Myo is on time and our airport arrival to board the Yangon Airways flight is spot on. We only have to cool our heels about 20 minutes before the plane comes buzzing in, dumps a load of passengers and cargo, loads up and is off. It was on the ground no more than 15 minutes! The plane is a Canadian built ATR 70 and is well used but flies smoothly. Carolyn says our carrier, Yangon Air, and at least two other carriers fly a circle through the country all day long. The take off and landing wear and tear on these prop-jets must be awful!
Our flight takes us back to Mandalay (25 minutes) for another quick stop and some fuel (we are instructed to stay seated, but undo our seat belts in case there is a problem while taking on fuel!!!) and then to Heho Airport, another 25 minutes, there we are met by a lady from Shalom Travel and escorted to the car that will take us to the Nyaung Shwe dock where we will board a long tailed boat for the ride to to the Inle Princess Resort.
The ride is on a fairly good road and down a steep pass into the valley containing the lake. We are stopped so we can pay our 20,000k ($20US) entrance fee (foreigners only!) and then proceed to meet our boatman. We are in the car about an hour from the airport and it is an interesting drive.
At the dock, we discover a very steep flight of uneven wobbly stairs down to the water but the low, long, canoe-like boat is still a good two to three feet below the edge of the landing as the lake is quite low at this time of year. Getting Carolyn down the stairs and into the boat “takes a village.” Several locals who are boarding a boat on the other side of the landing give her a hand. Finally, she sits down on the edge of the landing and slides off into the boat with the locals guiding her off the dock and our boat driver, Moe Moe, and Dick catching her.
Fortunately, there are chairs in the boat so one does not have to sit on a thwart like the locals who helped Carolyn! Loaded up with our single piece of luggage and our computer bag wrapped in a water proof tarp, we are off down a wide canal and heading for the Inle Princess Resort.
The ride takes about 30 minutes and looks much like the coastal areas of Texas when viewed from a boat except for the style of housing. About 500 yards from the resort, we pick up a leg-rower boatman, cut our engine and are rowed to the resort dock. Many people complain about the noise of the long-tailed boats and this is the answer here; row in - row out.
We are escorted to our room after check-in and basically just dump our stuff and head back to the boat after Dick tries to solve a data problem with AT&T with no luck. We are only here a short time and want to make the most of it.
We are leg-rowed back out to the rower's shanty (about 400 meters) and then Moe Moe starts the noisy engine and we head out toward the main body of the lake. There are a number of leg-rowers fishing and showing off as we reach the main body of the lake.
On our way down the lake we pass huge areas of floating vegetables gardens being tended by boat. There are a number of small villages with houses on stilts out in the lake. There are several well known pagodas on the lake, but you guessed it, we give them a pass. By the way, the free board on these boats is about six inches!
At the weavers, a house built on stilts by a canal, we have another “village” effort to get Carolyn out of the boat and up the long flight of stairs made of rough cut lumber. But, it is worth it! First we are shown how they extract fiber from the stem of the lotus plant and turn it into the thread they use for weaving. It takes a day to produce 10 meters of thread this way. Next we are shown several types of looms; all wooden and driven by hands and feet. The ingenuity of the process is astounding and we look at fabric made from silk, from lotus and from a combination of the two as well as cotton. The owner and her daughter spend a lot of time showing us the fabrics and telling about the area. The daughter helps Carolyn make some of the yellowish white paste known as Thanakha by grinning a piece of the Murraya tree on a rough stone with water add as needed to make a paste. For over 2000 years, most of the ladies and children wear this as a form of make up usually put on the cheeks in some sort of a pattern. This seems to be a fabric buying trip and we quickly run up a ticket that is more than the cash on hand and they are pricing in US dollars to boot! Who says the US dollar is out of favor?!!
OK, pull out the old credit card. Standard problem, no connection or my son knows how to do this but he is not here, etc. Alright, sorry, guess you get to put it all back on the shelf! Oh, but wait, “I bring to you at your hotel. Where you stay?” That will work and Dick repeatedly asks if this is SOP and the hotel will make the charge for them. “Oh, sure, do all the time. Be there at 5PM.” And the mother daughter team is all smiles.
So, off to our next stop where a Burmese Long-Necked Woman is set up with her wares in a crappy little gift shop. These women (there are several who take turns in the shop) are from the ethnic minority Karen Tribe and belong to the sub group, Padaung, one of the hill tribes on the Burma-Thailand border. The practice of using the rings to give the neck a long look is falling out of favor because of what it does to the body, but National Geographic did a big article on the group awhile back. We are interested and their weaving is one of the ways they make a living so we will take a look. There is a boat traffic jam on the canal in front of the shop and Carolyn is not about to make the leap across three other boats to the dock. Moe Moe jumps out into the knee deep water and he and two teenaged boys maneuver our boat up to the dock and Carolyn clambers out; not graceful but she is out.
As we climb the rough lumber stairs from the dock to the store, there is a loud clap of thunder and the wind really kicks up. Our little thundershower is showing off. There is not much rain but the wind is fierce for 10 minutes and sends the young novice monks watching the traffic jam scurrying for the protection of the monastery. We are glad we are off the water. The weaving display is the attraction here and there are some nice fabric bags and lengths of cloth for sale. Carolyn buys a bag ($15US) and some figures dressed in each tribe's costume made from pieces of the woven fabric that will be Christmas tree ornaments ($10US) and we get back into the boat. It is now a little after 2PM.
There was one other stop on the program but it is still a 30 minute ride on up the canal to the village, In Dien, and then an hour and a half ride back to the hotel. Moe Moe is all for going...no problem, plenty of time! However several people looking at the weaving told us they had gotten stuck several places.
The weather is kicking up so we elect to go back to the hotel and enjoy its amenities. Moe puts the boat in high gear as we head back up the lake. The sky really looks angry and we do get into some rain.
Part of the time we are in a wide channel with vegetation rather close on both aides, and lots of local boat traffic, but we soon are back out in the open water and it is like a drag race!. At some point the big green bag in the bow goes air born and Moe's nephew who has been riding in the back, goes and sits on it. Once at the hotel dock we agree with Moe Moe that he will pick us up at 7AM to take us back to the town dock to pick up our ride to the airport. Dick is not happy with the timing but is told it will be fine.
Just after Moe Moe is gone, we realize that there is no way that Carolyn is going to be able to crawl up out of the boat onto the dock in town. What to do? We talk to the hotel people and they call the local travel representative and after much jabbering, it is agreed that the airport car will pick us up at the hotel and we will skip the scenic, early morning boat ride. sorry to miss that, but we have had a fabulous day, rain and all.
Now to more important things and we find the bar, sit out of the wind and enjoy two rounds or our favorite cocktails and an order of fried spring rolls. We think we get a double order (6 rolls) but it is really just a single order. This will be a problem later on at dinner.
We are in the dining room when it opens and Carolyn orders a double order of spring rolls and Dick get some chicken satay. Before the waitress has made it to the kitchen we are summoned to the office as the people from the lotus weaving shop have arrived.
Mama San and her two, very pretty daughters have braved the stormy lake to come here and complete the transaction. But, there is no deal with the hotel and Dick still does not have enough US money. Finally, he talks the hotel into making him an advance on the hotel bill which will be paid by credit card tomorrow morning. Cash in hand the deal is done, Carolyn has her unique fabric and Dick has his Longyis and there may even be some Christmas presents hidden in the sack. Mama San and the girls head off down toward the dock and one can only hope that they make it home safely on this rainy, black night.
Back at the table, our order is processed and, you guessed it; a double order of spring rolls is 12 of the little suckers! Way too much to eat and Dick is not much help after his satay but we leave well fed.
Our room leaks the A/C like a sieve and we see mosquitoes flitting about. It even has a big outdoor shower where they have an even better chance! Housekeeping has set the bed’s mosquito netting and we can only hope one of the little monsters is not trapped in there with us. There is a tub and shower inside, but we elect the outside one for fun. The water is hot and the bed is calling.