A jump to Inle Lake

Trip Start Jan 16, 2009
Trip End Nov 20, 2009

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Flag of Myanmar  , Shan State,
Friday, November 6, 2009

After my previous post I felt like getting out of Mandalay but if you have problems with stomach and generally don't feel well, a long bus ride doesn’t really feel like a good idea. I was actually planning to take a boat to Bagan, where I would ride a bicycle for around the huge temple area and given the reportedly scorching heat of Bagan, that really doesn’t appeal if you’re not healthy. So I changed my plans and took a 38$-flight to Inle Lake, where I was originally thinking to arrive after cycling in Bagan and taking a strenuous bus ride to Kalaw from where I would have done the popular 3-days trek to the lake. Anyway, flying seemed to be the most reasonable solution right now.

The first thing I noticed when stepping off the plane in Heho airport near the lake was that the climate here is much more pleasant than in Yangon or Mandalay. This place is already on the mountainous area of the Shan states so it’s not so humid anymore and I guess the lakes also cools down the area a little bit. I arrived here in the morning and didn’t do much special on the first day but there was a cool older traveller from New Zealand on same plane with me and we agreed to hire a motor boat with a driver for the next day and go see some villages on the lake shore. This village where we, and everyone else, are staying is a few kilometres away from the actual lake but the lake is easily reached by a motor boat along the canal. The lake is actually quite special as you don’t really know where it begins or ends as there is swamp and a lot of canals around it.

The boat ride turned out to be very interesting as the 300 or so pictures I took might suggest. For me it was the first time when I saw villages where almost every single house is built on stilts over the water or swamp. On lake there are also the huge floating gardens where they grow for example tomatoes and chilli that are sold as far as Yangon. They just put some soil and weed from the bottom of the lake for the roots and those plants just float on the water. I sure don’t know much about agriculture but that looked very special. We were also taken to many rather touristy places where different kinds of handicrafts made by the local people were being sold. We didn’t buy much even if the quality should be very good but it was quite interesting to see how they make for example silk, silverware, boats and paper without any machines. Other highlights on the lake include seeing the fishermen who are rowing their boats with their unique leg technique, and the five-day market that is in a different village around the lake every day. The life at the lake might actually distantly resemble the life in lake-filled Finland in the 19th century with all the handmade boats and tools and the lake being the centre of trade and transport.

I’m already feeling better (or is it only because I had 2 imodiums before the boat trip yesterday?) so I’m considering starting tomorrow the 3-day trek on the opposite direction that I originally planned but it depends on how I feel later today and if I’m able to find some other people to trek and share the expenses of the guide with.
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