When the morning alarm went off, I crept out of bed and slipped out to our small balcony, hoping to see a sunrise that was as magnificent as the sunset the night before. The sun was no where in sight, and the sky was just a mass of dull shades. But before I could register my demise, the sharp chill hit me, and I had to run back in to announce, “OMG guys it’s fucking cold.” It is of utmost necessity that I make a big deal out of the cold weather because I’m Singaporean, and anything below 25°C is something to shout about. It was 15°C that morning, and we were just so bemused because we didn’t do our research at all, and was expecting a hot and humid climate throughout Myanmar.
After a lavish breakfast of eggs, toast, a platter of mixed fruits, and tea served by the scurrying girls that run Hotel Brilliant, we were lead into the mini van that would take us to the edge of Inle lake to begin our boat tour. The open-air ride through the foggy morning made us shudder, and overhearing the other American passengers pronounce the names of Burmese cities with their overtly American accent made us snigger.
We got a longtail boat to ourselves, as did the rest of the tourists, and we only forked out 20,000k (USD20) in all for ours. The tour package also came with a dashing captain, who would be our tour guide for the day.
Our handsome and skilful captain navigated us out of the tight artery, and we soon made it out onto a wider stream and into the arms of mother nature.
It took us about an hour to reach the mouth of the lake, and we were soon greeted with a sight that we’ve seen a hundred times while researching on Inle Lake.
They rowed the boat by wrapping one leg around the paddle, and waded the pole around like it was part of their body. The action made them look like hobbling captain hooks though. Found a video that depicts exactly how they do it:
The lake stretched out for miles in all directions, and if you drifted off into a reverie, you would’ve thought that you were out in the open sea. Despite Inle Lake’s reputation for being overcrowded with tourists, we still felt like we were the only ones on the waters sometimes because the lake was large enough to give every tourist a genuine sense of tranquillity. Without tourists walking into the frame every few seconds, capturing gorgeous photos was pretty easy here.
We then came alongside some floating tomato gardens (not in season though), and our handsome boatman tried to charm us into stepping onto the floating vegetation to no avail. One reason we decided to stay put is because the moment he set foot on it, something like 50 mosquitoes arose and started buzzing around in search for their newest victim.
The first obligatory tourist stop was a silversmith showroom. We listened patiently to their sales pitch, and then completely bypassed the phony showcase and headed straight for…
Tourist stop number 2 is a little place in land called Indein village.
It was high noon by now, so our boatman led us to our lunch spot at the kelong-style Shwe Yaung Inn for a seafood meal.
Everything tasted really fresh, especially the simply-made yet succulent grilled fish. The stir fried watercress and soya bean paste chicken didn’t disappoint either.
After lunch, we decided to skip all the other stops as they were all tourist-catered workshops which we had zero interest in, and asked our captain to cut short the tour and send us back. The afternoon heat was getting quite unbearable, so imagine our relief when our captain presented each of us a large umbrella to hide under. In this scorching dry climate, outfits that cover up as much skin as you can really proves to be the most effective and comfortable. Lulled by the gentle sways of the boat, I fell into deep sleep in no time under the drowsy heat, waking only halfway through the journey back to take one last glance at the gorgeous lake.
The day before, when we had just arrived at Inle Lake, we too hurriedly booked a night bus to Bagan for today and regretted immediately after seeing the gorgeous sunset at the winery. But it was too late to change plans as the efficient staff of Hotel Brilliant had already booked the seats. If I could edit the trip, I’d definitely spend another day or two at Inle Lake to either do the Kalaw trek or just cycle around the many other villages dotted around the lake.
But oh well. We had to pack up and jump aboard the 9-hour overnight bus towards Bagan, which we each paid 13,000k (USD14) for. I’ve always loved bus rides, but this one was blasting country music and Celine Dion. But even with that, I managed to be lulled into a good night’s sleep.
Next, magical Bagan.