We took a flight from Bagan to Heho, the nearest airport to Inle Lake in Shan state (a couple of inches to the right of Bagan on the map) and as we arrived early rather than go directly to the hotel, we made a few stops in the morning. We stopped briefly at a small parasol workshop where they explained how they make parasols by hand (the ones used by monks), another local market, a monastery and then we went up to the Red Mountain Winery.
I had asked the guide if we could stop at a traditional tea shop, they are famous here for their tea shops and I wanted to try a local tea. It’s a black tea brewed for hours and then mixed with condensed milk – it tastes as dodgy as it sounds but they served it with an amazing stuffed paratha (Indian flaky bread) with a yellow pea dip that was delicious.
After a wine tasting and a long boozy lunch at the winery, we just relaxed at the hotel in the afternoon. Our hotel was a collection of bungalows set right on the edge of Inle Lake and at sunset there was some amazing cloud reflections on the water.
The next morning we got up early and set off for a big day of lake related activities. It was very sharp light in the morning and there were lots of fisherman out on their boats. They have a unique way of rowing the boat with one leg so that they have both hands free to catch fish with a net, a harpoon or a cage.
It took about an hour to get down to the southern part of the lake where we went to a floating market, the jumping cat monastery and a lotus and silk workshop. They make thread from the fibres of the lotus plant stem and then use it for weaving.
That night we went out to a local restaurant in the village and came home on a ‘Mercedes’ – (a trailer attached to a tractor!) and unfortunately it was starting to rain. Restaurants here have been a bit disappointing on the whole. They seem to take forever to serve dishes and then normally it comes out cold. I think once again I was spoiled by Cambodia’s amazing restaurant scene.
On our final day at Inle Lake the weather was deteriorating so we had been lucky to get some good fisherman photos the day before. We took a boat again, down to the villages on the southern part of the lake for some ‘soft trekking’ (strolling about) in a circle through the countryside and back to the starting village.
It was interesting but I’m not sure I am entirely comfortable with these types of trips – walking around and taking pictures of the locals seems really intrusive and we also stopped off at a school and completely disrupted their morning.
After a really nice lunch in the village we took the boat home and it was getting very overcast and damp. By evening it was pouring down with rain and it was cold. I felt very sorry for the people just arriving as they must have had a pretty miserable day on the lake.
We had a traditional Shan banquet in the evening and took a delayed flight in the morning back to Yangon. I said goodbye to everyone last night and I’m now flying solo until Wednesday when I will set off again to the beautiful Myeik Archipelago.