Continuing on from the first part of my time in Inle Lake (CLICK HERE), the day continued after the Nan Ba Market where we were taken to see the rolling of cigars. Now, when one thinks about cigars one naturally thinks of Cuba and that part of the world, so I was surprised to think of Myanmar as a place famous for cigars.
It was actually pretty interesting all told, and worth a stop. Three women, two of them actually teenagers of 15 and 16 years, were rolling the cigars in a little hut on stilts. They were very proficient and quick, and we were able to smoke a sample cigar which, although I don’t smoke, I took a couple of puffs from and it wasn’t too bad actually. I guess the cigars feature no added chemicals (although I can’t speak for the conditions the tobacco is grown in) so perhaps are safer to smoke than your standard cigarette.
Lunch was soon upon us. In Nyaungshwe I had grown fond of a little Italian restaurant called ‘The Golden Kite’, but didn’t realise it was actually a chain. Out in the middle of Inle Lake there was another branch where we lunched. It’s a pity to eat so little local food, I know, but my peanut allergy was just raising too many red flags in Myanmar.
We went to the Paung Daw Oo Pagoda after lunch, which was pretty nice and full of locals and tourists. I was suckered into buying a ticket for a camera, however no-one else seemed to have one and kept snapping away happily regardless. In the centre of the main pavilion, there were these sort of round, nut-shaped things covered in gold leaf. It’s a bit of a tradition in Myanmar to but a thin piece of leaf and stick it on top of these strange items, as people, or should I say men, were doing here. Yes, this was a task only for men, as the sign clearly pointed out, women were ‘prohibited’. I did find out what these objects were – in fact they were supposedly a couple of hundred years old, and were small statues of Buddha which now were much bigger!
We floated along the lake, the haze had lifted by mid-morning, but even in mid-afternoon it was still around mountain height and was an unpleasant reminder of the dust and pollution that formed it. We saw metal workers hard at work, nothing amazing about them except that they were doing this in a stilted hut on water, and we also went to a Silk factory over the water. Not the first silk factory I visited in Myanmar, but it was without a doubt the most expensive. Inle Lake is not the place for good prices on souvenirs. Enough said. However, if you do want to buy a puppet in Myanmar (and their arts’ history is big on puppets), the small theatre in Nyaungshwe is a great place to buy one. But that’s for another post.
The floating gardens were kind of cool. A young girl in a small boat came across to us and gave us all lilies, and then we gave her money. But hey – you gotta make a living somehow, right? There were more approaching the boat with lotus flowers, but we waved them on. If you are on a tour and want a lotus flower, I’m sure you’ll have someone trying to sell you some.
All manner of things were grown on small strips of land (I think that’s what they were) that seemed to float on the water. That is, without a proper guide I’m not really sure if they went down to the lake floor or not. Whatever the case, they were particularly fertile.
Finally, before heading back to Nyaungshwe, we stopped at the Temple of the Jumping Cats. Quite a beautiful, wooden temple on the water. However, I was pretty disappointed. Only four cats and none of them showed the slightest inclination to jump! But, nice temple! And it was about 3pm and it was time to return back to Nyaungshwe.
And for five dollars each we had had an interesting day on the lake. Okay, some of the things we’d seen, in fact most of them, were really touristy. Which, after researching the lake before coming I was expecting, so I’m not sure it was as rewarding as it could have been. But, despite mechanical boat issues, it certainly was a pleasant and extremely affordable day out.
Thanks for reading again, and for now – May the Journey Never End!