Inle Lake is a very beautiful, tranquil and special place to visit in Burma or Myanmar. There are many hotels on the lake, maybe the best Myanmar has to offer. We stayed at the Inle lakeResort and Spa. It was off season and we were almost alone in a big resort and spa, so the prices were discounted for massages, which is always a big plus.
Even in the off season, there is a lot to see. Of course everywhere you go,you go by boat.
The lake area supports about 70,000 people. Many of them are fishermen. They fish in an unusual manner.
Every year in September/October there is a three week event called Hpaung Daw U Festival.
Included in this festival are races between villages in foot paddled boats. Also during this festival the Royal Barge is brought out of storage and sailed from village to village.
There are numerous villages on the lake. Each one has a different industrious specialty.
There were villages dedicated to silver work, paper making and aqua culture. We visited them all.
If you ever go to Burma or Myanmar, be sure to go to Inle. When you do, be sure to see the lost temples.
One more quirky thing to show you.
That is it for Inle. Thanks for reading please hit share to send this to all your close friends on FB, and if you get truly adventurous, make a comment.
We were warned that the Paro airport in Bhutan is visual only, and the least level of incremental weather shuts it down. Which seems only right because it is surrounded by mountains. They tell you to make any connecting flights with a day lapse in case you cannot get out of Paro. Well, we arrived at the airport on a cloudy morning with drizzling rain. Nothing that would stop an Airbus 320 anywhere else.
However our flight was delayed hours, waiting for perfect weather. Druk air served us lunch and tea in the lobby so that people would not be absent if the clouds lifted.
Our flight was back to Kathmandu. We were not on an 320, but a small prop plane. That meant we should have gotten a great view of Everest.
We got back to Kathmandu on a nice afternoon. We went back to the KGH. We just relaxed for the next day. We spoke with people who had tried to get into Tibet. They actually had their permits and/or visas. But when they got to the border, the Chicoms turned them around, with little or no reason given. We spoke with our travel agent about a visit to Tibet someday, but he was as perplexed by the Chinese constantly changing the rules as we were. Maybe someday we will be able to go, and maybe someday pigs will fly.
We left Kathmandu for Bangkok. We had both been there a few times before, so we looked for something different to do. We signed up for an Intrepid Travel Tuk Tuk tour. It was fun. We saw some interesting and different stuff.
We left BKK for KL. That is Kuala Lumpur. We flew Air Asia, which is an excellent low cost airline that covers that part of the coconut. I hear that the main terminal in KL is beautiful, new and efficient. The low cost terminal is, well, tired.
The KL airport is 1 ½ hours away from KL. We were only going to stay in KL overnight, and leave the next morning so we stayed at a hotel only a ½ hour away, which obviously exists to serve people in transit.
We flew Air Malaysia to a city called Sandakam in the state of Sabah. We were still in the same country, but it was a 2 ½ hour flight, definitely the longest domestic flight I had ever taken in Asia. It was like flying from NY to Chicago. Amazingly, when we got to Sandakam, we had to go through immigration! Oh well, at this point another stamp in my passport is just another stamp.
We were now officially in Borneo. I am not sure just what I expected. Headhunters?
Our tour was arranged through AMAZING BORNEO TOURS. They picked us up at the airport. Our lodge was n the Kinabatangan river, about two hours away. For the next two hours we drove through nothing but palm oil plantations. Miles and miles, thousands and thousands of hectares of land that used to be jungle, is now producing palm oil. It is definitely the cash crop of Sabah. Why all this palm oil? Is this a good or bad thing? Go here to find out.
We got to the lodge after a the long drive. The lodge was OK, nothing to write a blog post about. Our adventure in “wild” Borneo was to start the next day.
The first thing on the agenda was Orangutans. I was thinking that this was the third endangered species I had seen this year, kinda cool. We went to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center. This one of those places that somehow get orphaned or injured critters and raise them until they are prepared to go back into the wild. They showed us an interesting video of their work. I noticed a glaring error and afterward tried to bring it to the attention of the docent. No big deal, but they ought to get their facts straight. I’m no biologist, but I know the film was flawed. This place was billed as a chance to see orangutans play together. After a 45 minute wait at a staged area, in the Borneo heat, we saw ONE. He was led to the feeding area by a refuge worker, and did not look all that enthused about being on display.
we transferred to another lodge where we took trips on the river. On one trip we actually saw Orangutans in the wild, and my favorite, the Jimmy Durante of primates, the Proboscis monkey, on another.
In case I have at all led you to believe we were “explorers” in wild Borneo, this next photo should cancel that idea.
We were treated to a great sunset.
The next day we left the lodge and the river. We drove through palm oil plantations for another hour to see the second cash crop of Sabah, birds nests. Yup, this is the primary source of birds nests for birds nest soup, of which the Chinese are apparently quite fond. They pay a LOT of money for these nests, harvested from a cave.
Well folks, that was it for Borneo. Is it worth your time and treasure to go? Only if you want to say you have been there!
Thanks for reading, share with a friend, make a comment, or go order a bowl of birds nest soup cooked with palm oil.
Bhutan Protects the Timeless Knowledge
There were three floors of the “old” library, each with a shrine to the Buddha.
Bhutan Enters the Digital Age!
Just outside of the capital city of Thimpu, there is a brand new IT Park
Space inside this building has already been leased to Microsoft and other international high tech companies. It will also serve as a start-up bed for Bhutanese entrepreneurs.
The Project Manager for the construction phase is an Australian that goes by the name of Shax. he keeps an interesting blog about the project and life in Bhutan. I suggest you read it, here.
Next post, A sacred ceremony Mary Ann and I performed which was the highlight of my five weeks in Asia.
Please share. Please return. Please comment. Please enjoy.
Yes, Bhutan is a happy place. I mentioned before that the government actually does a yearly census to evaluate the level of happiness and look for ways to make people even happier, now THAT is a wonderment.
I also mentioned that there is a US$250 “tariff” you must pay to visit Bhutan. This is actually a good deal because it includes everything except beer and souvenirs. So, it cost us a bit more ;-). That tariff is actually in place to keep Bhutan from becoming over run with back packers like what happened with Nepal, India and Thailand. I know it sounds snobbish, but thank Buddha they figured that out. The result keeps everyone happy! OK backpackers…snipe away in the comments.
One thing every country wants you to see are the handicrafts. Weaving, carving, and paper making. I always enjoy going because you know what…it is always different in every country, not to mention the best place for souvenirs. (My wife and I have a sort of unspoken but over riding rule, if we see something made, we are going to buy it.)
Besides the crafts, tours in Asia always make sure you see the temples. I know I have been in more Buddhist temples than 95% of the Buddhists on the coconut. But like the weaving, they all have a certain distinctness to them. You have to look hard but it is there. In our travels I have seen the worlds smallest Buddha, and now I have seen the worlds largest under construction Buddha. When he is done, he will just be a big beautiful Buddha, not the worlds largest. Some very rich man from Hong Kong is paying for this project. I wish I could be there when they consecrate it because I am sure it will be a spectacle.
The next post will take a quick look at Bhutan old and new. The ancient library and the brand new technology center. Whatever makes you happy! Stay tuned, share with a friend.
These two events were not on our tour agenda.
On our first full day in Bhutan, we found two towns involved in an archery tournament. Archery is the national sport. I was simply not prepared for what we saw.
These guys were all first rate archers, who had earned the right through years of experience to compete for the town they are from. What I found particularly interesting was that when others were shooting, they would drift away and drink beer and smoke cigarettes! What a cool sport!
As you might imagine, when an archer actually hits the the target it is cause for song and dance. No really, song and dance! Play the following video for “proof”.
I am going to jump ahead a few days. The day of the week is important here. It was a Tuesday, which is “Walking Day” in Bhutan. Private cars are not allowed to be driven. The king asks his people to get off their duffs and walk to work or the market.
In a small town in the mountains (well, Bhutan is mostly small towns in the mountains, but…) we ran across a tournement of taxi drivers playing each other in the second national sport of Bhutan, darts. I am not talking about darts like in some pub. These were serious darts.
They were thrown by serious men!
Like the archery this was not an easy sport.
They really had to chuck it The effort resembled a baseball pitcher.
Of course when they hit the target they sang and danced. Only here, the opposing team members got to harass them a bit!
Next post…hmmm…well, all I’ll promise is more from the land of the Thunder Dragon. Stay tuned.
Our five weeks in Asia started in Kathmandu
We are lucky enough to be able to refer to this as our return to Kathmandu. Dear readers, you really need to be able to look beyond the obvious and not be distracted by the oblivious to enjoy this city. I will not belabor my love for Kathmandu, I explained it all in this post. In a city this old, in a country without a functional national government, nothing much changes so my two year old post is not outdated. We came here because we know a excellent guide/travel coordinator named Shankar Pandy. (You can contact him using the link.) He showed us a great time in 2010 and urged us to return so we could see Tibet and Bhutan. But whatever you do, do not ask Mr.Pandy to carry a cabbage!
This time we stayed at the Kathmandu Guest House. Kathmandu has a plethora of places to stay from hostels to luxury. The KGH covers the entire range. Back in the day, when Kathmandu was a target destination for hippies in Volkswagen vans driving the silk road from Europe, the KGH was the hotel to stay in.
Our last visit to Kathmandu was highlighted by a visit to the Buddhist crematorium on the main river through town. You can always catch a cremation live and in person. No reservation needed or admission fee charged. We decided to see it again. Not only is it sacred and solemn, it is also great theater! It takes place on the Pashantinah Temple which is on the Bagmati river, a tributary to the sacred Ganges.
We did not do much else in Kathmandu, we were anxious to get to Bhutan. Read the next post to see one of the traveler’s gems, the Kingdom of Bhutan.
Please share this with your friends, hit the like button, or make a comment. Thanks for reading and stay tuned!
We always enjoy a good walk through a nice botanical garden. The one in Kandy was stunningly beautiful. I thought this picture would be a nice way to start this post even though, as usual, I am ahead of myself.
Our trip to Kandy, pronounced KhanDEE started at dawn at the Colombo Fort Station. Among the many things the British left behind as their empire collapsed (besides driving n the wrong side of the road and roundabouts) is rail systems. They built them to move goods to market of course. Now days, they do that, they move the locals into the towns to work, and they move travelers and tourists about the country. Personally, I love trains. At a nice slow but quick pace you get to see the countryside away from the cars and trucks on the highways.
The Kandy express was just what the travel doctor ordered. In a few hours we climbed from sea level to Kandy, which is the start of the hill country of Sri Lanka. It sits a mere 500m above sea level, but the difference in climate and flora is very extreme. Kandy sits at 6.8 degrees north latitude (or so says the GPS app on my IPAD) so we are definitely in the tropics and it showed.
The communities we passed by are mostly concrete block buildings with corrugated tin roofs, and banana trees in the yard. I think I have seen this before…hmmm.
Because it was an early morning express we made only one stop. The rest of the small stations we whizzed past had people staring at us. The trains going the other direction, into Colombo, were full of people heading to town to work. I do not know if it was because they were full, or because it was cooler,or if it is just cool, but every car on every train had men hanging on, half in, half out of the car. I found myself wondering how many people fall off on any given year. I got up to have a smoke and decided I would try standing in the doorway. I did, for a coupe of seconds, hopped back in and had a second smoke to calm my nerves.
I began to notice something different from our train trip in India. In India, all along the track, there was litter, disgusting amounts of litter. Not so in Sri Lanka. This cleanliness was apparent for our entire trip.
I also began to see another interesting Sri Lanka custom. When the people erect a Buddha in their town, almost always they encase him in a glass box. I never figured out why. Probably because they have two monsoon seasons each year. I do not know if they air condition the box, but pity poor Buddha if they dont.
We pulled into Kandy right on time and were met by our driver Farzan from www.srilanka.com who had gotten up even earlier than we did to drive there and meet us.
He took us to our hotel where we prepared for a wonderful day in Kandyland. I mistakenly crashed a wedding reception, but things got straightened out.
We were in Kandy on an auspicious day for weddings (according to the astrologers) so we saw a few.
The rest of our stay in Kandy was really nice, and I will cover it in my next post. Teaser: we went to an elephant orphanage, a healing herb garden, and The Royal Botanical Garden.
I have been told by many people to keep my posts short, and try to post something every day. Well, I can do the first thing easy enough. So, thanks for reading, share this around the cyber coconut, and don’t be afraid to tell me what you think with a comment.
Our travel style,in case you are a new reader, is to hire a private guide with a comfortable car who is ours for they duration. We do not just show up and say “whatcha got.” We do our own research with every book we can find, and do not forget my wife is a university librarian. We also peruse all the social media sites, the usual suspects and a few that are truly suspect.
Then we start contacting guides using again every source we can find. If we send someone an email and get no response within 48 hours, that person goes on the dung heap never to be recycled.
That is pretty brutal, but pity the ones who get right back to us. We let them make a proposal in the form of an itinerary. Then we hack at it. They come back with changes. What we are really looking for is a bit of creativity and daring on their part. This consumes a lot of their time. Mary Ann leaves it up to me because I have nothing but time. This puts us in a distinct advantage. We may be playing on their field, but I’m Sandy Koufax and I don’t care where I am pitching.
The person who I ended up choosing was a guy named Johan at Noramix Travels available through www.Srilanka.com. I threw him a few curve balls, and he had a great turn at bat.
All that brings me around to this trip to Sri Lanka.
Sun rise over Sri lanka from our Air Arabia flight, taken with my new IPAD
Now that we were settled into a wonderful room our driver, Farzan, or as he put it “not Tarzan”, started taking us around Colombo. It is pretty port town dating back to the days of spice and tea trade. The Portuguese and English in turn ran the trading businesses through this town. Sri Lnka has been independent since shortly after WWII.
The country suffered through a civil war that just ended a few years ago. The tourism industry is recovering nicely in the south west quarter of the country and a bit slower elsewhere. Colombo shows no signs of the war.
Another thing we saw in Colombo, and everywhere else in Sri Lanka, is a comfortable co-existence of Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and Christian religions. You see it in the temples, mosques and churches and the cultural dress. I wish that were worldwide, alas.
We drove around and saw the city. Nice, but not much to blog about. However we did find one thing I have always wanted to see, a snake charmer.
Then we went to a place that was a combination museum and temple. This museum is more like a warehouse, but it’s full of valuable and beautiful treasures. Some of the shrines and buddhas were actually made of gold or completely covered in diamonds. I was busy taking photos of this cute little Buddhist monk…
…when my wife called out, “You gotta see this”. On my bucket list is the worlds largest Buddha statue, which I quess I will need to go to China to see. I had never considered the worlds smallest Buddha but here he was right in front of me .
We had been travelling across the coconut all night and day, so we went back to the hotel, had our first of many wonderful Sri Lankan meals. We had to get up early in the morning for the trin to Kandeeland!
Next post, Kandee! A wonderful city in the hill country, gateway to the tea plantations of old Ceylon!
Thanks for reading, tell a friend, pass it along, and remember, I get paid by the comment!
I have neglected my responsibility to show you some of the beauty and cool stuff about Bali. Sorry. We have been planning our next jaunt and it has consumed my time, imagination and dreams. But I must finish posting about Bali before I move on, so here goes.
Well folks, that is it for our trip to Bali. Overall we enjoyed it, but like I said in the previous post, it is not worth the effort or cost to get there. (It took us 26 hours to get home,from the hotel lobby to our living room and cost way too much money). Bali never considered sustainable tourism in their plans, and it is too late now.
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