Tuesday, September 20, 2011

inle outlay

The train rolled into the station town of Schwenyaung which is around 14kms from Nyaungschwe (you may have noticed a little Tokyo/Kyoto thing happening there) in the late afternoon.

At Schwenyaung there was no transport waiting. And no other foreigners on the train for me to share taxi costs with. And no taxi in sight. As I walked away from the station an unmarked car pulled up asking if I needed a taxi.

"Meter?" I enquired. No - "How much to Nyeungschwe?" 6,000. Hmm... 4,000 I offered. No. 6,000. So I walked away. 2 minutes later he drew up alongside and said 5,000 so I hopped in - I was busting for a loo and couldn't be buggered haggling further.

He was a bit of a mad bastard and drove like Michael Schumacher. First he almost ran down a dog, then an old woman, then a cow and then just before we arrived at Nyeungschwe gate he managed to run over a rooster. I swivelled round to see a mass of feathers fly up from behind the car. He chuckled somewhat and sped on.

He completely missed the $5 entry fee collector that you must stop for by the entry gate. The poor fellow arrived puffing at my hotel reception by bicycle 5 minutes later waving his receipt book.

I had a terrific stay at the Remember Inn. A $10 room, own bath with H/W, ceiling fan, excellent breakfast (thick banana pancakes were on offer) A humongous bed you could play a football match on. I was greeted at reception with a cup of tea and some bananas which was a nice gesture. Later when people asked where I was staying I had trouble recalling the hotels name.

The place was deserted (in terms of tourists) but luckily that evening I met two French backpackers Philippe and Baptiste and we agreed to share costs for a boat ride the next morning.

Philippe and Baptiste

There are two boat tours on Inle - a shorter and a longer one. The longer one includes a visit to Indein. We took the latter. It cost 15,000 for the boat.

We set off just after 8am and walked down to the harbour.

Inle lake is very big.

inle fishermens unique way of paddling with their feet

Across the lake we motored for quite a distance and our first stop was a local marketplace.

After a stop for lunch at a lovely waterside restaurant (and waiting for the sudden downpour to stop) we then headed down a canal to Indein (or Inthein as it is sometimes called).

There is a temple here that is surrounded by many small stupas that range from freshly built'n'gilt to old and crumbling ruins. When we were there off season grasses and bushes had taken hold and filled a lot of the pathways. We heard that the following day there were literally hundreds of people at this site with machetes clearing the entire site of vegetation, ready I imagine for the tourist peak season which was to begin about 10 days later.

There are several villages that make their home on the lake. People must spend their whole lives on and in the water here. Even the agriculture has adapted to this aquatic environment. We saw many many rows of floating tomato beds, and at one point were able to climb out of our boat and stand on one. It was the strangest feeling - like walking on a grassy water bed!

floating tomato beds

Lastly we went to visit a woman who makes the local version of the cigar or cheroot as it is often referred to as here in Myanmar. We went into her home and sat and had tea whilst she deftly made around 15-20 cigars. Her children were as interested in us as we were in the production of cheroots.

elaborate gold house decoration

children adapt quickly to life on water

We returned to the harbour around 5pm and considering we spent a good deal of time sitting in a boat being motored around, it was quite a tiring day.

inle boats

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