Lake Inle

Nyaungshwe Travel Blog

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Cops on the top of the "bus" which is reaaly a truck en route to Lake Inle

10/7/06

This morning we left Taungoo for the 270 mile drive to Inle Lake. Based on yesterday's drive, we figured that this should be another six to eight hour journey. Boy were we wrong!

Things started off well enough with good weather as we cruised out of Taungoo through the broad, green countryside - there were even big splotches of blue amidst the puffy white clouds. We knew things were headed south when we started passing a huge line of trucks parked on the side of the road.

I asked Min Min what they were doing and he explained that part of a bridge was washed out and it was now reduced to one lane.

Little Myanmar boys
I noticed as we crept by literally hundreds of trucks that they didn't look prepared to be moving anytime soon. Many had hammocks strung between their bumpers. I asked how long the drivers would have to wait and Min Min said two to three days, not hours, days! They only let the trucks cross at night (which is why we were able to sneak by). Meanwhile, the one way traffic across the bridge was going the other direction so we ground to a halt.

We were stopped on the roadside for about an hour, entertained by a group of kids playing on a horse cart and a pickup truck full of cops including half a dozen sitting on the roof. I took a bunch of pictures of the kids and a short video which I showed them making them giggle and laugh.

New!   Kids on Horsecart - This should link to youtube - if it doesn't link in a new window, you might have to use the Back icon to return here.

Rice paddies in Taungoo
...

Eventually we got rolling again and crossed the washed out bridge, a span of less than 100 feet, and gradually started to climb as the terrain changed from rice plains to hills to mountains. The road got noticeably worse changing from paved potholes to unpaved dirt as we wound our way up the mountain. We finally stopped for lunch after about six hours of driving. I mentioned to Min Min that it shouldn't be much more driving to which he replied something to the effect of "We cannot imagine how long it will take. It is better to leave in the morning and get there after dark. Maybe you should have another beer with lunch." Hmm that didn't sound so good (but we did have one just in case)!

We slowly and methodically bounced and rattled our way up the rainy hills on our misty mountain hop and, of course, Min Min was right and another six hours later (a total of about eleven hours driving at a breakneck average speed of 25 miles per hour) we finally arrived at Nyaungshwe village on the banks of Inle Lake and checked into the Aung Min Galar guesthouse.

Little girl on horsecart in Taungoo
It immediately started pouring. "Guess we will eat here tonight!"

10/8/06

Today we rented a longtail boat and spent the day on the lake being tourists. Min Min accompanied us as we cruised out the long canal to the lake which is surprisingly clean and beautiful. Along the way we watched some of the men balancing on the end of very small canoes while rowing with their feet, not an easy feat. They had long bell shaped bamboo contraptions with a fishing net inside that they would push down into the lake and catch fish with.

Our first stop was at a market, largely touristy souvenir stuff weirdly including lots of old 78rpm LP's, that stretched on forever and eventually ended up at Indein Pagoda. The pagoda included hundreds of small Stupas somewhat Angkor-esque in appearance.

The next stop was to watch the Boat Races and the culmination of the Pawdawoo Festival.

Lake Inle fisherman with trap
All the longtail boats lined the sides of a very picturesque wide canal complete with the typical wooden stilted lake houses filled with families watching the races. Two long boats from different villages competed in each race with about 100 men on each, most standing and rowing with their feet (by wrapping their ankle around the oar and doing a sort of modified frog kick) and some kneeling and bailing water. Each team chanted and rowed vigorously racing for the finish line - very entertaining! Tomorrow is the final day of the festival and the big final race. In addition to pictures we took some video if you are local.

New!  A couple videos of the Leg Rowing Races on Lake Inle Leg Rowers Racing on Lake Inle and Boat Races on Lake Inle

After lunch at a new two story restaurant with a beautiful view on stilts over the lake we visited a silversmith and watched knives being made by hand with one man operating bellows to keep the forge hot, another man handling the molten steel with tongs and three men with small sledge hammers hardening and shaping the blade.

Indein Pagoda on Lake Inle
Looked like hard, hot, sweaty work.

Next we "parked" to watch the Pagoda Festival Barge Ceremony. Boat after colorful boat with leg rowers and dancers on a raised platform passed, each blaring music and tied to the boat behind finally ending in an ornate golden barge carrying a Buddha from village to village each of the eighteen days of this festival.

After the barge parade we visited weavers making silk sarongs, scarves and longyis (man skirts). The cool thing there was that they also weave from a fiber made from the stalks of lotus flowers. A woman takes an inch long segment from a lotus stalk and scores it, then pulls out the sticky fibers and rolls them into a long, continuous thread that is then dyed and woven. It’s very time consuming and very expensive, about $100 per meter.

Our last artisan stop was at a really friendly cigar and lacquer ware maker.

Leg rowers racing on Lake Inle
Half a dozen young girls were deftly rolling filtered cheroots from some non-tobacco leaf and tamarind soaked tobacco. I of course could not refuse the free sample (Cindy on the other hand did). Each girl makes 700 per day. While enjoying the cheroot, we watched two guys painstakingly decorating lacquer boxes and ended up buying one which they happily filled with 50 little Cheroots (probably way more than I need!). It started drizzling on the lake and there was a very pretty rainbow.

You wouldn't think that you could grow tomatoes in the middle of a lake but the Shan have figured out how to do it and it is one of their major exports to China and elsewhere. They dredge the lake by hand pulling up lake weed which they mix with dirt and "ripen" for a year before placing a meter or so of it on bamboo rafts. They then plant the tomatoes on these floating mounds, pretty ingenious. We saw lots of ladies rowing around precariously in canoes picking the tomatoes.

Longboats on Lake Inle

Our final stop was at the infamous "Jumping Cat Monastery" which, like all the buildings, rests on stilts above the lake. There are a large number of Buddha's inside but the "highlight" is watching a bunch of cats jump through hoops, a trick that the monks have taught them. It smelled badly of cat pee, Uggh!

We went to a local restaurant for a Shan dinner that night with good food (yes and good beer...). We met an interesting guy named Tobin who is on a South East Asian adventure celebrating and/or recuperating from a "traumatic" divorce from his wife of six years who he met at Machu Picchu. Pretty funny and a bit neurotic, his LA valley Jewish taste buds didn't really favor Shan food although I think he enjoyed the Myanmar beer.

Tomorrow the plan is to take the road to Kalaw and hopefully go trekking it the weather cooperates.

Cigar rolling girls at lacquer shop on Lake Inle.
It's supposed to be the end of the rainy season but I don't think the rain pays much attention.

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Cops on the top of the bus which…
Cops on the top of the "bus" whic…
Little Myanmar boys
Little Myanmar boys
Rice paddies in Taungoo
Rice paddies in Taungoo
Little girl on horsecart in Taungoo
Little girl on horsecart in Taungoo
Lake Inle fisherman with trap
Lake Inle fisherman with trap
Indein Pagoda on Lake Inle
Indein Pagoda on Lake Inle
Leg rowers racing on Lake Inle
Leg rowers racing on Lake Inle
Longboats on Lake Inle
Longboats on Lake Inle
Cigar rolling girls at lacquer sho…
Cigar rolling girls at lacquer sh…
Rainbow on Lake Inle
Rainbow on Lake Inle
Royal Barge on Lake Inle
Royal Barge on Lake Inle
Leg rowers racing on Lake Inle
Leg rowers racing on Lake Inle
Leg rowers racing on Lake Inle
Leg rowers racing on Lake Inle
Stilted house on Lake Inle
Stilted house on Lake Inle
Weaver and loom on Lake Inle
Weaver and loom on Lake Inle
Tomato picker in canoes on Lake In…
Tomato picker in canoes on Lake I…
Nyaungshwe Hostels review
Aung Min Galar Guesthouse The Aung Min Galar Guesthouse is located in a nice garden environment a few minutes walk outside the main street in … read entire review
Nyaungshwe
photo by: lrecht