Getting to Inle lake the road weaves up steeply and then drops down into the valley where the lake is. The views over each side are great, and would be better if it wasn’t for all the smoke in the air. This time of year theres a lot of burning going on and the skies are usually full of smoke.
Coming into the small village they have an entry point where foreign tourists have to pay $10. It’s pretty much a fee to go in the city (a small boring village). The government in Myanmar is really nickel and diming the tourists at every angle. I hung about while everyone paid and just got on my bike and rode by. I avoided paying their bullshit fee. Drama with the French family had been building up to this point and pretty much exploded when we got to the hotel. They were upset about the roads, the long driving days, and not being able to get any sleep. Instead of getting hotel rooms they chose to stay in their camper, but were unhappy with the places they were staying at night. For one reason or another they were getting bad nights sleep. To make a long story short it was a huge scene in front of the hotel filled with crying and screaming, and fighting like babies.
The wife was hysterical at one point. At one point me and the Frenchman got into it and he took it to a personal level, which I never respected him again for. It was so ridiculous and we had to have a group meeting that felt like something off a reality show. A wedge was really driven in the group that would last the rest of the way through Myanmar. The rest of us were separate from the family in almost everything we did. It’s unfortunate how it all turned out, but when you put together a bunch of different personalities its bound to happen.
The part that bummed me out was not hanging out with their kids. The first few days was really fun playing and goofing off with their two girls, but it was never the same after. Unfortunately the girls had to see the big fight and me and their dad yelling at each other. I think the main cause was just stress that boiled over for them. Some of the days could be tough, especially driving a large camper on these roads and having two young kids to deal with. Aung, our guide, looked like he was about to have a meltdown and couldn’t handle everything. Him and me went down by the boat canal and drank a bottle of local wine at sunset to chill out. Then later when I came down from the shower the guys had a gift for me, another bottle of wine. Apparently we were going to drink our sorrows away. After the group meeting accomplished little and upset more people, the guide, driver, young money man, another couple guys from Burma Senses, and I went out. We ended up with a table full of empty mugs, whiskey bottles, and big laughs. The Myanmar guys are a jolly bunch to get loopy with. Eventually we made our way back to the hotel and i was one eyeing it on my laptop in the hallway when Aung found me and announced round two. We stayed up late in their room drinking big bottles of beer on the floor and listening to the old government official snoring with room rattling power. The second round got me, or maybe it was the wine, whiskey, and beer mixed together, but I was a bit rough for the early morning boat trip to the lake. Boats aren’t the friendliest places for a hangover, but as we sped up through the canal towards the lake it gradually disappeared.
The crisp morning air cuts into you and wakes up every inch. It’s a full day trip out on the lake and in the many canals. The lakes in the hills of Shan State at almost 3000 feet so the nights and mornings are fresh and chilly. Around 70,000 people are spread out in four cities and numerous small villages surrounding the lake.
Unfortunately the water isn’t the cleanest since most of the toilets are going straight into the it. They really utilize every bit of area along the lake. Canals are constructed everywhere and they are farming all the available soil.
Most people of the lake live a fairly simple life. The fishermen use their traditional methods to catch the next meal or sale, groups tend to the fields, and women wash clothes and dishes off the front steps. All the houses are built up high on stilts, which reflect off the lake.
There’s a big market on the opposite side of the lake that feels like stepping back in time. It reminded me of an old western movie where people are trading. The colors and vibe was out of the past.
The old ladies carry large bundles of firewood on their heads, men shape knives and carve them (with some serious toe skills), fish ladies proudly show off their catch, families load up their boats, and the market bustles away until the late afternoon when it slowly fizzles out.
The final ox-carts are loaded up and led away. The little shop fries up snacks to fill up on before heading back out on the lake.
A large two story shop built high up over the water is the home to a bunch of old ladies weaving or sewing or whatever it’s called. They have big old fashioned looking contraptions and are making scarves and other stuff out of silk. I really like faces with character, and these ladies faces told a long story. The deep wrinkles show a lifetime of ups and downs.
I would love to sit and listen to one of them jabber away. The guys on the lake paddle their boats up front with their leg. They wrap it around the end of the paddle and do a strange motion. Apparently its so that they can be completely upright to be able to see ahead of them and for fish, and so they have a free hand to work with. It was nice to have a day off at Inle and not have to ride anywhere. I loved almost everything about the place except for one pagoda we went to. I think they’ve made a bad rule. Don’t scare the ladies off.
Inle is probably the prettiest area we went through in the country.