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No Worries 'Mas o Menos' 2 years on the road, travelling South East Asia, China, South & Central America and who knows where after that... Photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/collections/

Inle Lake

MYANMAR | Wednesday, 20 May 2009 | Views [3214]

Day 21 - Inle Lake

We started early so we could fit in a whole day trip on the lake, sharing a boat with some Swedish friends from our guest house. The longboat took us down the 3 mile canal to get to the entrance to the lake and then the lake opened up before us, surrounded by mountains on both sides. We saw traditional Inle fishing with fishermen using their foot to paddle the oar, although I'm not sure how they get anywhere as it looks like they just go round in circles.

The fishermen were also using traditional spear fishing methods, using a basket cage to trap the fish.

We cruised through floating gardens

and villages with all houses on stilts.

I don't think we could live there as you can't pop out for a walk to the shops or to visit your neighbour without getting in your boat or getting wet. They seem to enjoy their way of life though, with the water around the house acting as the bath tub, with lots of naked kids jumping in from their door step and having fun.

We visited many places on the trip including pagodas, a silk weaving factory, a brass knife making place, and a famous monestary. The monks here were bored one day, probably because they couldn’t go for a walk, so they taught their cats to jump through hoops! A little odd and I'm sure I could teach a cat to do that if I had enough time, add that to my list of things to do in life.

We stayed at the Aquarius Inn, a great place to stay. It provided the best breakfast we have had in the country with spanish tortilla one day, pancakes the next with a full fruit salad and sugary sweet biscuit as well, then it was back to eggs on day 3, boo. We’re not complaining (much) but everywhere you stay in Burma provides 2 fried eggs, toast and a banana for breakfast. After a week of it you start to get sick of greasy eggs every morning and we even resorted to buying tomato ketchup to help get them down, but that didn’t help for long. We would really recommend this as a place to stay, lots of room to lounge around and the hotel owner would bring out tea and fruit for free and even gave us a present when we left, and lent us books from a great library with 'banned' books about Burma.

Day 22, 23 & 24 - Inle Lake

The lake was really beautiful, but after a whole day in the boat we decided one day was enough to get a feel for the water, so we spent the next three days exploring the shoreline and countryside.

We went for a trek in the nearby hills and visited a village where a festival was under way, with lots of people eating in tents and having fun and it seemed all the hill tribes in the area had come down to join in. We went to a cave where a monk gave us torches and showed us inside, it was very dark so I stayed at the top while Ryan went off exploring the tunnels on his own.

Another day we hired bikes and went to a village about 10km along the shore for the market day. The road there was an interesting mix of rocks and rubble and huge pot holes so the cycling was very slow and bumpy, not difficult if riding a mountain bike but on an old town bike with no suspension, it's a little uncomfortable.

Luckily, we hit some tarmac halfway along and passed lots of people on their way to and from the market carrying basket loads of goods over their shoulders and heads.

We also met lots more kids to give sweets to.

We also had a couple of encounters with snakes. The first one Ryan discovered when taking a closer look at a temple on a hillside. He opened a door and a snake fell down from the gap and slithered slowly away. Picture shows the scene of the crime.

10 minutes later Ryan said the snake hissed at him then moved away quickly. 10 minutes after that the story was the snake had tried to bite him before slithering away spitting venom at him! I just heard a girlie yelp but wasn't around to witness it, so you will have to take his word for it. The second snake encounter was on the way home when a couple of teenage boys had just killed a snake that was about 6ft long and they were using it as a skipping rope! They started swinging it around the place so we quickly cycled passed, we didn't trust them not to throw it at us. That has to be the oddest thing we have seen so far on this trip.

It was in Inle that we learnt the news about Aung San Suu Kyi going on trial. As we didn’t know how the country would react and if there would be any protests or not, we decided to leave Inle a day early and head back to Yangon before the trial started.

Day 25 - Back to Yangon

Before catching the bus back, we had to get a pick up truck to the highway junction, we were squashed in so much both of us suffered dead legs. The bus journey was meant to be about 20 hours but due to new roads around Napyiydaw it was a lot quicker. Luckily for us it didn’t go on any longer as we were surrounded by children. What's wrong with that? Well, we were sat on two of the seats on the back row. The other three seats where taken up my a Pa'O tribe woman and 4 of her 6 kids, there were another two sharing a seat in front of them, plus a couple of other kids sitting in front of us from another family. After a few hellos to them we noticed one of the kids was looking really sick, on closer inspection we saw all of the kids were sweating and looking very pale and soon started to throw up. Thinking whatever they had must be really contagious, we prepared ourselves for sickness at any time. After a 30 minute stop we noticed all the kids seemed to perk up and look healthy again, it wasn't until we were back on the bus for 20 minutes that the throwing up began again and we realised they all had motion sickness, and everyone around us was throwing up at 5 minute intervals. I don't blame them as the road was really twisty with pot holes to add to the bumpiness. We think this must be the first time this hill tribe family have ever travelled by bus and chose the longest bus journey in the country for an introduction. We made it there in one piece with nothing landing on us, but had a few of the kids slumped over us as they slept.

Day 26, 27 & 28 - Yangon again

We arrived at 3am obviously 4 hours earlier than we expected. A taxi dropped us at the hotel we previously stayed in to find it all shut up. We decided to go looking for a tea shop that might be open to wait in for a few hours but everywhere was closed and all we found were a pack of barking dogs that got too close to us and followed us around and showed big gnarly teeth that scared the bejeezus out of us (me). We rushed back to the hotel and luckily a local passing by banged on the door for us to wake someone up. We had been told not to go out in Yangon after midnight as it could be dangerous but I didn't realise it was the dogs we had to worry about! After a long lay in to catch up on sleep, we headed out for lunch the next day only to find all the dogs from the night before fast asleep in the middle of pavements making us step over them, I was too kind to kick them!

As we had done most of the sightseeing in Yangon we had a few days to chill out, talk to other travellers in our hotel and reflect on the journey we had completed. We also went to see the street children we had met before and to catch up with our guide from our first day.

The trial of Aung Sang Suu Kyi began but we didn't see or hear anything about it on the streets, it was as if nothing was going on. The only way to get news about it was via the internet and a foreign news channel on tv. The local paper, the New Light of Myanmar, had a full page announcement on the trial, just stating the facts and crime, but not reporting any of the details, but I’m sure people were whispering about it whenever they got a chance.

Day 29 - Leaving Burma

Our flight left early in the morning just as the streets of Yangon were waking up. Our taxi driver took us past University Avenue one last time and he slowed down to show us the barricade that is still up. He says that he will get arrested if he drives us down there, even though Aung San Suu Kyi is no longer in the house. He gave us our last political talk in the country, with his final words being ‘I hope she is set free’. So do we.

As we said before coming to Burma, it was a hard decision and not one that we took lightly. Having been we can now say that we are both glad we came and it was the right decision for us and we leave with no regrets. All the travellers we have met along the way have felt the same.

Isolation has never worked, it has only helped the Generals and it has been the people who have suffered. Meeting the people of Burma and listening to their stories is the only way to ensure that they are being heard and their stories are leaving the country and being spread around the world. They have entrusted us and need us to help spread the word about their plight and their living conditions. They enjoyed being able to talk freely with people as they don't know who to trust in their own country and being able to talk gives them hope and reduces the feeling of isolation that is left by the sanctions.

Aung San Suu Kyi comments about boycotting Burma were made during the "Visit Myanmar'96" campaign, it is unclear what her thoughts would be about visiting now. Everyone we spoke to were glad we came and asked what they could do to make more people visit the country. It was hard to explain that comments made over 10 years ago and the political situation meant people didn't visit fearing that they would be seen as legitimising the generals regime. Despite the situation the people are very proud of their country and rightly so, tourism is one of the only ways to help them.

If you were considering it, we would recommend going to Burma. However, as long as you went as a responsible traveller and not as part of package tours arranged by government owned tour operators. We spent around US$1000 between us for the 4 weeks, with a maximum of US$200 (including taxes taken from the money that went to the people) going to the government. The remainder went to those who need the money the most. The amount the government makes from independent travellers is pocket money compared to what they make from the natural resources and trade with China and India.

Burma has so much to offer and the community wants to meet new people and offer you a friendly smile. They are by far the nicest, most friendly people we have met. Lots of travellers want to get off the beaten track and find somewhere new. Burma may not be new but it's definitely away from the main tourist trail of South East Asia and although we wouldn't recommend going for this sole reason alone. It is certainly somewhere were you can experience something different, our experiences both the highs and lows are going to be difficult to surpass on the rest of this trip, if you’re thinking of going but aren’t quite sure whether to go, VISIT BURMA!!!

Jo & Ryan

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/sets/72157618607455580/

Summary and costs:

Highlights:

Meeting Burmese people
Favourite Place -  Kalaw (Jo) , Old Bagan (Ryan)
Favourite Attraction - Shwedagon Paya (Jo) , Dhammayazika Zedi  (Ryan)
Food - None - Orwell summed this up best, the Burmese can do absolutely anything with food, except make it taste good.
Beer - Myanmar Beer

Low Lights:

Dehydration (Jo)
Road to Kalaw (Ryan)
Bagan Heat (Both)

For those of you thinking of possibly traveling to the region:  Averages in USD

Accommodation - $10-15 (A/C)
Main meal  - $1-3
620ml Beer - $1.20-1.80
285ml Soft Drink - 30c
Bottle of water - 30c
Transport - Bus $1 per hour

 

Tags: inle lake, yangon

 

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