About that trip to Kalaw...
Trip Start Mar 04, 2006
19Trip End Apr 13, 2006
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
After checking into the Remember Inn, I did my usual wander about town
The town is the gateway to Inle Lake, the big attraction here. There's a tribe of people, about 40,000 if I remember correctly, that live on the lake in stilt houses, cultivating floating gardens and fishing in a manner seen nowhere else in the world. Thanks to the lake and a network of canals, the valley is probably the most productive agricultural region in Myanmar, and it shows. Even the livestock looks healthier and better fed.
I stopped for lunch at the original Aroma, run by Omar's wife and staffed by his kids. As soon as I walked in, the only other customers, Howie and Debbie from Manhattan, invited me to sit with them. Typical New Yorkers (friendly and talkative) they're on their 74th country. They met in Moscow, and were married on a 747 somewhere over the Pacific. Who knew you could do that? And of course, I ran into them again at dinner.
The next day I slept in a bit, then rented a bicycle and headed west, into the the rice paddies. Riding along a raised dirt rode through a network of paddies and canals, you enter an entirely different world, one that seems unchanged from hundreds of years ago. People get around in canoes, live in raised thatch huts, bath in the canals, catch fish with nets, till their fields with water buffalo and wooden plows, carry bundles of firewood and whatever else on their heads. If you're born into this world you'll live much the same life your grandparents did, and their grandparents before them
One magical moment came as I was pedaling past a small hut across the canal from me. A beautiful little girl in a dress ran across the bamboo bridge waving to me and holding something in her hand. When I stopped she smiled shyly and handed me a water lily. I was really touched by the gesture, and thanked her in Burmese. She replied by sticking out her hand and saying "Present? Money?" -sigh- Mostly it just made me laugh. I took her picture and gave her a 10 kyat note, about a penny U.S. It was probably the wrong thing to do, teaching her the wrong lesson and all that, but c'mon, she lives in a woven hut. Someone suggested I stop by the market and pick up some packets of shampoo, pens and paper. Better than giving money I'm told.
I've booked myself on a boat tour of the lake tomorrow. Apparently it's a bit touristy now, but still something to see. I'll let you know how it turns out.