"Keep on walking (1)" Top 5 Page for this destination Nyaungshwe Travelogue by planxty
Nyaungshwe Travel Guide: 60 reviews and 170 photos
I love to walk. A fairly bald statement of itself, but it's true. I fervently believe that the only way you can really see a place is to walk through it.
Now, I'm not blind to the realities of life, and I wouldn't recommend a single traveller to walk through, for example, certain areas of London at night. Same goes for LA, Paris, Bangkok or any other major city. Such, unfortunately, is life.
I have to say, though, I don't think in all the countries I have visited, that I have ever felt safer than in Myanmar / Burma.
The following photos are my images of a day when I just started walking, with no idea where I was going. I had the rudimentary Inle Lake map in the Lonely Planet book, I didn't have a guide, got lost a couple of times, and, frankly, didn't have a clue where I was most of the time. I went on the principle of keep the water on my right and I could always retrace my steps if necessary.
I know people get a bit snobbish about "real" travelling (whatever that might be) but that particular day, I really felt like I was somewhere where I was a rarity, and the people, friendly almost beyond belief as is the Burmese way, were genuinely glad to see me.
Nobody tried to sell me anything, nobody wanted to make any money out of me, and I was greeted with perhaps the most genuine (and humbling) hospitality I have ever encountered.
It may just have been the best day of my life.
This first photo (taken somewhat out of sequence) may give you some idea. I wandered into a small village, and the whole community literally stopped to surround me. Beautiful people that they were, I was given tea (and a cheroot), shown round the village, and introduced to everybody (I don't speak a word of Burmese, by the way).
You've probably worked out I didn't take the photo, it was taken by a small girl who was totally entranced by my digital camera, especially when I showed her the results on the preview screen. For a ten (or so) year old, I actually thought she framed the photo very well and it's a favourite of mine!
Should you follow my advice and go for a walk (without a guide) out of town, the first thing you will notice is the absolutely rural way of life. Everything is governed by the turning of the season, raising of crops and animals (for slaughter) and the people are effectively subsistence farmers, living off what they can raise / grow, with perhaps a small surplus left over for sale.
Only a short way out of Nyaungshwe, I came upon this guy with his beasts, ploughing the bone-dry earth.
You'll see that he is smiling broadly (a thing the people of Myanmar seem to do as a matter of course). Believe me, he wasn't just posing for the camera, I watched him for a long time (and had a bit of a laugh with him), and he really did smile like this all the time. How you can be that happy walking behind a dusty ox-plough is beyond me, but I suspect that probably says more about me than it does about the ploughman.
So, leaving the smiling ploughman behind, I continued on my way. (serious tip, take plenty of water because there is nowhere to buy it for miles and it is damned hot), and what did I stumble upon, no more than a couple of miles outside Nyaungshwe than a vineyard!
Now I probably should have known that I wasn't going the way I should when I saw the guard in the guard hut, but I just waved and smiled at him and he didn't say a word. I suppose he thought that any Westerner crazy enough to be walking (as opposed to driving) up there must be something official.
I walked through the place and decided I was off my track, although not before noting (as the photo shows) that they were very serious about growing grapes. Each plot was marked (as you can see) with the type of grape, the root stock (whatever that might be), year planted etc. I subsequently found out that the Myanmar government is trying to establish a wine growing culture.
All I did was decide I'd gone too far from the water's edge, and asked some totally bemused vineyard workers (using hand signals) where the track was.
It was a bit of a trek back downhill, as you'll see.
This photo is merely here to give you an idea of the extent of the vineyard I mentioned in the last paragraph. I suppose by European standards it may not have been huge, but walking (somewhat lost) through it, it was big enough, I can tell you!
OK, picture the scene. You're wandering lost in the middle of a vineyard where you shouldn't really be, and you ask some guys watering the vines how to get to the main track. I say ask but that's not really correct, it was all hand signals. The guys duly point in the direction that you had already worked out (i.e. downhill towards the water) and you are confronted with the track you see in the photo. As an aside, believe me when I tell you the guys faces were an absolute picture (wish I'd taken a photo). They were so shocked to see me, they were hosing thier own feet rather than the vines.
I know it sounds wierd but I was actually so happy when they pointed out this unused, semi-overgrown track. OK, so it's a bit macho, and a bit Boy's Own adventure stuff, but I really loved it.
So, head down the track, cross a couple of dry watercourses, and where do you end up?
I'll tell you. You end up with a guy as totally bemused as the last lot, tending beasts, who, after a lot of gesticulating (and smiling) points you towards a small path back to the main track.
I just had to include this photo.
This is the small path I referred to in the last paragraph. I kid you not, this is the path back to the "main drag".
At this point I am smiling like some sort of madman. Imagine it, if you can. I realise for a lot of VTr's this is probably fairly standard walking conditions, but I still found it fairly exhilerating.
I took this picture sitting under a shady tree when I had stopped for a water break. I have no real reaon for including it here - it certainly won't be of interest to travellers, and I apologise for that, but I was just so happy sitting there all alone. For me, I was doing what I really like to do - travelling, walking, meeting new people in new places.
It's difficult to explain how happy I felt that day, but if I could spend the rest of my life that contented, I would be a happy man.
Passing on from my slightly narcissistic bout of taking photos of myself under trees, I was struck by how totally the area is dominated by agriculture. I saw these hayricks and couldn't resist a picture.
Well, for those of you who haven't been bored rigid by my day's walking on the shores of Lake Inle, there is a second instalment as another travelogue. If you fancy a laugh, you'll get the whole story as to how planxty got his feet very wet in the lake!
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