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 left Rangoon by air. We could have taken the train, but our time was limited.
It does not seem to matter which airline you book your flight on in Burma. All our domestic flights were booked on Air Mandaly.
We got to the Yangon airport early. At first it was a sea of confusion, but our guide assured us we were in the right line, although it was definitely NOT Air Mandalay. They took our bags and weighed them on an honest to god butchers scale, with a big hook and everything. They put old style tags on our luggage that read NYU. Huh? Then they treated us nicely and gave us actual paper boarding passes that said NYU, and then they put stickers on us. Apparently we were on Air KBZ. It was too early in the morning to really care.
The stickers we were wearing were for the airline people to tell who was on their plane. There were maybe three flights leaving within the half hour. We all shared one waiting room. When it was time for our flight, a guy walked around the waiting room holding a sign like a pageboy in an old Manhattan hotel. He found people with the right sticker and pointed us to the gate. In the end, a very efficient, if 1950’s, system.
When we got on the plane I read the airline magazine and it told me that Air KBZ has only two planes (ATR 72-500s). The airline is only two years old, but they must have bought this plane from the Bosnian air force. It was sort of beat up. I looked at their destinations, and nothing said they went to Bagan. I mentioned this to Mary Ann in my least possible “worried about it” voice. She gave me that look she does often that says “fool”. She pointed out that the name of the airport we were headed to was Nyaung U Airport hence the designator NYU. That was not fair because the guide had explained all that to her, not me. But OK, I’m cool now. When we arrived at NYU the plane parked in the middle of nowhere. I of course had visions that a coup had happened, but in a few minutes we were safely in the hands of our next guide. You cannot leave the airport without paying a US$10 fee. Not an airport tax, no no. This was an entrance fee to the archeological site, which the airport sits on the edge of.
So we started our drive through Bagan. Our guide had grown up there and was very proud of his ancient city.
I hope by now you are getting the idea that Bagan is a very special place. It was the first capital of a unified area now called Myanmar. It was very prosperous from 900 A.D. to 1300 A.D. Then the Mongolians, under Genghis Khan arrived. They laid waste to everything but the temples and stupas.
I feel incapable of describing Bagan in any form. Let me say this, I have been to Machu Pichu a couple of times, the pyramids of Giza, the Taj Mahal, the Vatican and none of them impressed me as much as Bagan. I have a few more photos to share.
This Buddha is just one example of the magic of Bagan. I have not been to Angkor Wat in Cambodia yet. I hear it too is pretty special. But…EVERYONE goes to Angkor Wat. It gets some amazingly huge amount of tourist traffic every year. Bagan is still sparsely visited, so see it now!
Thanks for reading. Please share with a friend on FB or on your porch, but share it. I crave the attention!
Next post, the beautiful Inle Lake, so stay tuned.
Burmese Days is the title of a fun book written by George Orwell. People all over Burma try to sell it to you like tiger balm in Kathmandu.
Orwell is lucky he lived and wrote when he did. Ever since a Peking Duck became a Beijing Duck, Asian name changes have caused confusion, dismay, and sold a lot of new globes. I cannot imagine titling a book Myanmar Days. Or a blog post for that matter. My wife was trying to be politically correct and use the new name, but she kept saying Miramar. Hillary Clinton was in the country a couple months ago and she just called it “your country”. So welcome to Burma.
The only airport to get into Burma is in Yangon. This is the city that was Rangoon. Those international 3 letter acronyms used by airlines for cities change slower then maps, Yangon is still RGN, just like Ho Chi Minh city is still SGN. You can fly into Mandalay (no name change there) but only from China.
As you might know, Burma has just recently become a democracy. It had a rather oppressive military dictatorship since the late 80’s. People put up with it until the military killed a bunch of Buddhist monks, and then they picked up sling shots (really) and revolted. The dictatorship was only recognized by the Chicoms, who have exploited Burma’s natural gas reserves and built a pipeline to China. Every other country, and the financial world as well, refused to deal with the dictatorship. Consequently, there is not a single, not one, ATM in the entire country. Beyond that, you cannot even use a credit card anywhere. That means a tourist has to enter the country with enough cash to last the entire trip. The currency is a Kyat, luckily pronounced “chat”. While we were there, the exchange rate was 865 chats to 1 US$. Just recently they introduced a 5000 kyat note, thank you Buhdda! Tourists before us had to carry enough 1000 kyat notes around to get by. Do the math. That is a lot of paper to trek around with. However, they, like everyone else in the world, love the greenback. So if you go, bring US$. And bring brand new ones! If there is much as a inkspot on a bill, or god forbid, a crease in a bill, no one will take it. Mary Ann tried to tip a porter with a US$1 bill. He inspected it and refused it. OK, no tip for YOU!
So we arrived in Yangon, Rangoon, whatever. We were met by our tourist agency Myanmar Shalom. I thought Shalom must be a Burmese word, but no. The agency is owned by a gentleman named Sammy Samuels who is one of the last 16 Jews in Burma. As you might expect, he brings in a lot of tourists from Israel. We found him on the net. His prices were extremely good, and it turns out the guides he hires are first rate.
When Myanmar moved the capitol, they simply abandoned big buildings that were once ministry offices, and had been since English colonial times. So right now, there are quite a few beautiful colonial buildings standing empty. A couple are being converted to hotels. One ofthe buildings is not so fortunate . The head honcho of the ministry occupying it was being investigated for corruption, so he lit the building on fire. When the fire department arrived, he bribed them to not put out the fire. He went to jail for bribing the fire department.
Chapter two of Burmese Days will cover Bagan, which is quite simply one of the most amazing places I have ever been. Historically, spiritually, and architecturally, it rivals Machu Pichu and the Taj. So stay tuned. Please share this with your FB friends (all you have to do is click on a button, and type “read this” ) and I will appreciate it!