Kalaw & Inle Lake
Our next stop was a flight to Heho for trekking in Kalaw and then onto Inle Lake. We got to our hotel early in the morning to drop our bags off and wait for our guide for the next 36 hours. He was late, and too be honest he didn’t get any better. The trip itself was pretty but our guide just walked in front of us chewing his tobacco and not really communicating with us unless completely necessary. The homestay was exactly the same. They fed us well but nobody chatted with us or made us feel welcome which needs to be addressed. Maybe we were just unlucky as a few other tourists we saw said they had a better experience. After another morning of solid walking we got back to our hotel and the pre-arranged massage. It wasn’t great but was good to get your feet rubbed after all the walking we had done.
Early next morning we caught the local train to Inle Lake which had some lovely views along the way, if not actually on the train (guy sleeping in front of us with no shoes on and shirt undone). Unfortunately our ‘ride’ to the hotel was not at the station to pick us up but the guards at the station let us use their phone and an hour later we were on our way into Inle Lake which as a town/city is a lot bigger than Bagan and Kalaw. After the somewhat disappointing experience of certain aspects of Kalaw this was much better especially as our guide was enthusiastic and on time and he made our trip a lot better. Inle Lake is a large freshwater lake where over 70,000 people call home. You get to see and experience lots of different things on the lake, from the local fishermen who use their legs to row (very impressive), to watching the locals make their own cigars which you can sample once finished (although both non-smokers, Aida seemed to like a little too much!!). All this whilst washing it down with a bottle of the local beer.
At certain times of the year you may also be lucky to see the local long neck tribes. The woman wear these heavy brass neck rings which were initially used to make women look less attractive to rival villagers (they certainly succeeded) but now it seems its all for tourism and seeing young girls in their early teens having these on their necks makes many feel rather sad. But you still take a photo regardless!! We also got to see a restaurant with lots of Burmese Cats wondering around. Now I’m not a fan of cats at all so I can’t say that this was my favourite part of the trip but they are impressive none-the-less.
We got to get up close and personal with some of the villagers and to see them just enjoying life without all the mod-coms we take for granted is so great to see. The kids are in the river swimming with the water buffalo’s, the women are doing their own thing, the guys likewise, all without a care in the world it seems.
Our guide took us some of these really old Pagodas which reminded me a bit of being a mini Angkor Watt. They actually were very close together and we got some great photos and took away some great memories.
On our last day we rented some bikes and headed off to the Ruby vineyards! Now you may go to vineyards all over the world when you are travelling, I’ve been in South Africa, Canada, New Zealand but to say you have been one in Myanmar and have to take a 20 minute bike ride to reach there is something different. It isn’t the greatest wine tasting tour in the world but the scenery is lovely as you relax and contemplate the bike ride back into town.
Once we handed our bikes over we picked up our bags and headed for the overnight bus back to Yangon. Now this was not the best experience either of us has had on a bus as it was like being on a roller coaster and Aida found that the sick bags on offer where well used. If money is no object I’d certainly recommend skipping the bus and flying back!!
We arrived in Yangon in the early hours and with an afternoon flight where in a bit of a quandary on what to do. We decided to head straight to the airport and chance our arm at getting on the earlier flight back to KL. Deep down I knew it wouldn’t be allowed as we were flying with Air Asia and they don’t allow this (well, you can but you buy the new ticket and forfeit your own…crazy). As a result we hung around the airport for 5 hours as we had used up all our money and with two rucksacks there was nothing else worth doing. Not the greatest end to a fabulous trip but it gave me a chance to finish my book and reflect on some great memories.