Days 80 and 81, Saturday and Sunday 24/25 March 2012, Inle Lake
I woke up Saturday morning with a very full head and mostly deaf, but felt a lot better and after staggering around for a while my ears cleared and I was almost back to normal. Today all five of us had to check out of the remember inn as they had a tour group arriving, last night we arranged rooms at the May Inn so we moved there soon after breakfast.
We had a fairly lazy start and kicked around the inn for a while before hitting the dusty streets of Nyaungshwe to hunt down bicycles for the day, there was not a lot of choice, one shop had five bikes out the front, three of which had flat tyres – not a great selling point in my opinion, we ended up going to two places to get enough bikes in ‘working’ order for us to be able to go riding.
Our first stop was the Red Mountain winery about 3km from town, it was a good sealed road all the way (pays to be a to tourism operator I think) and an interesting ride, my bike had gears but most didn’t work well so i ended up riding in the hardest gear in the end – same as my singlespeed at home – or close to it anyway.
The entrance to the winery was up a steep driveway which we all had to walk up. The vineyard was started 10 years ago by a Frenchman and they grow a large number of grape varieties. We hoped to try a couple of wines over an early lunch but once we saw the pricing we knew this was never going to happen.
We elected to get the 2000kyat for 4 samples deal, but this turned out to be about a thimble each of four different wines and really soured the teasing for us, ridiculously small, plus there was no water to rinse the mouth between each sample so in the end it was a BAD deal and one I would not recommend ! sorry Red Mountain, the wine we tried was not that great either and we left a bit disgruntled. The vineyard did have a busload of tourists arrive just before we left so I guess this is their target market anyway and us independents are just a pain in the ass.
After lunch G, R n B and I decided to ride out to find the Koun Soun Taungbo temple and nearby caves, the map we had was a bit loose, but we found them Ok, down a rocky dusty side road, really not designed for the types of bikes we were riding, would have been awesome riding there on mountain bikes, though gears would be useful…
After a false cave start we found the real cave temple system and had a local monk as a guide, you are not allowed to enter on your own, though the caves are perfectly safe. Sadly they have been renovating so the walls have been painted white and new crude murals have been started. However these are not really tourist cave temples, more active working places of worship for the village.
Mike was feeling a we bit unwell so we went and had pizza for dinner and the others had cheap local food. I bought a 330ml bottle of grand royal whisky for less than a big bottle of beer and we all met in the hotels garden and had a drink or two before bed.
Sunday was a slow day – not due to drink! We were all tired and Mike and I were on the overnight bus to Yangon so we spent the morning mooching around the inn, chatting G and R n B before going for a lunch time stroll to the market – hand made local cigars.
and then checking out and waiting for the 3 pm pick up to take us back up to the junction for the bus to Yangon.
We had a few discussions around the cost of the pick up and after a few minutes of arguing agreed on what was a fairish price. I am 90% sure the guy who was driving the pickup, at hair raising speeds, was learning to drive at the same time. I was very happy when we arrived at the junction….
The bus was a proper airc con bus (not a VIP bus, but not bad) with one person per seat and no roof riders or standers… we left a couple of minutes early for the 14 hour overnight ride to Yangon. The first couple of hours were not too bad but the ride down the hills was pretty interesting, there were a huge amount of trucks coming the other way and passing was on occasions a tight and slow manoeuvre – at least all the drivers took care the road! At one village we passed through we had to an emergency stop as an elephant wandered out into the road…. we stopped twice, once at 6 and once at 8, but apart from those stops it was all the way to midnight….