A day on the lake; of leg rowers, floating gardens and jumping cats.
Nyaung Shwe Travel Blog› entry 11 of 27 › view all entries
Since this is just another ordinary day in our holiday, we get up nice and early again. Breakfast is at 6.30 a.m., itâ€™s nothing special, but it gets the digestion process going. Iâ€™ve slept like a baby and fortunately my cold isnâ€™t as bad as it was yesterday.
Today we will be on and around Inle Lake, and we will be traveling by boat. We start walking to the pier at 7.30 and by the time we get to the pagoda we visited yesterday, we encounter a group of monks that are on their way begging for alms. Although we have seen this before, it still is an intriguing sight. Once again some of our fellow travelers jump in front of everybody and everything to make the â€śperfectâ€ť picture, forgetting that there are people who arenâ€™t that bold, trying to take their shots in a less disturbing manner.
When we get to the pier we get ambushed by women selling sun hats, I already own a hat, but as soon as I shake off one lady, the next one pops up out of thin air. This goes on until all of us are aboard a boat. The boats are long and narrow and can hold a maximum of 5 passangers, so we need 4 boats. The vessels are powered by the same â€śsingle-stroke-with-a-large-flywheelâ€ť engine as the smaller lorries and they make a hell of a racket. When the boats sail at full throttle, water splashes everywhere, creating a wall of water behind them. At top speed the wind at this early hour makes it rather chilly, but the temperature rises in proportion with the sun and soon the wind is very welcome.
After a little while of boating we see the leg rowers for which the lake is famous, trying to catch some fish.
The floating market is a â€śfifth day marketâ€ť, meaning that it is held once every five days. As soon as we float onto the market our boat is surrounded by merchant vessels selling souvenirs. We say â€śNo, thank youâ€ť about a million times with our friendliest smiles on our faces, while looking at the locals doing their groceries as if this is the most normal way of shopping in the world. On the balcony of a stilt house in the distance Trudy spots a Longneck Karen woman. This is very special, because normally the only way to see these women is in government owned villages, where the women are kept against their will to make money that goes directly to the Junta.
From the market we go to a small business that makes silver utensils, from ashtrays to necklaces. It is interresting to see how everything is made, although weâ€™ve seen it before, but as soon as the tour ends up in the shop it doesnâ€™t take long before we are outside again. Most of us are back in the boats again, long before the agreed time.
On our way to Shwe In Tain we have plenty of time to see how the locals live and work, from the transport of mud, to doing the laundry and the washing of the buffalo that are used as tractors on the fields.
We decide to climb the hill that lies, as seen from the entrance of the complex, to the left, and from where the view of the pagodas should be beautiful.
In the end we have to hurry to get back to the boat in time and we have to drink the coconut we buy on the way while walking. We are not the only ones who think we had too little time, Ad also thinks we shouldâ€™ve had at least half an hour more.
Now we set sail to the restaurant where we will be having lunch.
We cross the canal by boat again and flee from the scorching sun, into the relative coolness of the restaurant. The staff hardly speak any English, so itâ€™s just a matter of pointing out on the menu what you want to eat, without asking difficult questions like: â€śDo you have Tiger Beer in a bottle instead of a can?â€ť.
Now we boat to a weaving mill, where raw silk is spun and woven. The noises of the weaving-looms are all around and the brightly coloured fabrics shine beautifully in the sunlight. Of course there is a shop where the finished products can be bought, but the prices are in US dollars and almost at a European level. Haggling is not allowed, there are fixed prices on all the items. This, like the silver workshop, is one of the shorter stops of the day.
Next stop is a smithy, where four men with sledge hammers are hammering red hot iron into the shape of their desire. Itâ€™s incredible to see how they can do this at this speed without getting their hammers in a knot.
Now thereâ€™s one more workshop on todays programme, a cheroot factory. Here the traditional Burmese cigars are made by hand. Female hands, that is, and they are lightning quick. I watch at least 15 cigars being made and I still havenâ€™t figured out how they do it. The ones who fancy a smoke are welcome to light a complementary cigar, but Trudy and I politely decline the offer. Instead we have a look at the rest of the goods that are made here, like ashtrays, cigar boxes and so on.
On our way to the Nga Phe Kyaung, better known as the Jumping Cat Monastery, we cut through the world renowned floating gardens.
The Jumping Cat Monastery has lost much of the luring magic it used to have. Nowadays the shows where cats jump through a small hoop arenâ€™t done by the monks anymore, but by a young boy that is hired for the task and the shows are done several times a day to please the tourists. All in all the show we attend takes less than five minutes. So even in monasteries tourism does its damage. The building itself is still quite nice to see, but donâ€™t think too much of the statues inside, they are not as old as they look. The pedestals on which the Buddhas sit are about a hundred years old, the statues arenâ€™t that old.
This was the last stop on the programme and from here we go back to our hotel in Nyaungshwe to do some necessary things, before we go to have dinner in Sunrise Restaurant. Very small, very simple, very good. There are traditional Shan dishes on the menu, as well as Italian food and pancakes. I choose the latter.
At 8.30 p.m. we go to Aungâ€™s Puppet Theatre to see a show with Burmese marionets, the way it used to be popular before the introduction of tv and dvd. Nowadays these shows are for tourists only, it is a rarity to see a local visiting a puppet theatre these days.
When we walk back to the hotel we see Wim and Ad in the Unique Superb Food Restaurant, chatting with some Dutch folks we havenâ€™t seen before. We join the conversation for a while and it is past 10 when we get back to our room.
We take a shower in total darkness, because the light in our bathroom once again refuses to work.