Nyaungshwe Travel Blog› entry 25 of 34 › view all entries
This morning we left Taungoo for the 270 mile drive to
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Tomorrow the plan is to take the road to Kalaw and hopefully go trekking it the weather cooperates.