Mysterious Inle Lake

Its a place you haven’t seen before -unless you have been there-. It’s incredible. People living ON the lake like you’d live in the suburban. They use boats to go ‘shopping’,to get the every day food. It’s so normal they travel hours on the lake to get from A to B. The shops and little factories are great. All very nice, genuine people… could you live on a lake?

*We arrived to Inle Lake at 4am, it was extremely cold to compare to the heat when we left. Generally, all buses are air conditioned, which means always take a hoodie or a long sleeve shirt when travelling on a long-haul bus. As the guy at the bus station said, we will arrive at 6am,we panicked for a second if we are at the right place and if we are, will they let us in the hostel? There was a guy waiting for the tourists, we got off in the middle of a road while everybody was sleeping… we asked him if we are at the right place and he tried to explain that he can take us there for K6000. I thought it’s a bit too much so I kept asking how far it is -keep in mind, we were dead, just arrived from an 8 hours bad bus trip-. He said, its 5 mins by car, 20 mins walk. I said to Rich,let’s walk it. He wasn’t impressed as it was 4am,pitch black and we didn’t even know the place… as we stood there trying to figure out what to do, a guy came to us and he said he takes us there for K2000. We took it. When I saw what we are going to travel by… I laughed. It was like a tricycle,a motorbike with 2 extra seats backwards to each other. I literally had to hold my backpack in front of me. It was so funny. And it really took 5 minutes. We stood in front of the hostel and waited for someone to get out after we rang 3 times. I had the feeling they hate us. A guy -obviously just woke up- came and he was the nicest thing happened to us as he let us check in which meant, we could sleep properly and basically we got a night for free. As we were both pretty dead, we collapsed into the beds and slept till 10am. First thing we did, had a shower, got ready and walked to reception. Had some late breakfast/early lunch just right next to our hostel. I had a lentil soup and a very refreshing lemon and mint juice, while Rich had tomato soup and an iced coffee. We payed about K5000. We also asked about trips and how can we walk to the lake… there are boat trips but it isn’t possible to walk to the lake as there are no roads, only a canal where the boats go. The canal goes right in front of our hostel which gives it a really nice surrounding but it also means people are waiting for you as you walk out from the hostel and offer you all sort of boat trips. That was the first time we had to face people trying to sell something since we’ve been here. We kindly told them,not today.

We found out from different travel agencies -as there are plenty here-, that there is a daily boat tour which visits 7 sides of the lake showing us a bit of their ‘lake life’. The only difference is in the prices. A boat -which looks like a motorised gondola- cost about K20,000/ boat in most places, we found one for K17,500 for the same. It’s like a private boat, only for the 2 of us. We also decided to buy the bus ticket back to Yangon as our plan has changed like 100 times now and the newest one is: we go to Yangon and take a flight from there to Cambodia. The bus cost K19,000/ person -everywhere else cost 20,000-. It was an expensive day. Inle Lake isn’t the cheapest. It’s ok but hostels aren’t cheap, we found the cheapest one which is a very nice one, but cost £22/night. After spending shed lots of money, we rent 2 bikes (K2000/bike) and we rode to a vinery. We didn’t go there for vines (obviously ☺️) but for the view and basically to do something while we are here. As the village is a very small ‘lake village’, apart from hundreds of mini shops and tour agencies, it isn’t much on the Main Street to see. So we rode all day. I will probably feel my butt tomorrow which is good. I always wanted a firm butt 𯘁 We decided that we deserve a cocktail -happy hour, K1500/cocktail which is a BARGAIN-,so that’s what we did, I had a Mojito, a Rich had a gin sour (basically gin with bitter lemon). We gave the bikes back and went to have a shower. This place is extremely dusty due to having dirt road everywhere and also because of the lots of building. People are building new hostels/hotels in every corner as they see the potential in this place. There are restaurants, bars everywhere. As we walked around later, we saw plenty of newly built or just about to be built hotels. The service is great almost everywhere. Having the eyes of hospitality people we both think, they are actually very good to compare they have never been taught. They just know how to smile, how to be very polite, to ask if it’s all good, how to serve. Their every day life depends on it as they are very poor and having jobs like being a waiter here it’s actually a good opportunity for them and for their family.

After the evening shower we tried to sort out flight ticket, hostel and visa for Cambodia. It’s a stress, I’m telling you… the wifi is really not good in the whole area. Anywhere said free wifi (including our hostel), it has not really worked. I was stressing like crazy as we thought, we need e-visa which means we have to apply for it online and they always need our flight number and the place we stay there. Which we didn’t have….neither it them. So we had to go with this order flight, hostel, visa. And e-visa takes 3 days so we had to do it real quick. But internet is being crap, it wasn’t a good time… until Rich read online, that we can actually get visa on the border without applying for it. I double checked with some other websites and yes, he was right. Big relief…. we can get it on the border, 35USD for 30 days. That means we don’t have to urgently book a flight -which would be a pain in the butt with this weak wifi here- so we can do it as we are back to Yangon.

With a big relief, we went to find somewhere to eat -it gets a bit cooler in the evening, so a light long trousers and maybe a long sleeve shirt highly recommended-. As there isn’t too much choice of street food, we went into a restaurant and ordered fish for a change -not noodle or fried rice- and it was amazing. Mine came wrapped in a banana leaf which was very nice and our waiter opened it for me before he put it in front of me. 5 star service, I’m telling you 𯘊 It cost (2x main dishes, a bottle of water and a bottle of beer) K15,000. The food generally is spicy everywhere here. It’s not as spicy as I couldn’t eat it but they give extra spices to everything (that’s what it is on every food pictures, the extra small bowls). There is a lot we could learn from these people, enjoying and appreciating life is one of them. Positivity and content smile, how they accept us, how they welcome us complete strangers into their so protected world..that’s an other one. And there is lot more… I absolutely adore these people

This is a really small village, which probably built as it is now a few years ago. It still has wooden houses, houses made of banana leafs ‘sewed’ together and from cheap brick. As we went up to the vinery, we saw lots of real old houses which didn’t even have doors or all 4 walls on. That’s how they live, simple but proud.

The next day we actually went on to the lake by boat. Our morning started fantastic as we had to wait for our boat driver for almost 2 hours. He supposed to pick us up at 8am. As he was still not there by 9am, Rich went back to the ticket ‘office’ and asked them what’s going on. They called the guide and said, he is on the way. We still had to wait an other 40 mins… it was a bit frustrating. I was about to walk back and get the money back but the guy finally arrived. It wasn’t even him who drove the boat, it was a young guy, called Momo. We left on the canal and took us about 25-30 mins to get to the actual lake. It’s amazing!! People were fishing in their own unique way. They held the pedal with their leg and that’s how they balanced themselves while they tried to move the fish net. It was mesmerising to see it, it was like a fisherman’s ballet on the lake. As we went deeper, we started to see the little villages and houses built on the lake. The electricity post is in the water, which was just crazy as we know it isnt the safest thing. But they don’t care, they are just living their life on the lake. We soon found out that these houses aren’t only for living, there are plenty different things going on in them. Our first trip was into a house of silver smith. As we went in, a really pretty Burmese girl explained us how they make the different type of silver objects and jewellery, while we could actually watch 2 men making these things -putting the pure silver in the fire and back to the water, creating fantastic things with their own hands-. She explained how they beat the figures and patterns into the silver cup or how they make the necklace using nothing else but their own hands. If you would know what they do to make our necklaces, bracelets and pendants… it’s incredible. They spend days with just 1 item as it’s a very detailed job. She also took us to a stand where there were plenty of silver jewellery. She took a black stone and she scratched one of the ring on the stone. It came up with a brown colour. Then she took one of their pendant and did the same. The colour came up with white. The reason is, the markets are selling stuff which are only silver plated, NOT real silver, that’s why it comes up with a brown colour. Real silver always white. It was amazing to see there is a measurement for that. She also showed us a really easy way to polish silver without using chemicals. She used a seed from a tree pit it in water and scratched it on the silver. Fantastic result! We went to check out all the jewellery and I could buy lots of them if my travels wouldn’t be about backpacking. Our next trip was into a place I was even amazed by more! It was lotus, silk and cotton weaving, I asked Rich when I saw the sign on the house…clothes made of lotus??? How?? It took a very short time till I found out. As we entered the little wooden house, another pretty girl asked us to sit. A very old lady sat there making something with lotus sticks. Explanation followed very quickly. As the lady broke the lotus sticks, there was fiber looking thing came out from them…she twisted it and you could see a very strong thread..we could try it and that’s how they use lotus for making clothes. The young girl explained that lotus is 7x!!! more expensive than silk because of its limited time for harvest. They can only harvest it during rainy season (which isn’t now) and they need about 4000 lotuses to make one scarf. It’s material is stronger than silk. During rainy season, the ladies can make 15m of thred in a day, when it’s dry season, it’s only 10m a day. After that amazing presentation, she took us all around so we could see how they make different type of scarfs using different materials. We saw how they colour the silk to create the different patterns on the scarf. They basically tie the threads together creating the pattern then they start to dye the different parts with different colours leaving always one bit white. They do it for 3 days then leave it to dry. The dyed threads will be used then on the ‘sewing’ machine to create the scarfs. It’s really hard to explain as it was so much infomation and also seeing how it’s made…again, amazing. The third trip was a very short but interesting one. We went to see the tribes with the long neck. These are the ladies who put so many rings around their neck, it stretches. We’ve seen them weaving as well and they were really nice, they let me take a photo. A lady explained that they start to put the rings when they are 5 years old and with the years they add longer ones until they get 22 rings around their neck. That is the maximum they put on. They sleep, eat, wash and live with it, some of them as long as their lifetime. They can take it off, it doesn’t cause a problem but there is a slight discolouration under the rings and also, the muscle gets weaker. It takes about 3-4 days to get used to not having them. Today less and less women wears them as it’s not a necessity any more, it’s more like either keeping the culture or for having them so long, they don’t want to get rid of them.

The rest of our trips lead us to pagodas, monasteries, a place where they showed us how they make cigars (Cuba was better) and also how they make their boats. In the end into a floating garden. Not flower garden but proper garden where they plant vegetables and other sort of food, we did have lunch half way through and I tasted a really nice special river fish ☺️

As we were heading back my head was full of with thoughts and the memories about this mystical and wonderful world. They work, they eat, they socialise, they literally live on this fantastic lake using all of its resources they need to stay alive in this very unusual and unique environment. It was definitely a memory of a lifetime and everything I’ve learnt here will stay in me forever.

As we arrived back to the hostel, we decided to book the flight ticket -yes, I know lastminute.com as always- but guess what? Internet didn’t work… we got on the 11 hours journey without even having a flight for our next destination. We arrived to Yangon today at 6am and decided to go straight to the airport. We booked the flight here for tonight to Phnom Penh, Cambodia -flight tickets are killing our savings, it cost us £114/ ticket- which arrives tomorrow morning at around 8am.. yes, it’s gonna be a very long journey. We have to wait at this airport for 14 hours then at Bangkok -we change flight there- an other 7h 40mins plus the 2x 1.5 hours journey in between. But tomorrow I’ll already be in a new country and I’m excited to see it’s offers.*

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