March 4, 2016
Inle Lake: Mingalar Market and Bicycle Ride



At 4:45 in the morning, our bus stopped at the entrance to the Inle Lake Zone, where each foreigner paid a 12,500 kyat entrance fee. We were dropped off in the town of Nyaung Shwe just a few minutes later. Then we took a taxi-motorcyle to our hotel. The vehicle was a motorcycle with a pickup bed built onto the bike. I don't even know what to call this contraption!

We got to our hotel just after 5:00 a.m., and the staff very graciously let us check in nine hours early. Tom wasn't feeling well after the trying journey and went straight to bed. I went to the rooftop terrace for sunrise and was delighted to see the local monks going around collecting their breakfast from the locals. Then I went back to bed as well. It was a very long night.

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Dawn on the rooftop terrace, Nyaung Shwe

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Young monks

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Alms gathering in the early morning

We're staying in the town of Nyaung Shwe, just north of Inle Lake, at Yar Pyae Hotel. The room is spotless and very comfortable, with plenty of room to spread out. There's also a computer we can use in the lobby, which is handy since the wireless card on ours is broken. We're in a Superior room, breakfast included, for $36 per night with tax. We'll be here two nights.

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Our spacious and comfortable room

In a couple days when we leave Nyaung Shwe, it will again be via overnight bus. As soon as we got up from our morning naps, we asked the staff at the front desk to go ahead and book our tickets, so we could get on the “VIP” bus this time. It set us back about $14 per person to go VIP as opposed to the less than $9 we spent on the last bus, but we're worth it. We also availed ourselves of the hotel's laundry service, desperately needed as we'd packed so lightly.

Mid-morning, we walked to the colorful and interesting Mingalar Market nearby. I love exploring markets in foreign countries. My favorite part was the still-flopping fish they had for sale. At least you know they're fresh. Tom is collecting several old oddball kyat notes to display when we get home. He bought a 15-kyat note and a 35-kyat note here.

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Doing laundry in a creek, Nyaung Shwe

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Tom shopping at Mingalar Market

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Baby monk

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Jana negotiates the "sidewalk"

Inle Lake is the second largest lake in Myanmar, 13 miles long and 7 miles wide, elevation 2,900 feet. The lake is home to 70,000 Intha people, one of the minority groups in Myanmar. Many of the Intha tend vegetable gardens on floating plots of land that they peg in place with long pieces of bamboo. The Intha fishermen have a distinctive rowing technique where they row with one leg, leaving their arms and hands free for fishing.

In the afternoon we rented crappy bicycles from our hotel for $1 each and rode a loop around the northernmost portion of the lake. It was great biking through the little villages, watching people farming and fishing and washing their clothes in the creeks.

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Rural life near Inle Lake

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Fishing the creek

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Another weird old Chinese truck

We stopped for a while at the base of a hill with a monastery at the top. I climbed the hill for a view of the lake, but with fires burning in preparation for planting crops, the view was quite smoky. An old-style water well at the foot of the hill was a much better photo op.

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Tom works the well

In short, we rode south about 12 km to Khaung Daing, on the west side of the lake, where we hired a longboat to ferry us and our bikes across to Maing Thauk on the east side of the lake, and then rode another 12 km back to our hotel. The temperature was in the low 80s, and most of the ride was in the shade, so it was very pleasant.

The longboat ride across Inle Lake was awesome. We couldn't really see the lake on the bike ride itself like we thought we would, so it was great to get on the water, where we could see the homes on stilts and the Intha fishermen.

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Khaung Daing waterfront

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Stilt house, Inle Lake

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Intha "one-legged" fisherman

In Maing Thauk we had a late lunch/early dinner at Maing Thauk Image Restaurant. The beef and potato curry was fantastic, but the beef with black pepper was tough and chewy. A bunch of farmers on ox carts passed by as we were waiting for our food.

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Heavy traffic

We were back at the hotel by 5:30 and stayed in for the rest of the evening. We've got a full day planned on the lake for tomorrow.


Continue to March 5, 2016

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