Oof. Today was exhausting.
I have to say, its better than being asked if we’re married. It seems that most people here don’t understand that platonic friends can travel together. I guess this one is a pretty large cultural difference.
We had an earlier start than normal today as we wanted to get out on the lake – which is really why we’re here. We ate breakfast and then headed down to the boat jetty to hire a boat for the day. I think the two of us are getting pretty skilled at this whole bartering thing as we knocked the $30 price tag down to $20 – which is an entire night somewhere. Not bad for a 6 hour day trip.
Our first stop was a market directly across the lake from Nyaung Shwe. It took us an hour and a half to get there. It was a little rainy on the way but the contrast between the lush green mountains and the grey clouds was beautiful. Especially when it was occasionally interrupted by a gold pagoda.
We got to the market and passed through it on our way to another pagoda. We didn’t go inside this one but the view back to the lake was beautiful. On our way back to the boat and stopped to get a few things. I got a bracelet for my sister, and Katelyn ended up buying a bracelet that she really didn’t want to (note: don’t try things on and then say no, also there were tears). We navigated the mud back to the boat and were soon on our way to the next stop.
After the market we headed to a silk weaving shop. We got to see how they make lotus fibres into string to weave with, and we also saw how they weave traditional silk scarves. The scarves were gorgeous, and of course the one that I wanted to buy (but didn’t) was $330. Who knew a plain black scarf could cost so much. Yes, lotus is expensive but that is a little crazy.
Our next stop was another shop where they made boats (like the one we were on) and cheroot cigars. We learned that the longneck boats take one month to make, cost $2500 to buy and will last for ~20 years. Add that to the fact that they are completely made out of teak and that makes it a bargain. If you need that kind of stuff. We also saw some fishing boats being made. I have no idea how they guys sit in them as they are incredibly shallow. After the boats we watched some ladies making cigars from Cheroot (a local plant) and then we were off!
Our driver and guide both asked us if we wanted to go to another pagoda but we both said no. 15 minutes later we showed up at that pagoda. I guess no means yes here. Oh well, it was quite interesting. This is another pagoda where men add gold leaf to statues of Buddha – albeit not as big as the one in Mandalay. Over time the buddhas have turned into giant gold blobs on a table. Fun. Some lady walked over to me and handed me a bag of stuff that looked like food, I thought it was free and she came after me and wanted me to pay her. I handed it back and said thanks anyway and she walked away confused. A few seconds later I heard some ladies giggling and chatting in burmese about “OK thanks”.
We piled back onto the boat and headed to a silver workshop. It was really neat to see how they hand make lots of jewelry using really old tools. Katelyn bought a few things because she got a “special price just for her”, but I didn’t (mom, if you’re reading this you are the most confusing person to buy for and I don’t know what to get you).
Soon, we were back on our boat heading to see some long necked women. This is one of the local cultures around here and while it was interesting to see it made the two of us feel a little uncomfortable as there were only a few women sitting in the middle of a gift shop.
We were on our way to our final stop shortly thereafter – the jumping cat monastery. There were lots of cats but none jumped. A+ advertising. We took a look around, saw some cute kittens and then made a pit stop. As I was waiting for Katelyn our boat driver walked over to me and we started chatting about life,etc. He asked me if Katelyn and I were married, I said now, and then he said “friends” and banged his hands together. Again I said no, and he was confused. But then told me I should wait until I’m at least 30 to get married.
We were soon back on our way to Nyaung Shwe, but we took a little detour through some floating gardens. They were beautiful and it was neat to see some traditional houses on stilts.
After a long boat ride we were back in town and starving. We ate at a local place and I had the best beef and potato curry ever. I don’t think I’m going to get used to being home where I can’t get a main+ tonnes of sides+ 2 drinks for $4. Step up your game Canada.
We headed back to the hotel and have proceeded to abuse the wifi for the last 2 hours. Sorry guys.
Wow, no witty title today. I must be tired.
We got up early this morning and flew from Mandalay to Heho. Little did we know that Heho was 1.5 hours from Inle Lake. It was a beautiful drive and it reminded me a lot of the drive between Bharatpur and Kathmandu in Nepal. Although, I was snapped out of my reverie quite a few times because the signal lights in our cab sounded like a bike bell that had been stuck on Children’s TV for 10 years. It was that bad.
We arrived in Nyaung Shwe (the city where most of the hotels in Inle are) and got all settled at the hotel. We relaxed for a bit and did laundry before heading out for lunch. We had an ok lunch (nothing special) and then headed off to the Shan State Cultural Museum. The museum had hardly anything in it, but the stuff they did have was pretty cool and taught us a lot about the history of the region. The museum takes up two floors in the State governor’s palace but there was NOTHING on the second floor. It was eerie to walk around the bottom floor of the museum and see nothing and no one.
After we were done there we explored town a little, visited ANOTHER pagoda and found the boat jetty for hiring a boat tomorrow. We went to a market in town, but then realized we had done pretty much everything in town and headed back to the hotel.
We were still full from lunch and rested for a bit, checked the laundry and then headed back out to dinner. We ate an excellent dinner (ft. an amazing banana pancake) at the Lotus Restaurant. By the time we finished, it was pitch black outside so we headed back to the hotel. I’ve been downloading lots of podcasts for our trip (if you haven’t checked out Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids, its wonderful) and Katelyn and I started listening to serial as something to pass the time.
Ok, I super need to shower. You can probably smell me from here.