Reaching Inle Lake from Kalaw is a definite eye catcher. The first time I caught sight of the river, my heart loomed for excitement. It was after we ate hearty meal, we clambered into long wooden narrow boat which took us to Nyaungshwe. It was quite a long boat ride to Nyaungshwe. But boy, the sceneries along the journey were terrific. Located at high altitude of 2,900 feet, Inle Lake is interlocked by two mountain terrains. The journey offered a glimpse of the boat tour I would be taking the next day.
We decided to rest at our room in Gypsy Inn after the tiring 3 days 2 nights trekking with Golden Lily.
Some pictures on Gypsy Inn:-
It was later in the evening that we leisurely walked down the alley heading to the bridge. At dusk, women who covered their bosom downwards with a piece of clothes took bath near the stream as small boats passed by.
If you are in the nick of time, you have the option of touring Inle Lake by boat or by bicycle. Having to choose only one option, I was all for the boat ride. The best strategy to share boat ride costs with other travellers is to wait at the bridge and approach other travellers who might be looking for someone to share costs too. Make sure the boatman can speak English so that he may explain the surroundings to you.
The highlight of the boat trip is the alternate market that takes place at different place every day. Most of the hill tribe people will come down from the mountains to buy and sell their goods, such as fruits, hand-made items, woods, and designed jewellery.
The boat ride takes 10 hours of your time at Inle Lake. For the first few hours, local culture and daily life slide repetitively with the background of beautiful valley. Occasionally, we passed by the fishermen who were world-known for its distinctive rowing method.
Local fishermen stand at the stern on one leg and wrap the other leg around the oar. By standing, the fisherman may see beyond the reeds that floated on the surface of the lake. The leg rowing is only practiced by men while the women sit cross-legged at the stern while using the oar with their hands.
As we neared the end of the lake, the boat swerved right into a narrow canal. We knew we were about to reach the market as tribal people in fancy clothes were spotted in small boats carrying their goods. Some locals waved their hands to us while balancing the boats with the newly-bought goods. The population of Inle Lake is dominated by Intha people, with a mixture of Shan, Taungyo, Pa-O, Danu, Kayah, Danaw and Bamar ethnicities. Most are devout Buddhists and live in simple wooden houses/stilt houses.
When the boat came near the sunflower field, we got off the boat and walked to the market. It was not a modern market where market hall was groomed with waist level platform to station the goods for sales. It was as if we time travelled to say the 50s, when most people were still using wood as daily necessity. What greeted me first was a field of saleswomen selling wood in bulk, not far from sight were cows tied to their carts.
Apart from the wood arranged in bulk on the ground, there were dozens of nipah huts meant for the salesmen/saleswomen to sell their goods. There was a stall selling deep fried chakoi, fruits, cooking utensils, vegetable, cigars, knifes and machetes. Oh not to forget, souvenirs for the foreigners. At the end of my leisure walk, I came across a barber shop – a manual one; imagine using car battery to generate electrical power to shave your head. Yes, scary as you imagine. But that’s normal in this part of the world.