Inle Lake, Myanmar
My trip from Mrauk U to Yangon was uneventful, We left the dock shortly after 7:00 a.m. It was a lovely boat trip back to Sittwe where I had about two hours to kill before checkin a the airport so Ko Soe and I had lunch at the River View restaurant before saying goodbye. Ko Soe was a fabulous guide and definitely ranks amount the top 5 guides I have ever had. He was really terrific and incredibly kind. If you are planning a trip to Myanmar and want to see Mrauk U left me know and I will give you his contact info.
So I arrived back in Yangon at 4:30 and was back at the Savoy Hotel by just after 5. It was Sunday so the traffic was light. Got to bed early only to get up early for my 8:00 a.m. flight to Heho Airport and the 45 minute drive to Nyaung Shwe at the entrance to Inle Lake.
Inle Lake is one of the top tourist destinations in Myanmar. The lake is over 13 miles long and 7 miles at its widest. The lake is interspersed with marshy tributaries and surround by house one stilts, floating gardens, tiny villages and Buddhist temples galore. I was planning on doing a boat trip the day after my arrival so that gave me the better part of the day to wander around Nyaungshwe. However, first I had to get there.
I once again departed from the wacky Yangon Departures terminal. This place was so entertaining . Unfortunately, this was my last trip from the terminal. My flight was delayed an hour so I sat and watched the endless stream of people approach the useless departure screen, stand and stare at it for a period of time and then walk away. Nothing to see here folks … just a screen with all the scheduled flights for the day, departure time (optional) and the destination.
This time, however, there was a twist to the departure announcements. There was actually a young woman announcing departures in English. Despite the fact, it was still hard to hear and every time there was an announcement, the folks would surge forward only to be sadly disappointed. It was incredibly entertaining in a completely perverse way.
So we finally boarded the flight and had what i would call a fairly smooth flight until the last 5 minutes. I saw a number of clouds out the window on the horizon and that is when things got a little (a LOT) rough. All i can say is that I was glad the plane was full of Italian tourists (being close with the Pope and all). I’m pretty certain the woman across the isle from me said a couple hail Mary’s.
Anyways, after 5 minutes of up and down and back and forth, we landed on what might have been the worst “tarmac” I have ever experienced (and that is saying a lot given some of the funky countries I have traveled to). Hell, I think the little plane I flew on with my mother and sister-in-law in Botswana landed on smoother clay than this “runway”.
I was met by a driver at the airport after collecting my bags and off we set for Nyaung Shwe. I had elected to stay in a hotel on the canal in the town as opposed to staying at one of the resorts on the lake. It seemed to me your are kind of held captive if you are on the lake (no transportation options other than hotel provided) so this way I had the option to do as i pleased and eat where i want.
The drive was actually pretty pleasant. And after being in Mrauk U traveling on what i can only describe as “rustic” road conditions, a paved road was a treat. We wound through a mountainous region and down the backside through village after village and past herd after herd of cows passing through the villages.
We stopped for Shweyangpyay Temple, and unfortunately, my drive spoke limited English so I had no idea why we stopped or the significance of the temple. Quite frankly, all I wanted to do was get to my hotel. However, I did the obligatory walk around and 10 minutes later, I walked back to the car. I think the driver just wanted to chew some more betal nut and drink some tea. (I was a little worried about the driver. He did not stop chewing betal nut the entire drive. And the nut gives you a buzz so my best guess is I had a stoned driver for the 45 minute trip. I was just glad to get to the hotel after a rather stressful trip from Yangon.
Anyway, once ensconced in my lovely little cabin overlooking the canal, I decided to do a little walk around town. I quickly learned that Mingala Market was hosting the rotating 5 day market that day (finally something good coming from the day). The rotating 5 day market rotates between different village around Inle Lake. The cool part about the market is that a lot of tribal people come down from the hill to sell their produce, animals and wares. So knowing this, I set out down the road for the one mile walk to the market. And … gesh. …. it had suddenly become very, very hot. By the time I got the the market, I was dying for something to drink. I found a stand and bought a bottle of water and began to wander.
The market was a lot like every other market I have been to, with one exception. The people were dressed in a variety of tribal attire. It was interesting to wander around and check out all the different outfits. I soon learned that the women dressed in black with the red turban like head covering were from the Pa-O tribe. These ladies were everywhere. Most were selling produce, although i did see one woman selling flowers (used to make offerings to Buddah).
So after wandering around in the heat (but no humidity), I decided to wander down a side street past numerous temples and finally back to my hotel. I was really done in after a hectic few days so it was time for a nap to rest up for the lake trip tomorrow.