From Bagan we travelled north by bus to Inle lake. This is the second largest lake in Burma. This has become a major tourist destination, it doesn’t surprise me either. Personally I loved my time spent here. But – yes there’s a but, no where can be perfect can it? – the town we stayed in I really didn’t like -Nyaung Shwe. The local people living here were lovely but the tourists were awful. Hardly anyone had a smile on their face and walked round with slumped shoulders like they were carrying the worlds biggest secret. The town I admit wasn’t the nicest either. There were many hotels, restaurants and the dusty roads spread dust everywhere making you blind.
But once you took the fishing tourist boats with the loud deafening engine and drove at full speed into the lake by the channel you forgot about all the cons of the town.
The lake is huge – 22km by 10 km – and spreads out in each direction as far as you can see. Each side has mountains reaching up to the clouds and everywhere you look are local fisherman paddling through the tomato plants growing in the lake. The fishermen here are known for a unique rowing style, which involves standing on one leg and wrapping the other leg around the oar. This is used so they can see above the reeds and have a better view, its only used by the men.
Some locals live around the lake in villages, some actually in the lake. Most are in basic houses on stilts made of wood and woven bamboo.
For the tourists (travellers) and for the commercial business part of it they made and sold carved ornaments, silk woven scarves and fabrics as well as different textiles, cheroots (cigars), jewellery and many other things.
We stopped in a few villages and visited some silver and silk businesses.
We had a look around some towns, markets and drove through floating villages.
Birds glided on the water, the sun shone on the glistening surface and fishermen paddled through its calm waters. When the engine was off everything was silent and the world seemed to slow down around us. It really was beautiful and fascinating.
On another day we cycled along the lake, through the dusty roads and remote villages and finally up a steep hill to the vineyard. From up here as you are surrounded by vineyards (something you don’t expect) the world felt far below as you looked down upon Inle lake from a distance.
After a fairly long bike ride in the strong heat a bit of wine and cheese with olives rewarded us. Some of the vines had been transported from France and Spain. If you like wine or even just countryside views I would recommend a visit.
On the way back into town a ceremony had taken place. We later found out the little boy that was the centre of attention was to become an apprentice monk.
Some hot springs lay in the hills about an hour away from town. On another sunny morning we grabbed our bikes and peddled through the hills stopping once to have a drink in a local ‘café’ on a dusty road with a few drunk owners who seemed cheerful and happy to talk to us😂. The springs aren’t exactly natural. They are like three little round concrete pools all with a similar temperature, the water came from the ground though. Maybe not what one expects but all the same it was good.
On the penultimate day me and mum cycled along the lake and visited several different villages and areas getting a different perspective on the serene lake and decided to hitch a ride home on a boat.
After six relaxing days in the area we moved north.