From Kalaw to Inle

Trip Start Aug 10, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Myanmar  ,
Sunday, February 3, 2008

Myanmar has been an eye-opener for me in the sense that I now realise that the former Ostblock is travelling these days. And travelling in numbers. From Kalaw I set off on a 3-day trek to Inle Lake together with Greg(or) the Slovenian, and avid NIKON fan and employee, and Harry, our guide from the hotel. But along the way, we bumped into a few Czech couples, Danijela, a gorgeous Croatian girl, and, rather surprisingly a Ukrainian couple.

Now whenever I'm asked the opening question "Where you from?", the only way of politely refusing to be drawn into a conversation (which does happen sometimes) is to lie: my answer sometimes is "Ukraine". Any truthful answer usually results in rapturous cries of joy at you being from a country renowned for clogs, tulips, football and most probably is host to one of the interrogator's obscure friends or relatives. But a connection is made, which in 99 out of a 100 cases ends up in the question if you are willing to buy postcards, paintings, lacquerware, gem stones, rare coins or anything else you're not very interested in. To avoid this standard conversation, the non-standard answer "Ukraine" usually leaves everyone stumped, and me free to continue my walk (I'm very sorry, but it works). But now, with Ukrainians on the loose in the country, it's probably just a question of time before you hear "Oh yes, Kiev! My sister's boyfriends twice removed cousin lives there! Nice country! Do you want to buy a painting?" (a question of time but sadly already reality in Bagan, I'm afraid).

Because Inle Lake is at a higher elevation than Yangon, it's also considerably cooler, so the morning start to the trek would usually involve wearing three layers of clothing, which would be readily shed as the sun climbed. After 17:00 though, the temperature would drop to around 10 degrees (centigrade, that is), and that's also the temperature you're sleeping in, because there's no heating in these regions. Stayed in a buddhist monastery on the 2nd night of the trek, which gave me the opportunity to be awestruck (again) of the sheer number of people actually doing the trek, and Gregor the chance to show off his football skills in a friendly between Buddhist monks and laymen. The final result of the match was undecided as the chief monk decided it was prayer time during a crucial free kick.
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