Take it Easy at Inle Lake

Trip Start May 30, 2005
Trip End Sep 30, 2006

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I was up early and off to the bus with Flo, I was indeed going with the flow, ha ha. It was a short hop and within two hours I found myself in Nyaung Shwe on the shores of Lake Inle looking for the Guest House that I'd arranged to meet David and Shane in. We actually bumped into them walking down the street, and before we knew it we'd checked in and were heading for a boat trip around the Lake, sieze the day!

We climbed aboard a long tail boat with our captain sporting slicked back hair, it was immediately apparant that the hair style wasn't intentional but instead a hazard of the job. We zoomed along the canals with floating fields where they grew tomatoes, corn, sugar cane, and all sort of other vegetables. Then out onto the vast lake itself, It took quite some time to cross over despite the speed at which we were travelling. We arrived at a floating village, cruising around their 'streets' for a while. This is where we went wild with our cameras, it was just so amazing, I've never seen anything like it. Whenever you go anywhere, and that include visiting the neighbours for a Campari and Soda, you need to take a boat. You see kids of about two quite happily being chauffeured around by their parents. It looked really fantastic.

We also saw the world famous one-legged boat rowers. For some reason they stand on the front of their unstable narrow boat one one leg, they then wrap their other leg around the oar and use it for a bit of extra leverage. It's fantastic to watch and requires quite an amazing balance.

Our driver proceeded to take us around several other parts of the lake. We'd asked for the non-touristy version, i.e. no handicraft shops, so he took us to a Shan village, then to a rice whisky shop, where he drank an alarming amount of the stuff before pretending to stagger back to the boat. On the lake they have one of the most quirky of attractions that I've ever seen, they have the 'Jumping Cats Monestary'. It is what it says on the the tin. We turned up to find about 20 cats all sprawled out below the gaze of buddah having a little nap. We hung around for a little while waiting for the fun to start, but no one was moving, the monk was also resting. David got a little impatient and asked "Can we get the cats to jump already?". The monk scolded him suggesting that he should maintain a little more patients in his life. We didn't wait long before another boat arrived and the fun started. Some tit-bits for the cats brought them to life and the monk produced a hoop from under his robes. He grabbed the nearest cat sat it down and made it look at his hoop that was 2 feet from the ground, the cat jumped for it, flew through, and landed purrfectly. He grabbed another who did a perfect repeat performance. After a little while though he had a refusal, the cat wasn't jumping for anything. With David's bellowing laugh as a soundtrack it took a serious amount of baiting from the monk before the cat made it. I think the monks may be sending that one back to cat jumping school for a bit of retraining. The monestary was such a laugh, I amused myself for days afterwards watching and re-watching the cats on my camera.

Flo left town the next day, leaving me with David and Shane to go on a trek. We hired a guide called Men-oo who was a rather jolly roundfaced young man. We walked through town and then up a hill that just kept on going. Shane with his long legs and athletic build practically ran up the hill ahead of us, stopping periodically to wait for us. It was hard work but the views that we gained of the lake and surrounding hills made it all worth while. After a few hours our guide told us that we were almost at the village where we have lunch, great, I'm starving. Shane shot off ahead as usual and the three remaining people plodded away. We came to a cross roads and found that shane wasn't there. We took the right track and assumed that Shane had as well since it was the only one that went up hill. Men-oo asked some locals that we passed if they'd seen 'tall white man', but they hadn't, he was lost. Since we were almost at the village Menoo took David and I to our lunch destination and then went off to find tall white man. We loved it, we lounged around, only marginally worried of the fate of tall white man in the hands of the locals. After an hour Men-oo returned with tall white man, he was so embarrased. He'd gotten to the crossroads and met some locals there, he'd made a motion with his hands resembling eating and they'd pointed him in the direction of a second village on the hill. He'd waited there for a while but then got a little worried when we didn't show up, he then started roaming around the hillside looking for us. Meanwhile Men-oo was on the hunt for a moving target, asking all the children if they'd seen him. Eventually he caught up with him and returned the hare back to the den for a real slagging from the tortoises, I reckon there is a real moral in this tale folks.

For the rest of the afternoon the four of us walked together back down the hillside and to a small town on the lake's edge. It was just starting to rain a little as we arrived. We had to take another long tail boat back to town so we waited for the rain to stop, but it didn't. We decided to go anyway since it wasn't that heavy. However, as we got going the heavens really opened up and let us have it. It was fantastic flying over the surface of the lake in the middle of a real tropical rain storm. It was practically hail and each drop hurt a little as it hit. I fortunately had a plastic bad in my back pack and was able to use it in a profolactic manner to save all my valuables from being destroyed. This went on for about 15 minutes before we got out of the storm and into town, dripping wet. It'd been a superb day.

The rest of my time at Inle Lake was pretty lazy, taking it easy, and playing a lot of cribbage with Shane and David. I'd planned it this way in order to have a little rest at the end of Burma and I'm so glad I did. We also managed to find some first rate Italian restaurants in town which made the best, freshest pasta and pesto I've ever tasted. Amazing.

I had to prepare myself for the bus back to Yangon, I would be traveling there with David and Shane but we weren't sure how long it'd take. We heard varying reports of 16 hours to 24 hours. Either way it was going to be sore on my bum.
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