Next stop was Inle lake and the town of Nyaungshwe. The route there took us through Meiktila and Kalaw (great for hiking-actually you can hike to Inle if you are so inclined) over a windy mountain pass. In my usual style, as it got to bumpy and windy to read I fell asleep, occasionally waking when my head banged off the wall of the bus. Other than that I was completely unaware of what was going on around me. Gav later informed me that the bus driver’s assistant-who sat in the back of the minibus with us chewing a huge wad of betel- spent most of the mountain pass with his head out the window throwing up.
After 8 hours we arrived in Nyaungshwe- on arrival we needed to pay another foreigner tax of $10 each to enter the area, after this you’re ticket is not checked once. Anyway, once in Nyaungshwe, we clubbed together with a few other folks to get a super cheap taxi to the hotel. The hotel we got was very basic but still $20 a night-it apparently commands $45+ in high season- so expensive for accommodation! The staff were nice though and we had a pet gecko for two of the nights we were there, we called it Tim. Occasionally it would be joined by a larger gecko that chased it around and bullied it before escaping through a small fist sized hole in the window behind the aircon (yep a hole, perfect for mosquito to get in through). On our first night Gav was woken by Tim in bed next to him, in hot pursuit of some mosquito or fly, he stopped there for ages apparently, only moving when Gav tapped the mattress behind him. We are very fond of geckos.
Of all the places we were in Myanmar this was the most laid back. Everywhere else you had to have your knees and shoulders covered (it’s still very conservative here and you get stared at a lot) but here you could wear what you liked and no one looks at you.
So what is there to do at Inle- well a boat trip on the lake, hiking, bike rides, horse riding, cooking classes (really wish we had done one of these), hot springs and more temples and monasteries. We had seen so many monasteries and temples at this point so were feeling a little “temple”d-out- so we crossed that off straight away.
It was too hot for hiking plus we were feeling lazy, so we decided to hire a bike and go for a cycle out to the local vineyard. It seemed like a good idea to have our first stop at 11 am to involve alcohol- what we were thinking! We got so sleepy! Anyway we cycled for a little bit and then chilled out for the rest of the day.
Another day we headed out on the lake, taking in some of the sights of the villages, visiting a market and some “workshops”. First to the market!
Then up the lake to a lotus silk factory. This was interesting to see, it take ages to get enough fibre for a scarf- and a lotus fibre scarf is $100 compared to a silk scarf which was less than $50. It did takes 2 weeks to make rather than a day to make a silk one. En route we passed through a floating village, with shops and boat parking.
Next a visit to a small village with a ton of silversmiths, some long necked ladies and an umbrella workshop. I got a small fish.
In between the visits, we got lots of lake time to see the fishermen- they have a very distinctive type of leg rowing. They sort of twist their leg around the oar and balance it on the inside of their hip. Doesn’t look massively comfortable!
As we headed back the rain clouds were starting to gather- we had been on the lake for 6 hrs and up since 3.45 am- time to relax.
So other than that we ate a fair bit. Here are some of the obligatory food photos.
So after a few days at the Lake it was time to leave the lovely Shan region and it’s super friendly people. We had organised a bus with the lady we rented the bike from, we had gone for a 2+1 sleeper- so larger seats than the normal buses (2 seats on one side, one on the other). We were expecting a great night’s sleep on the way to Yangon. So we waited at the specified time for our pickup- which was 30 mins late, then we were brought by pickup up the road to the next village, Shwenyaung. We were let off and told to wait for the bus at the side of the road and the rest of the group headed off down the road to some other stop. It’s worth mentioning that the route to Yangon from this area is serviced by a ridiculous number of private bus companies, so we stood there as bus after bus went by, looking for the one that looked like the picture on our ticket. Eventually nearly an hour after it was due to leave it showed up and two skinny crazy eyed guys came running towards us to grab our bags and get us on the bus. Then we were off! Big plush seats, a neck pillow and fleece blanket, reclining seats and leg support, we were looking forward to this trip!
Our excitement was short lived- we had no lights so Gav couldn’t read and the aircon was on the blitz so fluctuated from 21°C down to a chilly 14°C, it also was having radiator issues so every 30 mins for the steep part of the drive we had to pull in for the radiator to be topped up, it was going to be a long trip………………………