A Travellerspoint blog

The magical Inle Lake

semi-overcast 25 °C
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An overnight bus (the first of five that we would take) on the treacherous roads ascending to the Inle Lake region left us fatigued and at times clinging on to our seats in horror. More than once did one’s life flash before one’s eyes.

The roads are littered with potholes (if sealed at all), there is a complete absence of street lighting and two way traffic on the single lane road is essentially negotiated by making way for the largest vehicle at the time. This, we later confirmed, is the standard of roads across the country.

We were unceremoniously left in a cloud of dust before sunrise at a junction. It was cold. With no accommodation booked and no idea of our next move, taxi drivers and touts circled us like sharks. Fried noodles provided clarity and we arrived in Nyuang Shwe, near the lake by taxi.

With our nerves thoroughly rattled, we needed to relax! And Inle’s beautiful scenery and peaceful air was the perfect setting. Almost without realizing we spent five nights there, and most of our favourite moments (and photos!) were captured in this magical region.

Racing around Inle Lake with our guide Miu

Racing around Inle Lake with our guide Miu

Cheese and peace!

Cheese and peace!

Traditional leg rowing fisherman, culturally significant and unique to the region

Traditional leg rowing fisherman, culturally significant and unique to the region

The highly photogenic traditional leg rowing fisherman

The highly photogenic traditional leg rowing fisherman


More stupas than you can poke a stick at - over 1,000 on site at Indein

More stupas than you can poke a stick at - over 1,000 on site at Indein


Adam with some of the 1,000 stupas at Indein

Adam with some of the 1,000 stupas at Indein


Family portrait in Inle Lake, with the Padaung or Karen tribe ladies

Family portrait in Inle Lake, with the Padaung or Karen tribe ladies


Half hourly show at the cat jumping monastery - yes this really exists

Half hourly show at the cat jumping monastery - yes this really exists

The decadent colours of the unique Shan state countryside – the yellow, green and red have now been adopted as the colours of the national flag

The decadent colours of the unique Shan state countryside – the yellow, green and red have now been adopted as the colours of the national flag


Farmland peak hour at the end of the day

Farmland peak hour at the end of the day


Pindaya caves with over 8000 attitudes of Buddha

Pindaya caves with over 8000 attitudes of Buddha


Local transport in Myanmar

Local transport in Myanmar


Rina's new baby

Rina's new baby


Enthusiastic (and soon to be hyperactive) primary school kids with lollies. The first stop on our two day mountain trek.

Enthusiastic (and soon to be hyperactive) primary school kids with lollies. The first stop on our two day mountain trek.


Burmese farmer collecting leaves to sell as tobacco cigar paper

Burmese farmer collecting leaves to sell as tobacco cigar paper


The heavenly view of Inle Lake from the hilltop monastery where we spent the night on a two-day trek

The heavenly view of Inle Lake from the hilltop monastery where we spent the night on a two-day trek


The uh, al fresco shower and bathroom facilities at the monastery

The uh, al fresco shower and bathroom facilities at the monastery


Another magical sunset, we're still not sick of them

Another magical sunset, we're still not sick of them


We're pretty sure this view hasn't changed much over the past century

We're pretty sure this view hasn't changed much over the past century


Morning monk recreation

Morning monk recreation


This is exactly what Rina's brother looked like as a kid! He was adorable!

This is exactly what Rina's brother looked like as a kid! He was adorable!


This little guy was pretty puzzled to see us in his class

This little guy was pretty puzzled to see us in his class


Corn stash under the house, most is sold as chicken feed

Corn stash under the house, most is sold as chicken feed


Popcorn!!

Popcorn!!


Your typical Burmese ‘petrol station’

Your typical Burmese ‘petrol station’

Posted by adamandrina 01:31 Archived in Myanmar Tagged burma inle_lake myanmar Comments (2)

Burmese Days

Yangon, Inle Lake, Mandalay, Bagan, Chaung Tha - Myanmar

sunny 30 °C
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Looking over the river from our boat from Mandalay to Bagan, the soft breeze is suddenly interrupted by shouting. Local women are waist deep in the riverbank, carrying fruit and platters of fried snacks. They start throwing parcels of samosas and fried bananas at us through the ferry window. Here there is an honour system where you examine the food, negotiate a price, then throw scrunched Kyats (or the food) back out the window.

When snack vendors attack

When snack vendors attack

This is a great example of life as a foreigner in Myanmar. A closed country so behind in development, Myanmar tourism is far from refined. Villagers just do what they can to eke out a living hawking produce, snacks and traditional wares – hoping to interest a tourist to part with some currency, or even trade with goods from the outside world.

Our 17-day visit was full of sunshine and peppered with blackouts. The land is rich and fertile, just about every village harvested a variety of crops and there seemed to be no shortage of food. Here in Myanmar, the horse and cart is still depended on for agriculture. Traditional dress and customs also hold strong, with most men in the longyi (sarong type garment) and women uniquely styling the sunscreen cosmetic tanakha on their faces.

In the cities, endless market stalls – selling produce and uninteresting Chinese manufactured bric-a-brac – line the main streets, existing somehow in harmony with the lawless motorbikes, bicycles, cars and pickups. Transportation is severely outdated; it seems no new cars have been imported in the past 20 years. Traffic moves slowly as cargo (mainly rice and vegetables) is overloaded into pick up trucks before dozens of passengers cling on to roofs and bars.

Run down Yangon, a bit too shabby to be chic

Run down Yangon, a bit too shabby to be chic

Buddhism is also acute, with a large population of monks. Thankfully much unorthodox behaviour reminds us of their humanity. Pagodas, stupas and temples quickly blur and become indistinguishable in the mind. In addition to religious monuments the restaurants, stores and hotels also tend to favour the name Shwe, meaning “Gold”. Sadly, the disproportionate number of decadent religious constructions – overflowing with superstitious donations for good karma – is a depressing contrast to the poor living conditions of the Burmese.

A young monk playing under the Mingun bell, the world's second largest

A young monk playing under the Mingun bell, the world's second largest


It's an illusion!

It's an illusion!


This monk was acting more like a monkey!

This monk was acting more like a monkey!


“Ladies are not allowed” at the Amarapura temple

“Ladies are not allowed” at the Amarapura temple

Despite the general run down state of affairs, things seem to function here. We found transport reliable, accommodation comfortable and sightseeing diverse and all worthwhile. In our visit to Yangon, Inle Lake, Mandalay, Bagan and Chaung Tha we often ran into the same travellers again (especially Dejan and Tjasa!), forging a small community of foreigners by the time we left!

The Burmese are a delight to be around, they are courteous and honest people who are curious and keen to practice their English. Do not be surprised if the restaurant owner brings out his family photo albums or your hostel manager invites you to meet his baby grandson. A popular Burmese past time is singing, with romantic pop music videos captivating the locals in the eateries and on the long haul bus rides – on more than one occasion a battery powered television and speakers were wheeled on the street, followed by the locals’ emphatic Burmese renditions of Coldplay and Ronan Keating.

Whilst military presence is strongest felt at border checkpoints and in some areas of tourism, the order of the past 49 years faces quiet yet growing defiance by pro-democracy Burmese. Evidenced by the distribution of books, posters and art of Aung San Suu Kyi, some locals were happy to express their views and most welcome the imminent changes so desperately needed to reform the country.

Shwedagon Zedi Daw, Gold Dagon Pagoda. Eclipses all other monuments in the country with its size and majesty. We spent hours in the area as the pagodas transform with changes in lighting from afternoon to evening.

Shwedagon Zedi Daw, Gold Dagon Pagoda. Eclipses all other monuments in the country with its size and majesty. We spent hours in the area as the pagodas transform with changes in lighting from afternoon to evening.


Sunset as lights showcase a glowing Shwe Dagon

Sunset as lights showcase a glowing Shwe Dagon


Dwarfed by the main pagoda that also dominates the Yangon skyline

Dwarfed by the main pagoda that also dominates the Yangon skyline


Candle lighting and prayers surround the base of the pagodas

Candle lighting and prayers surround the base of the pagodas


Kayan Lahwi or Padaung tribe girls weaving traditional garments

Kayan Lahwi or Padaung tribe girls weaving traditional garments


The Paan or Kunya, a traditional snack made of stewed red “tea” leaves, areca nut shell and tobacco, wrapped in a betel leaf.

The Paan or Kunya, a traditional snack made of stewed red “tea” leaves, areca nut shell and tobacco, wrapped in a betel leaf.


Yangon’s colourful plastic stalls with rusty bikes

Yangon’s colourful plastic stalls with rusty bikes


Mingun Paya, the unfinished temple base of a megalomaniac

Mingun Paya, the unfinished temple base of a megalomaniac


Each child has thanaka expressively painted on their faces!

Each child has thanaka expressively painted on their faces!

Posted by adamandrina 01:16 Archived in Myanmar Tagged burma myanmar Comments (4)

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