03 Aug Biking and Boating around Inle Lake
The last stop on our whirlwind tour of Burma was the famous Lake Inle, where we planned on doing some serious relaxing after a hectic and sometimes trying journey through the country. After paying over the odds for some pretty dodgy accommodation in Burma we splurged on a stay at the Princess Garden hotel at £21 per night, which was just what we needed. There was a pool to cool off in from the fierce Burmese heat, free breakfasts of eggs, fruit and pancakes, a lovely one-eyed brown dog to play with and refreshing afternoon shakes on offer.
Boating on Inle Lake
Although it was tempting to simply relax at our hotel, we forced ourselves to get out and visit the lake we’d travelled miles to get to. As seems to be the case in Burma, it’s hard to avoid tours and the only way we could really get out on the lake was to hire a boat and driver to take us on a tour.
Our trip started at 7.30am and we bundled up in jumpers against the cold as we motored off, the enormity of the lake hitting us as we headed across. Almost immediately we were greeted by a fisherman poised on one leg while using the other to control the oars and requesting money for us to take a picture of him.
We moved on to a series of tourist traps, a market, blacksmiths, silversmiths, silk weaving factory and tobacco shop. This got tiring after a while and reminded us of our Mandalay tour and just why we dislike organised trips so much; the insistent pressure to buy things we didn’t need got to us when all we wanted was to take in the natural beauty of the lake.
The journey through the floating gardens was our favourite part of the day, as we sailed through villages and past farmers working in the floating fields, we felt we were catching a glimpse of real life on Inle Lake. Narrow boats filled with local people would pass us and we’d get a polite smile or wave, a welcome relief from all the salesmen.
Our last stop was a dubious one, the Jumping Cat Monastery, so called because monks apparently taught the animals to literally jump through hoops in exchange for tourist dollars. We weren’t too sure about the ethics behind this but couldn’t help being intrigued. Luckily though, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, we didn’t witness any cat jumping during our time at the monastery.
A Punishing Bike Ride
Put off by our tour experience we decided to head out on our own the next day to explore the area by bike. We started out cycling at a leisurely pace, stopping to take pictures along the way of the fields and buffalos grazing. Just as I was remarking on how flat and nicely paved the road was we hit a bumpy dirt path and began an up-hill struggle through thick dust.
When we finally reached our destination, the hot springs, we realised it was a spa and you needed to pay 10 dollars each to get in. Given that we’d already been to the Polynesian Spa in New Zealand we decided against this and cycled back, dreaming of sipping a strawberry shake and sliding into the cool depths of the hotel pool.
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