Serene Inle Lake and Bike Rides in the Countryside

Feb 25, 2013

Inle Lake, Burma

After three days of trekking in the mud, under the rain and eventually the sun, and seeing hills of beautiful farmlands, we finally made it to Inle Lake. The morning fog was still partly covering the lake. Around it are villages and mountains. Another way of Burmese living awaits us. And hot showers of course.

At the edge of the lake we stopped for a celebratory lunch. Beers were brought out and laughters over stories of three amazing days we all shared. And of course a group photo with our Lucky Seven ‘gang signs’.

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Small shops of souvenirs and trinkets lined up the way going to the dock where our boat awaits us. I knew that we were back on the tourist trail. But as soon as we rode our boat, we saw what made it quite unique and special - its serene beauty. Calm glassy waters only interrupted by fishermen standing on small boats and rowing using their legs (unique to Inle Lake); villages of wooden houses on stilts, and water birds - some just still on the waters, and some flying over us.

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another fisherman at work

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houses on stilts

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Inle Lake is also a water-bird sanctuary

After the boat ride, we immediately looked for the hostels we booked when we were still in Kalaw. Hot showers, another celebratory dinner, and lots of avocado salad (delicious and fresh!) after, we decided to move to another place for some drinks. But of course everything was closed early. Luckily for us, the ‘jamming’ we heard during dinner was still happening by the river. A group of guys were playing guitars and singing. We sat with them and just enjoyed the music and the night sky. Coral and I seriously thought that they were playing English songs translated in Burmese. As was the Burmese version of Coldplay songs we heard back in the hostel in Kalaw.

The next day we all met up in the morning and rented a boat to take us around Inle Lake. The sky was clear and the water calm, it was the perfect weather. 

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the lake, mountain of farmlands and the moon :)

We opted for a half-day tour. As soon as we were at the opening of the lake, we saw various fishermen dressed nicely ready to be taken photos of. They were there for tourists who wanted 'proper' photos of Inle Lake fishermen's unique rowing style. It is now, apparently, a source of income for the people. 

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stumbled upon these fishermen posing for the tourists

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and a kid trying to imitate the adults. cutie.

First was visiting a village market. Aside from produce, souvenirs were also sold. It was another touristy place and I preferred the market in Kalaw more. I walked around for a bit, but preferred to just sit at one of the coffee places to wait for the others. But the boat ride going there was more of the experience I was looking for and enjoyed. We passed by more fishermen, and houses on stilts, and floating gardens of tomatoes and other crops.

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people on the boats try to feed the birds, it's a really nice sight

Fisherman, Inle Lake, Burma

Inle Lake, Burma

Next stop was to look for a place to have lunch and visit the Jumping Cats Monastery. We were lucky to find a cheap restaurant beside the monastery.

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sumptuous lunch 

While some wanted to take the time to roam around the area, I decided to make friends with the family who owns it. Especially when we became very curious with this kid who was so hyperactive (his secret: Red Bull drink. Yup, they make children drink this in Burma).

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this hyperactive kid loves his Red Bull drink

We first met this girl who was serving the food, and was surprised to learn that she is the mother of the hyperactive kid. She introduced us to the rest of her family and eventually I asked her about thanaka when I saw this baby having one on his face.

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thanaka on this cute baby

You can see this all over Burma, a yellowish-white cream on women’s and children’s faces. We learned that it is made from the bark of the Thanaka tree and is used as an insect repellent and sunscreen. And of course I was curious so I asked if she can put some on my face. She brought a round slab of stone and a small piece of the thanakah wood. Then she put a little bit of water on the stone and started to grind the wood on it in a circular motion.

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preparing the thanaka cream

Patti, Coral, and Adi followed suit. Wesley and Andrew were eventually convinced to try it too. And Vio when she came back. It felt cold on the face during the first few minutes, quite refreshing actually. They were so nice and hospitable to us. One of the highlights of my Burma trip. :)

Thanaka, Inle Lake, Burma

We ended that day going to the Red Mountain Estate Vineyards and Winery. Luckily, the ride going to the winery was on paved road and not that much traffic. It was such a fun ride, the breeze, the view, the numerous hello’s from the people, and the sunset :) The restaurant was about to close when we arrived, but they still graciously allowed us to do some wine tasting. I’m no wine expert, but they were pretty good. The ride going back was another bonding experience for our group. Since there were no street lights and only three of us had headlamps on, the one in front and me at the back (of course.haha) would shout out if there was a vehicle about to come.

Our last day in Inle Lake was just a spontaneous bike ride in the country side. We just went into the paths leading to farms and houses when we felt like it. I wasn’t able to bring my camera back then which I regret now. But we went into a monastery and were welcomed by a group of monks. The oldest one was so nice and worldly despite not having been given a chance to travel outside Burma. He greeted us in our local languages and knows a little bit history about our different countries (Philippines, USA, France, Belgium, Israel). He learned these things from the different people from all over the world who’ve visited the monastery. As well as the books they sent him about their countries. We were also welcomed by a family into their home. They just saw us from their window when we reached the end of the path. They offered us tea and shared stories with us despite the language barrier. It was a big family headed by a really old but still strong grandmother. We regretted a bit that we were leaving for Hsipaw that day, we wished we could have stayed longer. Because these people were so nice and warm, and smart too. Another reason why I was so captivated by Burma.

going up the winery
Photo by Adi

Inle Lake, just like the other places in Burma, was not all about the landscape. But of the wonderful people you encounter too. I’m so lucky I finally decided to learn how to ride a bike 2 years ago. I think it was to prepare me for Burma. :) © . Design by Berenica Designs.