The cool breeze close to Inle Lake was a godsend after the high temperatures in Yangon and we had been brought to a far nicer hotel after being dropped off in the early hours with nowhere to stay. After a couple of hours nap we woke for a local breakfast of Shan Noodles as we were in the Shan state after all. Shan noodles are a favourite of mine – if incredibly greasy like the rest of the food in Myanmar – and taste different every time depending on which restaurant or tea shop you eat at.
Jaimie, James and I hired push bikes to explore the area close to Nyaung Shwe where we were staying. We cycled around an hour to reach the hot springs after reading about it in Lonely Planet. We had the option to pay a hefty $10 for the “tourist” mixed pool equipped with sun loungers and showers or $5 for the single sex local pool which had absolutely nothing in it apart from a grubby looking pool. It was a no brainer and we spent the day relaxing in the hot pool chatting to a few other travellers who were there also.
It was here we learnt about Red Mountain Estate Winery which we cycled to that afternoon to enjoy tasting a selection of wines grown in the vineyard below. I wasn’t expecting to find myself enjoying a bottle of wine while admiring the view below in Asia let alone in Myanmar. It was a decent bottle of wine too, called Le Harvest if you are interested. A little tipsy, we cycled home and came across some bright lights and music in a field outside the main school.
I suggested we go and see what all the fuss was about and found out that it was a show put on by the top 150 students in the whole of Myanmar who were staying at the school during their three month summer holiday taking place between April and June. There was also an exhibition showcasing the ongoing conservation projects of Inle Lake. We chatted to a few locals but decided to head home shortly after the first performance as we had waited over two hours for the show to start, with the extreme lateness not phasing anyone but ourselves.
By the time we got back at gone ten we were absolutely exhausted and headed straight into our comfy beds at new Golden Hotel. The next morning we met a guy who had offered to show us around the lake by boat, a must if you are visiting the area. The lake sure was beautiful but he did take us to all the touristy spots such as the wood workshop, cigar workshop, fabric workshop and a fairly expensive place to eat.
Saying that, we hardly came across any tourists as it was low season and the ones we did meet were either our new friends from the hot springs or a group of monks on tour which we spent a while chatting to. It was fascinating to see how daily life goes by with farmers tending to floating gardens and fishermen hard at work. My favourite stop was a visit to the Karen Longneck tribe whom I had learnt about in Geography lessons at school.
I was over the moon that I got to witness their unique traditional dress and feel the sheer weight of the metal rings they wear around their necks day and night. What a life to lead. Another highlight was having to take shelter in a monastery from a huge storm. When it rains in Asia it pours and although it only lasted a few minutes, everything was drenched. We were awfully lucky to be where we were.
Exhasted once again, we headed for a curry that evening at a local Burmese restaurant before heading straight to bed in preparation for the two day trek we had booked the next day. Sadly our luck with the weather had run out and a storm erupted as we were eating breakfast so our trek was cancelled leaving us not only disappointed but out of pocket as the food had already been bought. This also meant we had a whole day stuck in the town before catching the bus to Bagan the following morning. This didn’t bother me one bit as I managed to catch up on a few things on my life’s “to do” list. I treated myself to a massive burger and fries at western-style cafe Butterfly, the only decent wifi spot in town – how convenient!
The group we had met at the hot springs had told us about My Parents, a family run massage shack located on Kyone Toe Road. After a stressful couple of hours at an Internet cafe where I managed to lose yet another ipad charger, I decided to unwind with a traditional Intha massage. This was to be the first massage of my trip which surprised my friends as it’s not unusual for long term backpackers like myself to have regular massages to help ease the pain of walking, cramped night buses and carrying heavy loads – oh what a hard life I lead!
My Parents is run by a local mother and daughter and it’s a job to find (just look out for the yellow signs) but the hour was well worth $4 which included hot green tea and rice crackers (I was too full from my burger but they kindly put some in a bag for me to eat on the bus). Not only was I left feeling bright as rain, the daughter ran ahead of me whilst I was walking back to catch my bus to grab her motorbike to give me a lift to my hotel for fear I would miss it. I had left it pretty fine time-wise and my lift to the station had gone without me. In true “I will do anything to help you” Burmese fashion a man from the hotel had already sent my backpack to the station and gave me a lift on his bike resulting in me catching my bus in the nick of time. Once again, the people of Myanmar amazed me with their kindness.
Living life, loving travel,