Our time in Kalaw was short but it was time to move on to our next destination: Inle Lake. We spent the afternoon exploring our new home by weaving our way through the bazaar and getting lost in the back streets until we found an Italian restaurant – The Golden Kite. If you have a hankering for Italian food and carbs than this is the place you want to find!
The next day we started early for a full day on the lake. Again, it wasn’t what I was expecting at all but this seems to be the charm that is Myanmar, it will just keep surprising you.
We got into our long boats that looked like they might sink just with my weight and took off. We had 3 boats in total with 4 to each boat and they were all decked out with chairs, blankets, umbrellas and a bottle of water each. If you leave for the lake early in the morning, I’d recommend you take at the very least a jumper with you as we found it very cold and it’s about 45mims until you reach the ‘main hub’. If you are staying on the lake this will obviously be different.
Our first stop was to the markets (of course). This is quite an amazing place to stop at as there are a lot of souviner stalls but as you battle your way through the crowds you will also see it’s a place for the locals as well. Off to the side you can see locals selling freshly caught fish which are still jumping around on the paper and as you keep going you will see fresh fruit and vegetables being sold. It’s also a great photo opportunity with the amount of boats that are tied up around these markets.
The next few stops were to some workshops where you could see the process of making certain items and then purchase the products in their store. These places are mainly set up for tourists but still worth a visit I think as their processes are quite interesting to watch. We visited the lotus leaf weaving, blacksmith, cigar rolling and a silversmith.
After lunch we visited a pagoda and then on to my much anticipated stop – the long neck women or Kayan people.
We weaved our way through little canals and even had floating merchants latch themselves onto our boat to sell their wares and made our way to what I thought was the village of this tribe only to be disappointed. There were 4 long neck ladies here, 2 older women and 2 young girls. 3 were sitting outside on seats where you just took photos of them and there was one older lady inside weaving. They were just on display for tourists to take photos of them. They seemed very happy though but it was definitely not what I was expecting at all. I later found out that there aren’t many left that continue with this practice as the young girls want to go to school and don’t want to wear the gold rings.
We finished the day off by making our way through the floating gardens and watched farmers tend to their crops from their boats. Be sure to pick up some biscuits for the seagulls too. You will have a good laugh as they follow your boat while you feed them.
On our way back in the open lake we even got a chance to see the Intha fishermen who have a distinctive one-legged rowing technique. The fishermen stand holding a long paddle in one hand and wrap one leg around the paddle to row. This frees up their other hand to be able to cast their large conical net in shallow waters. This is quite a draw for Inle Lake and the fishermen love to pose for tourists by doing some acrobatics for the cameras. If you are a lover of photography I would definitely recommend staying on the lake itself so you can see the fishermen early in the morning on calm waters before the tourists start rolling in.
After an amazing day on the lake the next day we decided to treated ourselves to a sleep in and a bit of luxury for the day. We hired a mega tuk tuk to take us to the Hot Springs which was about half an hour away from our hotel. We opted for the easy way but you can hire bicycles and cycle there as it’s only 10km away. However, we didn’t quite anticipate the bumpy road that laid ahead so I’m not sure if it would have been worse on a bicycle or better.
The hot springs are man made and they have the option of a public pool which is one pool and both locals and foreigners can enter but it’s split into female and male sections for 5,000 kyat or they have the private option which has 3 smaller pools of varying temperatures, showers, deck chairs, private bar where only foreigners can enter and you can have both males and females in there for 9,000 kyat. We obviously went for the latter partially because we had a mixed group but mainly because of the luxury the private springs held! After traveling for a couple of weeks these springs were heaven! Cocktails brought to us by the pools, a bit of sunbathing and chilling out with a book was exactly what we needed!
We could stay there forever but alas we had a winery to visit! We jumped back into our mega tuk tuk and headed to the Red Mountain Estate Winery. If you ever find yourself in Inle Lake, I would definitely recommend you immerse yourself in this winery. The food here was delicious and the wine was just as good if not better and at $10 US a bottle how could you not pass up visiting this place? After a few glasses of wine under our belts and a couple of bottles for the road we made our way back to our hotel but not before a pit stop to the local roller skating rink. Yes, you read that right, we stopped at a roller skating rink and a few of us put on some skates and skated around with the local kids. Of course the local kids all thought it was hilarious watching three tourists fall on their bums and grab for the poles while they skated circles around us! But it was a great end to our time in Inle Lake!
Our adventure in Myanmar is almost coming to an end but check out the next post about the Golden Rock