inle lake is definitely considered to be a must-see while in myanmar. it’s a large lake in Shan state, the easternmost state. the Shan are one of myanmar’s ethnic minority groups and are closely related to the thai people. one of the nice things about this state is that it is up in the mountains so in general it is much less hot than central myanmar. less hot… but still hot!
after recovering from last night’s bus ride, i decided that i wouldnt push myself too hard today. i’d just relax, check out the riverside, and leave exploring the lake for tomorrow. on the way to get some food, i set up a boat tour for the next day. at the restaurant, the food wasn’t good. the flavor was ok, bt the chicken here is usually really sketchy.. bits of bone, fat, skin, you name it. i got a lime juice that tasted awful too. at least i had coffee. coffee here usually comes from a 3-in-1 packet (coffee, cream,sugar). i took a few sips, and then *crunch*. great, looks like some of the packet hadn’t dissolved yet. *crunch* *crunch*. uh-oh. something definitely wasn’t right. the crunch was too spungey to be coffee crystals. i put my fingers in my mouth and pull out a huge disfigured housefly. UGH. i was so disgusted. no matter how hard i tried, i couldnt get that filthy crunch out of my head.
as i walked down the street, i waived to the german guy who i had seen on the bus the other night, then realizing that a long lonely boat ride awaited me the next day, i turned around. the german guy, Florin, said he’d come w/ me the following day and also brought along a canadian guy name Gilles. we spent the rest of the afternoon kicking it at a teashop, drinking beer, and chattng about our travels etc. i had a good time… most of my hanging out in myanmar was done w/ locals, which is awesome, but it’s nice to just kick it and talk to other travelers too. both of these guys were traveling for lng periods of time, and as usual it strcuk me just how often i saw people like this. in america, you can hardly find anybody who travels for more than a month, but elsewhere it’s not that uncommon. it’s always nice to be reminded that there are other people out there who hadve a passion for travel and you aren’t the only crazy one to drop your job and take off for so long.
for dinner we went to this place called 4 sisters restaurant. the food actuially was pretty good, and it was all you can eat. plus, it was pay as you like. of course, that makes matters a bit difficuklt. how much should we pay?
i tossed and turned and couldnt sleep all night. it was too hot and my room had no fan since the hotel staff had assured me it wouldnt be hot. i had to get up at 7 am the next morning, yet when i last looked at my watch it was 3:30 and i was still up. *sigh*
i barely made it out of bed. wanted to cancel the boat, but decided i would regret it. even coffee (that i carefully checked for flies) barely made a dent in the haze. eventually, the 3 of us and a canadian girl made our way to the boat. the boat looks like a super long canoe with a motor in the back. as soon as we pulled away from the dock, al my frustartions about sleep dropped away. there’s nothing like whizing along in a boat, feeling the wind and occasional splash rush by you. so nice. we breezed along the canal and eventually made it into the lake.
the lake was huge!! i couldnt believe it. the thing that sets this lake apart from other lakes, is that the local people here live on it. not near it, but on it in houses on stilts. there are several small villages in different parts of the lake where small communities of people live in these above water homes. everything they do is actually on the lake. even their gardening. they have these huge floating gardens where they grow tomatos, onions, flowers, and other crops. it’s amazing to see these gardens, rows and rows of different plants, neatly aligned w/ canals of space between them for boats to pass… and it’s all floating!
the people also have floating markets on the lake. once ever several days, everyone gathers in this one spot in their boats and sell stuff. small canoes full of herbs, pots, and whatever float around, while shoppers float up in their own boats to buy. it’s pretty crazy… except that lately this market has been completely messed up by tourism. as we boated up to the market, all of a sudden women from boats next to us, grapples their arms to the sides of our boat. our boat swam on, but pulled the other boats since the women wouldnt let go of our boat. it was seriously like a pirate attack or something… except they weren’t pirates, these people sold souveniers. we said no a bunch of times, and as we ditched those canoes, more canoes grabbed on. it was like a feeding frenzy!! looking around, the floating market had more tourists boats and souvenier selling boats than actual market baots. it was pretty sad and all of us just wanted to get out of there.
crusing around the lake, we saw many fishermen who were fishing. theunique thing about fisherman here is the way that they row. instead of using their arms, they stand at the front of the boat, and row by wrapping one leg around the oar. it’s a really amazing sight to see. being out on the lake was so nice and peaceful. it was so fun just crusing around, watching the water, watching dragonflies zip around after the boat, and see the bizarre seaweed formations below us.
it’s not only homes that are built on stilts on the lake. there are also some guesthouses, restaurants, and all sorts of shops. we were taken to see how silk is weaved, how paper is made, to a blacksmith shop, a paper umbrella shop, a silversmith shop, a cheroot (burmese cigar) shop, and some other places. everone at these places was pretty chill and there wasn’t much pressure to buy which was nice. eventully we stopped for food. found out that the canadian girl with us had never eaten meat. *never*!! i couldnt believe it. i mean, i’ve known tons of vegetarians, but all of them had only becoe vegetarian at some point in their life. it’s crazy to think this girl has never even tried meat of any kind!
after lunch we cruised about some more. as we would go by houses, little kids and adults both would call out “hello” and wave to us. it still surprises me just how many people here will say hello to you. you dont realy see that elsewhwere, but here almsot everyonme is constantly smiling at you and even waving. the people of myanmar are just so great.. i cant say enough good things about them. in other countries, if someone tries to et you to buy something and you refuse, the person will usually scowl at you or just walk off… but here, they will still smile at you, or make jokes w/ you. you taek your business elsewhere.. no problem.. no one gets mad. unbelievable.
afterwards we saw some pagodas that were on stilts, and then a monastery. the monasterty was called “jumping cat” monastery, and the abbot there had taught about a dozen cats to jump through hoops. it was funny to see these cats all jumping, but kinda sad too as they didnt really seem to enjoy it. eventually, it was time to turn back. we cruised back alog the lake, watching little kids swim around, women wash clothes, and fisherman continue their endless search for fish. as we neared the end, i saw a ton of water buffalo swimming around! i ahd seen so many water buffalo on this trip, but always on lnad, never in the water. it was so funny to see such a huge bulky animal swimming around. the even dive down below the water!!