Inle Lake

Hello dear readers. I’m here at the Golden Kite Restaurant in Nyaungshwe with a few hours until I leave on my night bus to Yangon. I’ve had a cold for the last four or five days but slowly seem to be getting over it.
Nyaungshwe is a sort of gateway town to Inle Lake, perhaps Myanmar’s most popular tourist spot. You can stay at hotels around the lake itself but they are hundreds of bucks and here in Nyaungshwe it’s a kind of backpackers centre. Loads of restaurants and tour companies to book trips and onward travel.
I took a bus from Bagan to Thazi and stayed overnight there getting virtually no sleep as my cold was at its worst then. The next day I took the train to Shwenyaung, maybe 15 to 20 kms from here. It was a stunning train ride across the top of mountains and on the way up it had several switchbacks where the train crosses the points and then changes direction. At points the vegetation is right up against the train and suddenly a village appears out of nowhere.

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The railway is like a river to some of these villages providing life and contact. It was quite cool for most of the journey. We reached Kalaw and it opened up again and coming down the other side it seemed to be greener and it was good arable farmland. The sun was setting it was really gorgeous. Now, the train itself despite having a newish-looking engine gad the same rubbish carriages as the other train I took. They were in worse nick too. I was told it would take around nine hours, ig took ten and a half but I guess that’s not too bag.
Took trabsport into Nyaungshwe from there and had to pay a ten buck fee to enter this zone. My hotel – Zawgi Inn, was quite nice and I was surprised by how cold it was in the evening.

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The first day I tried to sleep my cold off. It got a little better and in the evening I saw a small marionette show which was really interesting. It’s only half an hour and three bucks and you’ll see the traditional marionettes dancing. The puppeteer is happy to chat with the audience too.

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The thing to do here though is to visit Inle Lake, a large lake with thousands of people living on, over and around it. 15 hucks between three people for a tour that goes most of the day. All the boats are long and thin and have loud smelly petrol motors. And ours broke down 15 minutes in and had to be repaired. So, we saw the sunrise over the river that links Inle with Nyaungshwe.

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Boat repaired and off we went. Fishermen doing tricks for photos greeted us, and soon we were taken to see the long necked women. In a souvenir shop! Yes, it’s a beautiful and interesting lake but there’s stalls and shops everywhere with pressure to buy.
The long necked women have the gold rings around their necks, which we could pick up and let me tell you they are heavy! The Nan Ba Market is really interesting but the boats pull up ina spot which meabs you have to walk past a hundred souvenir stalls to get to the market proper. Its full of food and every sort of trinket you might imagine.

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We also visited a weaving place with very overpriced goods, but I learnt that you can make material out of lotus stems, you learn something new every day. The Paung Daw Oo Pagoda is interesting. Men paint what used to be small Buddha statues with gold leaf, and there are ‘floating gardens’ where people grow veggies and more.
Finally we saw the temple of the jumping cats. The temple was all wood and really nice, but the cats were few and jumped not. All these places and others were scattered about the lake. As were many interesting villages with houses on stilts over the water. Plenty of expensive hotels as well and boats. The dust, smoke and petrol fumes meant it was just as hazy as the rest of Myanmar, the haziest place I’ve ever been I think, but the life if the lake beyond the tourust trap elements is still really amazing.

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Tonight, night bus to the capital Yangon. Until the next time, may the journey never end!

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