Day 79, Friday 23 March 2012, Inle Lake
I am sure the pickup ride yesterday didn’t help, so I woke up with a streaming nose this morning, bugger it.
Nyaunshwe is a dusty little town, there may be some small sealed sections of road, but largely it is dirt roads and small single storied buildings – I liked it !
After all the ‘fun’ yesterday I forgot to mention we ran into Giovanni (G) at an internet cafe in town and he said he had arranged a boat ride for us today on Inle Lake, along with Richard and Blathnaid (sorry for murdering your name : ) ) to now be known as R n B – which kinda has a wee bit of funkiness to it, who he had met earlier in Myanmar.
Inle lake has a number of points of interest around it and the only way to see them is to hire a boat, though one day is never enough and that ignorance is definitely milked by the boat drivers and you get taken to many places where you have the chance to “invest in local crafts”, as it were…
We met with G over breakfast and were introduced to R n B, R is Scottish and B is Irish and they were of similar age to me, well travelled and very interesting (and as turned out- very cool to hang with). Breakfast at the remember inn was the best in Myanmar, with more choices than others and mine was fried rice and egg, the rice was great – not stodgy boiled and they did the eggs perfectly, yumbo !
We also had Lisa join us on our cruise, a Chinese woman (I guess late 20s) who spoke good English and was cruising SE Asis like the rest of us – which is highly unusual for a Chinese woman !
Our driver collected us at 8.30 and we walked down to the canal to get on our boat for the day, we had hired it from 8.30 to 6.00 PM for about $4 each, though it only had 4 chairs. Mike and Lisa were happy to slob on mats on the deck.
The ride up the canal was interesting – I shot more photos today than any other single day on my trip – and deleted as many – taking photos from a moving boat – with head cold – of moving objects is not that simple!
After 20 or so minutes we hit the lake. The lake is the primary source of LIFE in these parts, it provides water (for everything), food, fertiliser, transport – and lastly a large and growing source of income in tourism.
Our first stop, (shopping opportunity) was at a weaving shop where they hand make a number of products, Mike has been gagging to buy a longyi – which is the male skirt worn by most Burmese men, and he picked up one here. It was interesting to see local cottage industries at work, and if I was not such a horrible cynic (and in need of a skirt) I could have been tempted to buy something. The technology is basic here, as is common in a very poor country – until you visit you do not appreciate poverty – nothing goes to waste and as there is no electricity so many things are done manually. Cotton is spooled on an old bike wheel…
I loved this crude form of pool/snooker/billiards, played all over SE Asia, using all sorts of material, old beer bottle tops being quite common in Myanmar. The guy with his back to camera is our boat driver.
We then stopped at a Myanmar cigar making place – now I know for a fact that Cuban cigars are rolled on the thighs of virgins so I was bitterly disappointed by this.
We had a further opportunity to share financially at a silver smith, but they were all lying about till the boat docked, leaped into action to make things, then all went back to drinking tea when it became obvious we were not spending any money – so, so much for cottage industry !
After a lunch stop we went upriver to see an old temple site, the river was very cool, with a lot of buffalo cooling off and some wonderful bamboo weirs to manage the water level – my weir photos suck so you don’t see them.
We arrived in the village with the temple site which was surrounded by spending opportunities, I managed t make my way to a wonderful collection of very old stupas and was merrily snapping away when i got approached by a guy who demanded I pay to take photos. Apparently I had missed a sign saying I needed a photo pass, by this stage my snozz was a streaming mess, I had a monster headache and was no way paying to take photos. I said I would stop and he said I had taken some photos, so I walked over to him and deleted every photo in front to him and stormed off in a monster huff – and huge loss of face. He followed me all the way back to the boat. I was steaming (it was 36 degrees – everyone was steaming !) . I found this on the seat by the water – my only photo of the site- but fuck it, I am not paying to take photos – a tourist scam, bastards.
I waited an hour for everyone else though, so more fool me, tough R n B joined me after 20 minutes so we got a good chat in. I did get a nice shot of some of the local women in this particular head dress (which I am sure has a name) but it is unique to this area.
Once the suckers who had paid their 60 cents to take photos (it was a matter of principal, no cost) had arrived back on the boat we head back down stream to the jumping cat monastery. I had heard that the cats only jumped in the morning so I had told the boat driver that if there were no jumping cats then I was not paying any money… luckily there was one !
Though whether it was worth visiting or not is a mute point. The monastery has been teaching cats to jump through hoops for decades, well before it was a tourist thing, so I was not concerned about any weird animal cruelty thing. The monastery itself was quite interesting, some awesome Buddha and monk statues, but so badly lit it was impossible to take photos.
From the monastery we had a quick whip through the floating gardens – a vast vege patch built out of the lake – and where all the fertiliser goes, and then back out to the lake for an hour long ride back towards the canal for sunset. I was feeling so crap by this stage, nose streaming, sneezing and coughing all the way, no fun on a large uncovered canoe for 10 hours – at least my hanky got to dry in the sun : )
We stopped at a great sunset spot and the local poser drifted past for some classic Inle Lake photos – I took a lot, posed, but hey I am not going to get them again – he drifted past for a collection and we were all happy to throw a few dollars in the pot.
Once we got back to the hotel, I crashed for a few hours while the others went for dinner and then I joined them for a beer later on.