Monday, March 18, 2013

Inle Lake

We were unprepared for an overnight bus. We thought it was just a few hours, and we would find accommodation for the night at the other end. We had asked as we bought the bus ticket, and got an answer we had thought we had understood correctly. But as the bus pulled out of Bagan, and the at sight of our fellow busmates all settling in for the night, the joke was on us! The answer of 9 at our guesthouse which we took as 9pm arrival must have been 9 hours, as in length of time for travel! Oops!

So we arrived into Nyaungshwe in the wee hours of the night, into the unexpected cold air, and nowhere to stay. A team of cyclos met the bus and the deposited foreigners, and after a lap of the deserted streets, and guesthouse door after guesthouse door showing a sign saying no vacancy, we ended up sleeping on a floor in the communal longhouse of a monastery.

What felt like a silly travel mistake actually turned out to be just fine - the fact that there was no accommodation in Nyaungshwe meant that we found a place to stay out on the lake, and we were soon longboating out on the water to the Golden Lion, a guesthouse of just 5 rooms, on stilts on Inle Lake. Away from the tour group hordes, which gave us some peace and some amazing views.

Taking in the view from water level, we saw fishermen and their famous leg-rowing techniques unique to the area, as well as families traveling back to town, all surrounded by mountains on either side of the lake.

After a bit of a nap, and a much needed shower, we were met by our longboat again for a tour around the sights of the middle region of the spectacular lake. The sight of villages on stilts was so novel, the water laneways between houses, and everyday life being carried out several meters above water level.

We visited the Paung Daw Oo Pagoda, featuring small Buddhas coated with gold leaf offerings to the point of being unrecognisable. We also stopped in at the disappointing 'jumping cat' monastery, which is really on the tourist trail for an old gimmick that the monks have clearly grown tired of!

Far more interesting for us was the floating gardens, with flowers and vegetables being grown on plots on the water, and the women moving past selling their wares of flowers for offerings, and fruit and veggies.

A pretty relaxed and visually stunning place along our Burma travels, Inle Lake was a much appreciated slower pace for recharging our travel batteries, and seeing a much different way of life. 

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