Luigi the Burmese

Trip Start Nov 15, 2005
Trip End Aug 15, 2008

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Where I stayed
The Little Inn

Flag of Myanmar  ,
Wednesday, June 20, 2007

 Inle Lake is one of the 'big four' tourist draws of Myanmar, and justifiably so. At the western edge of Shan state, it is one of the most naturally spectacular areas of the country that is easily accessible. A 22km lake of unbelievably clear water and bounded on two sides by ridges of mountains within walking distance, and with far more comfortable temperatures than elsewhere, this was perhaps my favourite stop in this country. Our guest house, The Little Inn, definitely helped with that, being such a relaxing place to while away a morning over bottomless cups of tea.

It's hard to convey just how magnificent the lake itself is, but it was worth getting a few different views of it. We spent a couple of days walking in the hills, looking down on it from above, and realised from the tree lines that it used to be far, far larger than it is today, and then got a closer view by taking a boat out on the lake. This showed us some of the more unusual features of the place, such as the unique foot-paddling technique, which seemed an awful lot of effort, and the 'floating villages', whole communities of people living in stilt houses on the lake. My personal favourite was the monastery where the monks have somehow taught cats to jump through hoops. I don't know why, but does it really matter?

What will really stick in my mind, though, is one restaurant in Nyaungshwe - The Golden Kite. An Italian place, I think it was the best food I had in Myanmar (I wasn't overly impressed with Burmese cuisine, and neither were my bowels). Even if the food wasn't so good, I still would remember the place for the chef. He was very definitely Burmese, yet spoke with a comically over the top Italian accent - we decided his name was Luigi - and insisted on showing us around the kitchen, to see his pasta machine from Italy and the mozzarella cheese from Australia, which he seemed inordinately proud of.  Really not what I was expecting in the middle of Myanmar.

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