"Inle Lake" Burma Travelogue by gabriellefox
Burma Travel Guide: 3,825 reviews and 10,469 photos
We discovered that the bus journey back to Yangon will take 18 hours and by car will be 15 hours so all decided to fly back – no contest really after all the hours spent recently on the road! Cost is $85 but only takes just over an hour.
Our boat turned out to be a narrow sampan type with an outboard motor and a row of deckchairs in line astern – colourful umbrellas supplied to protect us from the sun. Boatman, mate, guide and driver all squeezed in at the stern.
So we set off down the canal, which was a rich reddish brown colour, towards the main lake, past a variety of houses built out on stilts and invariably with some sort of boat moored up. We passed various craft similar to ours going in the opposite direction, some with seats in but mostly carrying produce of one kind or another - one in particular piled so high with basket work it seemed in imminent danger of capsizing!
Nearer the mouth of the canal we passed a large Government sponsored agricultural development, the land here being very fertile. Apparently the government are attempting to make the country self-sufficient in terms of food production and there are several of these initiatives on the go.
Then, quite suddenly, we are out of the canal and onto Inle lake itself. The lake is very impressive and, unfortunately, gradually being developed by the government as a tourist resort. However it is pretty inaccessible still so it may take some time. At over 2000ft above sea level the lake covers a vast area but only to depth of three metres at it’s deepest and is surrounded on all sides by mountains. It is famous for its unique “leg rowing” fishermen and large areas of floating gardens where the residents grow all manner of produce, especially tomatoes, and flowers. The fisherman have developed their unique method of propulsion so that they can stand up to see the fish and then drop special coned nets over them. It all makes sense when you see it being done. Local people are totally reliant on the lake for their livelihood and many of them spend their entire lives without ever leaving the water.
The water is much clearer here and we are heading for a group of buildings almost on the horizon – the driver has turned the speed up quite considerably but it is still very hot and we are glad of the umbrellas to keep the worst of the sun off. It is quite misty at a distance, but we can just make out the mountains all around – the impression is that we are in the bottom of a saucer. Although the lake is huge it is still busy with various craft criss-crossing in all directions, whilst some of the flower gardens are quite spectacular.
About half away to the settlement we come across a group of fishermen staring intently into the water over the sides of their punt like boats, conical nets raised ready to plunge over the fish. An ideal photo opportunity.
Moving on we were soon into the outskirts of the village, called Ywama – all the buildings are on stilts with the only means of access by boat. Many of the buildings are very old and here on the edge of the village several are deserted and becoming derelict, including a couple of abandoned monasteries that have seen better days.
Ywama is famous for it’s floating market where produce from the floating gardens is bought and sold. It’s much more authentic than the one in Thailand. The channels between the buildings become narrower as we near the centre, with families doing their washing in the lake waters from the landing stages, before we disembark at a largish building which houses a variety of jewellery and gift stalls. Catering to the needs of the tourist trade has arrived even out here in the middle of nowhere! However, I did manage to find a nice pearl necklace and with Maureen’s bartering skills managed to do a good deal. Bartering is the name of the game and knowing the language helps – Maureen was in her element!
Our next port of call was at a weaving centre where we watched lounghis being made. Gary was fascinated by this. Then on to a very busy stretch of water where there were many boats such as ours all trying to moor up at the same time. We soon found out why, this was this main stopping off point for us tourists to have lunch! Luckily we didn’t have to wait long, and the meal was reasonable, before we set off on the return voyage.
We took a different route back through one of the floating garden areas. These consist of shallow troughs about 2 metres by ½ metre woven from reeds and then filled with the fertile silt from the bottom of the lake – they are anchored in place with long bamboo poles into the lake bottom. Anything and everything is grown in them, from flowers to all kinds of vegetables which are then sold at the local markets in the villages around the edges of the lake or transported by truck to all parts of Myanmar.
Meandering through the gardens we came across a couple of teenagers leisurely “leg rowing” home from school. A shout from our guide and they quickly broke into racing mode – the speed they could move at was quite amazing.
We had one more stop to make, at the Nga Phe Kyaung monastery, literally “jumping cat” – and yes the monks have trained a number of cats to perform a variety of tricks for the tourists! Whilst we were here Maureen got into deep conversation with one of the older monks, an ex-footballer, who it turned out had attended the same school in Yangon at about the same time as she had.
Then it was full speed ahead across the wide expanse of the lake to the canal and back to the jetty. We had to use our umbrellas to keep the spray off now as we headed into the wind. Moored at the jetty was a boat similar to ours totally loaded to the gunwales with tomatoes with just a small space for the driver – I haven’t seen so many tomatoes in one place since I got stuck behind a truck load in the Tenerife nearly 20 years ago!
Back on dry land we meandered back to the café to find that our flight tickets for tomorrow were ready and waiting for us - considering the lack of communication in this country the service is out of this world!
By now we were all absolutely shattered after a long but absorbing and enjoyable day. However an exquisite pineapple pancake, or banana or strawberry if you preferred, at the café soon perked us up for a while.
Out for a meal at the “Black Crow” in the evening (Linda didn’t make it as she was knocked out with the heat and her cold). This was a restaurant used mostly by the locals, very basic but they looked after us very well.
After breakfast took a long stroll with Linda past the local school and out of town. As always the children were immaculate in their cream and green uniforms. It wasn’t too hot at that time of the day and there was a kind of peace about the place.
When Gary and Maureen emerged we spent some time in the market, packed with produce from the floating gardens, before taking a ride around town on a “tonga”. This is a pony powered two-seater wooden buggy, luckily with a canopy over the top to keep the sun off, the local taxis I suppose. A bumpy ride but gave us a few photo opportunities.
Then back to the café to pick up our car for the airport, same driver that brought us over from Mandalay. Just time for another delicious pancake, strawberry this time, and then we were off for the hour or so journey to the airport. Uneventful trip but the driver was pleased with himself having just booked with an American couple for a week to take them all over the country.
Time was tight at the airport and we were the last ones to board the 100-seater turbo-prop plane which was full. Pleasant enough flight with the staff, as always, extremely courteous. An hour and five minutes later we were back in Yangon – beats 15 hours in the car or 18 on the coach!
A group of us had dinner at the Panorama Hotel on Pansodan, where I had a quick chat with Albert, then meandered down to the jetty on the water front. Regular ferries cross from here to Syriam and I had been here in daylight on my last visit – however it’s much more romantic after dark! Back at the hotel we joined the others for a drinks party on the lawn, as it was still very warm.
Spent the morning at Scott Market with Beryl, Bruce, Laura and John then picked up lunch on the way back to the hotel. My cold was getting to me a bit so Gary and Linda volunteered to pick up my photographs from the developers for me while I had a sleep. Felt better later on and pleased with the photos – there are some particularly good ones of the sun-set at U Bein near Mandalay.
Had another superb dinner at Auntie Pat’s who gave me a gift for Liz, and picked up emails from Garry and Stuart off Arthur’s PC.
Today is shopping day!! Spent over five hours with Gary all over Yangon gathering gifts for him to take back to the UK. Finished up at 5.30 at the Yankin Mall for a beer or two – this is very modern with a brand new City Mart.
A group of us went for dinner and a show at the Karawaik - a replica of the Royal Barge, made of concrete but resplendent in the Royal Lake, especially at night. Excellent buffet meal with the show very similar to that at the Kandawki Hotel on the previous visit.
Carried on the party back at the hotel with wine and Bacardi in reception – not so warm outside tonight. Maureen, Pam and Olley have decided to home a week early so I’ll be travelling back on my own next week.
Lazy morning in and around the hotel – found a nice walk around the back through coconut palms and old colonial houses. Came out eventually near the Blazon shop. Bumped into Gary and Linda so had a farewell beer and coffee at the bar next door then off to lunch with the group who are leaving today at the Sabai Sabai resaurant. This is a Thai restaurant recommended in Gary’s guidebook – very good meal.
Said some sad farewells to those who are leaving today – Maureen, Dolly, Olley, Pam, Gary and Linda. (Now we are seven!). Then off to the Niko Hotel with Trevor, Bruce and John for a very relaxing swim, jaccuzzi and sauna .
Went to the Royal Lake this morning with Trevor and John for a ride on a cable car. Just a short ride across part of the lake but a bit hairy, nevertheless – the cable car must be at least 50 years old and dips to less than two metres of the surface at one point! It was very hot and after a long walk around the lake we went to the Niko for a swim and sauna. Picked up a byriani at a roadside café on the way back for us all to have lunch at the hotel.
Had a read and a good rest after lunch then went out for a walk at about 4.30. Met up with John who was doing the same thing and made our way to the Peoples Park. Had some fun and games with the guards on the gate who tried to overcharge us but John was not having any! We made our way round to another gate and got in for about half the original charge. The park is vast and very pleasant with some good views of the Shwe Dagon Pogada so managed to get some good photos and filming.
All seven of us went to a Thai Restaurant in Mogul Street for dinner. Despite all the exercise I didn’t sleep very well.
All except Trevor and Margo went to Kamayut Township to visit Ahma and Ma Myo – they wanted to know all about Liz of course. Booboo (Trevor) was also there; Jeffrey is now working as a driver for SilkAir (Singapore Airline). Spent a couple of hours there and found out they are moving to a brand new apartment in the same area fairly soon.
Back to the hotel for leisurely lunch and afternoon before going to Esther’s for dinner. Nice to see her and the children again, spent quite some time playing with Rachel. Rebecca gave me a template of her foot – she wants me to send her a pair of “silver trainers” when I get home.
Sat in reception on our return and had a good chat but very tired so went to bed at about 9.00pm.
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