiet place away from city madness. Very glad we visited. Back at the hotel by 5pm and chilled for a while. Decided to eat in the hotel as we couldn’t be bothered to wander the streets as we need an early night before we wake up in the dark to go to the airport tomorrow.

So that’s our Myanmar adventure over. Such a diverse country in so many ways. From the beauty and opulence of the pagodas, temples, stupas, countryside and of course Inle Lake, to the crumbling colonial buildings in Yangon and the dirt and squalor that we witnessed. This country takes a lot to get your head around. To witness an army of people building roads with virtually bare hands, oxen pulling carts and wooden ploughs and other scences were like something from medieval times...but despite this we saw loads of smiles and wherever we stayed they could not do enough for us. So glad we visited, it was an experience!


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