From Bagan we took a 10 hour bus ride to the east of Myanmar, to Inlay Lake. The scenery certainly started to change as the plains turned into lush green hills and winding roads as we crawled up high.
We stopped along the way to drop some people off at Kalkaw – the hiking mecca of Burma! Dave and Alan were doing a 3 day trek from Kalkaw to Inle Lake including a nights stay in a forest monastery.
Inle is a small lake side town, so we hired bikes and cycled around, booking a boat tour to the lake along the way.
We travelled out on a long tail boat, through the river and out on to Inle lake. One of the first sights we see is the ‘ one leg rowers’ this doesn’t mean people with only one leg…it’s the style in which they row, wrapping themselves around the ore with one leg – very strong men! The guide book said that they thought these men were only ‘turning it on’ for the tourists but I didn’t get that impression at all from what I saw. These fishermen were working hard for a catch. I saw some with baskets of fish and some with full boats of the river weed which they sell.
We said to the driver that during our trip we did not want to see any shops whatsoever…so naturally we ended up going to all of them! We visited the silver smiths on the lake and watched how they handcrafted the beautiful jewellery. I brought a ring and Kristina brought a necklace. Then we went on to the silk factory…scarfs were purchased…and then on to the parasol workshop and Kristina brought one of those too. The main reason we didn’t want to go shopping was so we didn’t spend any money! Tut tut.
Anyway, we cruised through the floating village were all the wooden houses are built up on stilts, there are handmade boats by the front doors instead of bikes and cars. The floating gardens were lovely. Inle lake is home to the floating tomato plants…tomatoes galore! Inle supplies the country. We opted for lake fish and a delicious tomato salad for lunch!
After lunch we visited a monastery by the lake. On the outside, just a normal looking monastery but on the inside it’s full of ‘Enlightened cats!’ Now I’m not much of a cat lover but this had to be seen. Apparently the monks there had trained the cats to jump on request… We witnessed cats actually jumping through hoops! Most bizarre. Trained or enlightened? Who knows but funny all the same.
A tour of the Inle lake area just wouldn’t be complete without visiting some people from one of the local tribes ‘ the long necks.’ Just as the name suggests, these women have copper rings wrapped around their necks and more are added as they get older, therefore creating ‘ a long neck.’ We met two young girls with perhaps 8 rings of this heavy copper around their necks and an elderly woman with about 14 – a very long neck! The elderly woman was very smiley and our boat driver told us she can no longer take the copper off as her neck is so fragile it could snap!
The guide book said the feeling was these tribes were continuing this tradition purely for tourists but I’m not so sure. I think the elderly woman was beaming with pride at those two younger girls.