3 days at Nyaung Shwe – discovering the Inle lake

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[ultimate_heading main_heading=”Inle lake”][/ultimate_heading]

On Tuesday, January 8th, Iver, Thereza and I arrived with the night bus from Hpa-An to Nyaung Shwe (Inle lake). It had been a very long bus trip (departure 7PM, arrival 9:30AM), but I had slept quite okay and I was well rested – the opposite of Iver and Thereza who hadn’t slept at all because they always get sick in buses and the road had been a bit shaky…

After the exhausting last days and the long bus ride, we didn’t want to do anything that first day and it was raining anyway, so we stayed in the hostel: resting, doing laundry, working on pictures (Iver) and meeting new people, like Bianca from São Paulo.

In Hpa-An, I had by chance come by a Vivo shop where I had seen that their phones are cheap and I knew from my friend Denise that their phones are very good. So I decided to go find the Vivo shop in Nyaung Shwe to get more information. The girls working there were super nice and I could try out the phone with them. I was a bit sceptic about buying a new phone because a) mine was still working and b) I usually prefer traveling with an old half broken phone rather than with a new one (that might get stolen). Anyway, I really liked the new Vivo V11i. It was super cheap (230€) and as my old one really was on the point of giving up it’s life, I decided to buy it. They didn’t take credit cards, so I had to get back to the hostel and get more cash, but in the end I got the phone and the girls there were so happy I bought such an expensive phone (expensive for them of course, not for me) that they gave me lots of stuff for free, like a really good power bank!

I spent the rest of the afternoon in the hostel discovering my new phone and trying out the camera. That’s how I met lots of people in the hostel, everybody was like: «Oh, you bought a new phone here! How is it? Can I see?»; a really good conversation starter on a rainy day in a hostel. This is how I met Martin from France and Idan from Israel, for example. Idan also has a Vivo phone and he showed me some useful features.

For dinner, we stayed in the hostel and we played some games until Idan invited us to go out for drinks with him and his friends. Iver and Thereza wanted to go to bed, but I wasn’t that tired and so I agreed to go for 1 beer with them. Well, you know how that goes! 😅 We went to this super cool bar and we ordered only 2 pitchers of beer to share amongst the 7 of us: Martin from France, Idan from Israel, Lukas, Jule, Caroline and Paul from Germany and myself. That would have been okay, but then 2 Australian guys Paul knew came to our table and started a drinking game, «Horse race», and that’s when we started to get into a festive mood… 😅 The game was a lot of fun and the 9 of us had a great time together. We had a few more pitchers of beer until the bar closed at 11PM and they finally kicked us out at 1AM. Burmese people, just like other Asians, don’t have a drinking or party culture and so 1AM was already pretty late…

We tried to find a shop that was still open and would sell us some more beer, but it was impossible, so we gave up and finally went to bed. It had been a great day and I was a bit sad most of them were leaving the next day…

The next day, it turned out that nobody would leave, because everybody was sick: Idan had Dengue, Paul had food poisoning (don’t ever eat Indian food in Myanmar, everyone I heard who got sick here had eaten Indian food…) and Lukas was only leaving in the evening…

I was a bit annoyed that morning, because I don’t like hanging around doing nothing and having no plan: either it’s a lazy hostel day where it’s clear from the beginning that you will only relax or it’s a busy day where you go exploring, but not something in between. We had said that we wanted to do something, but Iver and Thereza were not really getting ready. Suddenly they were like: «We want to go explore the town a bit» and I thought, okay, let’s do this and then the boat tour we had been talking about, but when I came back from getting ready 5 minutes later, they had already left without me! I was a bit pissed that they hadn’t even asked me to join, I could have done something else that morning if I had know that they wanted to spend the morning alone. When they finally came back, they got ready for the boat tour and when they came back to the lobby, they had found 2 other people to join us: Jeff from Switzerland and Willem from the Netherlands. I had told Iver and Thereza that they could choose what we would do that day, because they were on a more tight schedule than me and if I didn’t like it, I could always stay a few more days to do the things I like. Unfortunately, they chose to rent a boat and do only the most touristic things: visiting a silver smith’s shop, seeing long neck women, eating in a touristic restaurant on the river, visiting the «jumping cat» monastery and taking lots of pictures of posing «fishermen» during sunset. Honestly, I thought this tour was shit! Fortunately, it wasn’t expensive (4000K p.p. = +/- 3€). I hate doing these super touristic tours where you know exactly that everything is a show for tourists and nothing is authentic… The most ridiculous thing are the «fishermen» who are only posing for pictures and afterwards come to your boat for money; they don’t even work as fishermen anymore, but only as models for tourist pictures and that’s very sad… So my mood wasn’t the best during that day, but I didn’t say much, because it was my fault for agreeing to go along with whatever the others wanted to do…

Anyway, it wasn’t the worst day; we had a quite good time together and Willem and Jeff were nice.

In Myanmar, days are usually quite warm, but as soon as the sun is down, it gets very cold, especially on lakes; so, by the time we got back to the hostel after watching the sunset on the Inle lake, we were all frozen and looking forward to a nice hot shower (hostels in Myanmar are quite modern and, surprisingly, they all have hot water!). Afterwards I joined Idan, Lukas and Jule downstairs where we waited for Lukas’ bus to pick him up; he was going to Bagan to join Bianca from São Paulo there. While we waited, Jule told me that she would go to Bagan too the next day and so we decided to book our bus ticket and go together (Iver and Thereza were still upstairs, not in a hurry to book a ticket even though almost all tickets were gone and I didn’t particularly want to continue traveling with them, always feeling kind of like a third wheel when I’m alone with them…). Actually, I had wanted to do the 3 days trek from Kalaw to Inle, but most people I met said that the hike wasn’t that nice, it was more about the people you do it with and so I decided to cancel this part.

That night was barbecue night on the rooftop of our hostel and we decided to go up and have a drink there. Later we were joined by Paul (he was feeling a little better, but still sick) and by Nathalie, a girl from Germany.

The next day, I absolutely wanted to go to Indein pagodas. Lukas had been there and he had told us that we should absolutely go there. During our touristy boat tour, we didn’t have time to go there, so I wanted to go there the next day and afterwards watch the sunset at the vineyard next to the lake. Jule and Nathalie decided to join me and so we spent the evening together, making plans for the next day and trying out all the cool features of my new phone’s camera. It was a very nice evening, but we were all tired from our night out the previous day and so we went to bed quite early.

The next morning, we had breakfast at 8, because I absolutely wanted to leave latest at 9AM (you know how it goes when you’re traveling, there is always 1 or 2 people who are late and delay the departure anyway, so you have to set the time as early as possible). At 8:50, Iver and Thereza – who had had other plans for that day – spontaneously decided to join us and so we waited for them to get ready (they had to check out because, just like Jule and I, they had a bus ticket to Bagan for that night) and we finally left at 9:30AM. As soon as we left the hostel, the guy who had arranged our boat tour the previous day showed up and wanted to rent a boat to us. I was very clear: NO! His boat had been super slow, the driver didn’t know any English and he asked too much money. It turned out that he is kind of the « big boss » there and no other boat driver made us an offer… Finally we managed to get the price we maximum wanted to pay (20.000 for 5 people) and he promised a faster boat and a better driver. Fortunately, he kept his promise and we got a faster boat and a driver who spoke quite well English. The only thing was that, when we got to the boat, there were only 3 chairs and he wanted to charge us extra for the additional 2 chairs!! We were very clear that we would not pay that money. I mean, we were renting a boat for 5 people, why should we only get 3 chairs!?

Anyway, we got the chairs and started ouf boat tour. Since we were not stopping anywhere this time, crossing the lake was much faster. It took us exactly 90 minutes to get to the Indein pagodas, a complex of 1000 abandoned pagodas from the 11th and 12th century. There is one main pagoda that is the heart of it all and around it, there are all the others which are much smaller. It’s a bit of a walk to get to the main pagoda, but from there, you can then walk around between the different pagodas to discover the place. Most pagodas are pretty abandoned and look just as old as they are, but some of them already have been restored or are being restored at the moment. This is a shame, because once every pagoda is restored, this place will loose all it’s charme… It will just be a huge pagoda complex, but not a historic place anymore… So, the time to visit it is now!  It took us 2 hours to go around, but if we had had more time, we would probably have spend a couple of hours more there. It’s such a beautiful and interesting place, very different from what we had seen before, and there were almost no other tourists! A real hidden jewel we were very grateful Lukas had shared with us! ❤️

At 1PM, we had lunch at a local restaurant that Lukas had recommended: the Smile Restaurant. They have very good food (try the Shan noodle soup!) for very cheap prices. When we came back to our boat, our driver suggested to bring us to the floating garden next to the monastery where we could walk on the garden. We were a bit sceptic, because we had seen the gardens, but we agreed since he promised it would not be more than a 20 minutes detour and we were quite good in our timing. It turned out that this was a very good idea. Walking and jumping on the floating gardens is definitely an experience you’re not prepared for, but you should do one day!😄 You can walk, but you always sink into the water and it moves a lot when a boat passes; a lot of fun!

From there, we went back to our hostel where we rented a few bicycles to go see the sunset at the vineyard. Nathalie decided not to join us, so it was just Jule, Iver, Thereza and me. Iver was in charge of guiding us to the vineyard, but somehow we missed a turn and we ended up cycling up a steep hill to a horse club! Our bikes were really bad and we were dying by the time we reached the horse club… When they told us we were on the wrong way, it was too much! Fortunately, they were super nice there and they had a beautiful balcony with a good view for sunset and drinks, so we decided to just stay there. That was a good decision, because their fresh strawberry juice was incredible and we even got 2 fresh avocados to share for free. We enjoyed a very nice last sunset at the Inle lake and then went back to our hostel to get ready for our bus to Bagan.

Jule and I had booked a VIP Mini-Van while Thereza and Iver had gotten the last tickets for the JJ Express, but somehow the people at the hostel (or maybe at the bus station?) had mixed up things and we ended up all together in the same big bus that was neither a mini van nor the JJ Express… 😄

In the beginning, I hadn’t much liked the Inle lake, because it was just too touristic but once you get out of the more touristic area, it’s a very beautiful place with lots of things to discover!

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