3 – 4 March 2016
Inle Lake is one of the must do’s in Myanmar. I timed my stay to meet my mother who was randomly travelling around Myanmar at the same time with her friend Lazhara.
It was an all-night bus ride from Yangon and as always on transportation, I didn’t get any sleep. We arrived just before sunrise in Nyaungshwe, the central town for exploring the lake. My mother and Lazhara was scheduled to arrive around noon at their hotel Golden Island Cottages 20k south of town, so I spent the morning biking 30k through the countryside visiting small villages on the western side of the lake. A peaceful experience at my favourite time of day where people do their morning rituals and venture off to work or other chores – a new day is about to begin. I had breakfast with the locals, which was followed by a day of diarrhea. Nothing painful – just a lot of annoying toilet visits especially the following night.
Back in Nyaungshwe I stocked up and got some air in my tires now that I had the chance (and my pump didn’t work). I arrived at the hotel around noon – based on the reactions from the locals, I don’t think any guest has ever arrived from the land side before; and surely not on a huge bicycle. We spent the afternoon catching up and while my mother and Lazhara visited a nearby village, I unpacked and tuned the bike. Based on the travel stories and photos, it would be a tough 270k ride on rough backroads to Mandalay. We had expected to get away with paying a small amount for me crashing on the floor in my mother’s room but the hotel wanted USD 50 – outrageous, as the amount would be in most hotels even in the much more expensive western world. After some negotiations, the manager allowed me to stay in a guide room for USD 30 which was worse (and more expensive) than any other room I would have during my 4 weeks in Myanmar. However, with only 1½ day together and 20k to a cheaper room in Nyauangshwe there was no real alternative.
The following day we went on a day-long boat trip on the lake visiting many pagodas, monasteries and villages, a market, a silversmith’s, a weaving factory, a boat factory and the floating gardens where they grow fruit and vegetables. Many had told me how impressive and unique the lake is but bicycling around it, it seemed fairly ordinary. The boat trip completely changed my view – I was very impressed with how they had managed to build a big prosperous society on stilts and a few islands. However, it comes with a huge downside being all the agricullture fertilisers and industry cleaning fluids seriously poluting the lake. From a personal point of view, the only downside of the visit was the terrible mass tourism, which I foresee will become much worse the coming 5-10 years..