Posts Tagged With: Inle Lake

Inle Lake Essentials

The gateway to Inle Lake is Nyaungshwe. It’s a nice town with a backpacker vibe.

Transportation
I came from Kalaw where I took a pick-up at 6:30 am bound for Tuanggyi. I was let-off at Shwenyaung, which is the junction for Inle Lake and hour and a half after.

From Shwenyaung, you can take a taxi or a pick-up. I chatted the entire pick-up for 5,000. If you ride with others,  it costs 2,000.

Heading to Mandalay, I bought my VIP night bus departing at 8pm at Joy Hotel. It includes transport to Shwenyaung. You get a reserved seat as the hotel  calls up the bus company for the booking.

There are buses to Bagan. JJ Express seems popular.

Sleeping
Stayed at Joy Hotel which is at the jetty. Cheap rooms with shared bathroom. My guide told me 888 Guesthouse has really cheap rooms.

Eating
My favorite place is  Sin Yaw which is just across Minglar Market. Cheerful and attentive English-speaking youngish staff and delicious Bamar, Shan, and Inle food. Linn Htet has good Burmese set meals. Coffee and snacks at Thu Kha. Head to Minglar Market for 500 kyat noodles.

Boat Trips
Booked a trip to Inthein for 20,000 at my hotel.  Booked directly at the boat dock for Thaung Thut and Kaik Taing for 20,000. These are standard prices for trips to the southern part of the lake. Shorter ones are 15,000.

Market
Enjoyed the 5-day markets at Inthein and Ywama. Got very nice Shan cotton shirts for less than 10,000 (bargained down from 15,000) at the latter. When bargaining,  start  with 50% off the quoted price.

Day Trek
So-so. Not really worth it unless you have extra time. You van just take a bike and see the sights such as the cave monastery and the winery. I was told that the overnight trek is better.

Money
There is a KBZ bank and atm machine across Minglar Market.

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Hiking in Nyaungshwe

Went on a one-day hike at Nyaungshwe which I booked at Sunny Day Tours. As my Bamar guide told me, a  day hike is too short to really visit villages. He was right. There really wasn’t much to see. There were good views but not really something to hike for.

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What it lacked in views, however,  was somehow compensated by the meditation cave and the school I visited.

The cave is really nice and you can go to some deeper nooks with  a torch.

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You exit  at the orher side where there’s  a nice meditation  room.

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Down some steps  and back to the village.

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I visited the school which runs on donations by a Japanese  couple.  This is the second one I visited  in this trip;  the first one being in Sagaing. It was fun taking pictures of the kids who got a kick out of seeing themselves on my phone screen.

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We rested  at a shady spot on a monastery.

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Another Day At the Lake and the Search for “Cho Peng”

The boatman I had made arrangements with two days ago for today’s trip to Thang Tuo didn’t show up. Maybe he’d  forgotten. On my way to the jetty, a middle-aged woman approaches me and offers a boat. The price for Thaung Thut with a side trip to Kyauk Taing and  Kuang Kan is 20,000 which is standard. She brings me to the boat which looks like any other boat. I am told the trip would take 2 hours as the boat wouldn’t go very fast.

True, it didn’t go very fast especially when we enter the channel which, based on the map, leads to Thang Tuo. We meander steadily along which is fine with me as I get to enjoy the views. Unfortunately, I also need to really go to the toilet.  We have been on the water for for close to 2 hours already and what seems like the last of the restaurants by the water where I could have taken a pee has gone by. I am seriously thinking of asking the boat man if he could stop by one of the porches so I could get off and pee on the water. Thinking we are near anyway, I hold on. Then the boat stops and the driver says something to two boys fishing that sounded like,  “Cho peng.” The boys shake their heads.  We move on. A few minutes later,  he stops at a house and says it again.  The man by the window points to the direction we had come from and make gestures. I then realize the boatman is asking for directions and cho peng is the name of a place!  I tell him we are going to Thaung Thut and that I need to go to the toilet. “Thaung Thut, he answers” and  points north. “Cho peng,” he repeats.  I ask if we are going to cho peng. He says yes and that we are also going to Thaung Thut and Kyaing Kan. I figure its an additional village so why not.  By this time,  I have quite forgotten my bladder and have shifted to thinking about where we areheaded to. One more stop for directions and we are pointed to a narrow and shallow channel choked with water lilies.

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The water was so shallow I can see the bottom.  Soon we reached dry land and the boatman said something to a woman on the shore.  He told me to follow her. I’m thinking, maybe she’ll guide me to the toilet. “Toilet?” “Yes, yes. Have pottery.” She takes me past rows of empty market stalls. She tells me she has pottery and I tell her aboit the toilet. I’m really ready to pee by now and I rush to the toilet as soon as she points it out.

I ask her what place this is and she answers, “pottery.” I could definitely see we are at a pottery workshop.
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I did say to the woman who arranged the boat earlier that I was interested in pottery, I really don’t think this seemingly remote and out of the way place, is the place for it. I mean, do I really need to get off the beaten path for some pottery? I am fine with Kyauk Tieng which  is on LP. Aaarghh. I point to the floor and repeat, “place?” Again, “cho peng.” I open my LP and realize Kyauk Tieng is “cho peng.” We have arrived at the pottery village. My boatman did not take me to the frontiers. He was right on the itinerary. I now understand what is going on. We head to the southern most point of our itinerary which is this pottery village  and head back to Ngyaungshwe with Thaung Thut as the last stop. 

I settle down and let the woman demonstrate what else, pottery.
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From a single mound of clay, ,she makes several pieces.
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I try my hand at making a piece. “Beautiful,” she tells me. On display are some small glazed pieces. I settle on some figurines of the different ethnic groups in Myanmar and a Nativity scene which comes in its own wooden box. They all cost at a bargained-down price of 18,000.
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While she wraps my stuff, I take a quick peek at the village. I am the only tourist and everything is quiet.
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A cow idly sits by.
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Men do what they normally do in the village which is to pack some stuff (grains maybe?) onto sacks
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Or pump some muddy stuff
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Or get a piglet.
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Houses are quiet.
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Tomorrow, these market stalls will come to life when the rotating 5-day market goes off.
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In the meantime, it is refreshing to be at a village where all is quiet.
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Kyauk Taing is a Shan and Pa’o village. The woman is Shan and on the way to the boat, we meet a Pa’o woman dressed in her traditional indigo blouse and headwear.
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Back at the edge of the village. These vases are ready to be brought to some market.
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Two tourists, a couple with a guide, arrive and I am back on my boat.

Next stop is a workshop where women are making threads out of lotus stems and then finally to Thaung Thut!

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Inle Lake: Inthein, Pagodas, Gardens, and Cats That Weren’t Jumping

The boat with the driver I had booked via the hotel was ready by 8am as promised. We made our way to the jetty just behind the hotel.

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Joining him as  navigator  and occasional  rower was a lovely lady and her cute son. Perhaps, they were the boatman’s family.  Both of them spoke no English except the basic phrases needed for the trip.

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I had booked the boat all for myself as I wanted to go through the trip at my own sweet time.

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We made our way out of the channel and into the wide expanse of the lake.  I ignored the guys on boat waiting by the mouth of the channel ready to strike the iconic “fishing” pose of the Intha. I’d rather give my money to the guys who are actually doing some fishing.  This is how the Intha fish nowadays.

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It was very cold but not windy. The lake is so wide that even with a hundred boats it doesn’t feel crowded. All that cold plus the cups of hot water I had at breakfast made me want to pee. Fortunately,  we were at a channel and nearby was a restaurant that had a toilet!

Back to the boat. Our destination was Intha whose turn it was to have the revolving 5-day market.  The way to it is very nice as leafy banks line the channel.

Souvenir stalls line the entire path from the jetty to the village.  The items on sale are actually very nice and the sales people aren’t very pushy.  The market wasn’t  as large nor as busy as I expected it to be. There seemed to be more tourists looking at the souvenir stalls than locals doing some marketing.

Away from the market and to the crumbling stupas of Nyaung Ohak. The ruins are spread on a very small area but still makes for interesting, albeit  short, exploration.  Up the road to Shwe Inn Thein Paya with its zedi ruins.

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A lot of new structures have been built on the name of reconstruction. Looks a bit too colorful for me, though.

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Made my way back to the main street via the long  covered walkway lined with more souvenir stalls.  Bought some flutes from this guy.

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Spent close to 2 hours at Inthein. The ruins are really nice to wander around and the souvenir stalls make for interesting browsing. Lots and lots of curious including music instruments.

We stopped at one of the restaurants by the channel called Blue Sky. Ordered a vegetable fried rice which was quite bland.

Next stop was Phaung Oo Dawa Paya, a large temple which houses four important buddhas who have been transformed into amorphous blobs by the thickness of the gold leaf applied to them through the decades. It took a while before I got out as I had forgotten I had left my shoes by the complex’s entrance and not at the paya’s which I had been circling looking for them.

We made our way to the Floating Gardens which were patches of uhhmm.. gardens.  The boat’s motor died twice here maybe because it was getting caught in the water lilies or weeds. From there, it was a short trip to the Jumping Cat Monastery. No cats were jumping, however. The buddhas were very interesting as they had features that are very unique to Shan style.

Look at this one looking so magnificent.

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This one even more.

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This reclining buddha is surrounded by adoring figures which is a feature you don’t normally see in buddhas such as those found in Thailand.

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Even more interesting is this group of figures. See the one lying prostate?

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The monastery is very spacious and true to Shan style, had numerous teak posts— 600 to be exact!

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Another Shan feature is that the buddha shrines are at the center.

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I don’t know of these people are just having snack of nuts and tea or paying their respects to the monk on a chair.

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These ones were definitely venerating the buddha.

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It was past 3:30 when I left the monastery and took the boat back to Ngyaungshwe. I noticed many boats going the opposite direction. Maybe there’s sunset viewing? Or perhaps they spent the day at the town and  were making their way back to their accommodations at the lake. 

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Kalaw to Inle Lake

“Toilet, ” was all I could mutter to the guy who asked me if I was heading to Inle Lake as soon as I disembarked from the pick-up. I’ve been wanting to pee since that stop just outside Aungban. The cold always makes me pee and with the freezing temperature, I was ready to bust my bladder. “No toilet,” he remarked then pointed to a grassy area behind some stalls. I rushed and quickly relieved myself  oblivious to some passing people.

I was in Shwengyau, the junction for Ngayungshae in Inle Lake exactly 90 minutes  since departing from Kalaw at 6:45.

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I had not planned on taking the pick-up but a woman I asked about the small local bus parked by the stop pointed me to it. “To Inle?” I inquired,  pointing  to the bus.  “Taunggyi,” came the answer. I knew that all Taunggyi-bound transport would pass through Shwengyau  but the woman didn’t seem to know that. She led me to the pick-up a few meters away. The driver and the conductor assured  me they would drop me off at Shwengyau. Fare is 4,000. I huddled with 3 others on one side of the pick-up while another and the conductor took the other. It read freezing cold! The pick-up made a few stops to drop-off and pick-up some packages. It never took more than a few minutes. The drive was mostly downhill and we went quite fast. We passed through a few towns and villages then finally Shwengyau!

After peeing, I took a pick-up for 5,000 (2,000 if I would  wait for additional passengers) to take me directly to Joy Hotel.

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The trip took less than 30 minutes including stopping by the “gate” to pay the 10,500 kat fee. The hotel is along Jetty Road squeezed  in by roadside stalls so it was slow going. Fortunately, there were available rooms as my Agoda reservation was still for the 31st. The standard room I was given was in the newer annex next door. It was spacious and had good comfortably thick mattresses. After the horrible rooms at Golden Lily, it felt 5-star.

Spent the rest of the day just walking around. I like the vibe of the place and I am so glad I came here in advanced.

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