Myanmar: Inle Lake

by - March 31, 2020

Finally!!! The last day on our Myanmar tour! Haha. It took me almost 2 years to finish this blog post but hey.. At least I was able to finish it. The silver lining in this quarantine is that I was able to write this blog post. Planning to write more but it really depends on my mood. Still have work during daytime plus I am also catching on my Netflix backlogs and I'm kinda hooked up with two-point hospital so if I am not watching Netflix, it's either I am playing switch or busy scrolling through my social media accounts to see the latest news about COVID-19.

Anyway, here it goes.. :)

Per my Myanmar daily itinerary, I only allotted 1 day in Inle Lake. This place can be roamed around in one single day unless you really wanna take your time and exhaust every tourist place possible. Inle Lake is located in the Nyaungshwe Township of Taunggyi District. If you will google Myanmar and the places you have to visit, Inle Lake will mostly pop up. This isn't your typical lake which if you already went to other Southeast Asian countries, they have their own versions of the floating market (which btw, for me, Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Thailand tops this category), this time around, you could see temples and shops scattered in the lake.

In backpacking fashion, we went to Inle Lake from Mandalay via an overnight bus. The bus was comfortable, or that's what my memory is telling me at least. One thing I hate about overnight travels is that you will arrive super early in the morning when most of the shops are still close. One thing we noticed while in Myanmar is that every tourist place you visit, specifically Bagan, Mandalay, and Inle Lake, visitors are required to pay a somehow like an entrance fee, which in this case is not yet the fee for the tourist attractions, it's just the fee for entering the place. Call it an environmental fee or whatever you want, I think it's quite a scam because it's nothing less than 12500 kyats or almost 500 pesos just for entering the vicinity. This already had a negative impact on tourists.

Look at all these boats! 

We arrived at around 6am? Yup, that early. And just like most scenes where tourists go down the bus, there are already people trying to sell their services, which in this case, is a boat ride to Inle Lake. I couldn't remember how much we paid for the boat ride but it already covers a whole day use. We were escorted to a tuktuk where it transported us to the actual lake. Funny because I think it was just me and my father who went to the actual lake after alighting the bus. I don't know where the other passengers went to. The guy at the bus terminal told us that he's also the one who'll accompany us at the boat but turns out he's just a barker and that the actual person who'll be with us in the boat is a different person.

It was very early. I am still sleepy but if we can start our day early, then we can end it early as well and we can just probably chill around some café near the bus station. If you're on your 6th day on a backpacking journey, trust me, it gets really tiring especially if you don't have decent sleep on most nights because of overnight buses.

Inle Lake is like the one we went to in Ho Chi Minh except that there are actual plants here and there are stores/cafes in the lake. There is this one boat and one fisherman where we thought he is actually fishing in an old fashioned way, turns out he is just doing it for the photos and that when you take one, you are required to give a tip.

Our first stop is the market. This isn't like the floating markets in Thailand. There's an actual land where the boats will transport you and it's up to you to roam around or not. Most locals shop here. I am not sure if this is a wet market or what but the goods that are being sold range from food to souvenirs to betel nuts to crackers... Even fishes and meats. And since this is also a tourist area, most sellers try to double or even triple the price for foreigners. Haggling is the way of life here too I guess. What fascinates me though are not goods that are being sold… it's the number of boats parked in the area. We went here off-season so the boats here probably isn't the peak yet. Imagine what more if this is peak season.

Vendors making betel nuts or also know here in PH as "nganga" 

Yep. It was muddy when we went. that's why it's important to wear black sneakers when traveling! haha 

I managed to buy one wooden carving as a pasalubong for my mother then my father was able to buy a knife. There are many ref magnets too.

After the market, we were brought to a shop of ethnic umbrellas that is somehow a café too and a place where they sell more wooden carvings. It looks like our boatman gets commissioned if we decided to buy something. You can also see an old person wearing a gold metal in her neck to make it longer. These people are known as long neck women. They earn by receiving tips from people who get to take a photo with them.

Long neck women waiting for tourists to have photos with them 

In fairness, the coffee was good 

Some of the flavors of the tobacco are star anise, banana, and cinnamon. There's 2 more but I forgot 

Here, my father is trying to make a tobacco with the help of the lady beside her 

Throughout the day, we were brought to many interesting places. For one, we were brought to another pagoda, Hpaung Daw U Pagoda. We were also brought to a place where they sell weaved products such as Myanmar's traditional clothing. What I probably enjoyed the most in Inle Lake is the tobacco center where they sell different kinds of flavored tobacco. They can also teach you how to make one! I bought this as a pasalubong to Peter but when we tried it in Manila, it's mehhhh~

And oh, we also had a meal in one of the cafes around. Come afternoon, we are already done with the lake tour. Aside from Inle Lake, there are many things you can do in the surrounding area. Some people would rent bikes and roam around. As for us, we decided to just sit in a restaurant and kill time.

How I miss this tea leaf salad locally known as lahpet-thoke 

We waited for our overnight bus and departed for Yangon once again. We have 1 day left because the next day, we depart for KL where we will have our layover then back to Manila.

I had the chance to meet some of my father's friends in Myanmar once again and they even hosted a lunch for us at their place. We had authentic Burmese cuisine for lunch. We were also invited to this school where my father's friend taught. We were asked to give a speech on the spot. For me, this kind of funny and a "wait, what?" moment. If you know me personally, I don't really give speeches and let alone do it on the spot. Oh, and btw, the audience are Burmese kids. They're learning English. As a token of appreciation, I received another longyi. Hehe. I cannot really remember the speech I gave or what was the context but hopefully, I sounded inspirational to them. Hehe.

My father giving some words of wisdom 

Merienda as sponsored by my father's friend 

Of course, this trip wouldn't end without my favorite part. Shopping! Finally, something that reminds me of home, a mall. Haha! We went inside this certain mall and went straight to the grocery to buy for some pasalubong. Bought some Myanmar beers and a brandy which is just cost a dollar. Imagine, 1 dollar for a brandy. I couldn't remember most of it but I remember finally getting a good's night sleep then off we go to the airport.

I wouldn't say this trip went by so fast. It is definitely challenging but if there are places that make me hate the Philippines and take things for granted. This time, Myanmar made me really appreciate living in the Philippines. I felt really thankful that despite all the bad things happening in the country, I can enjoy my day to day life like I am always used to. It made me appreciate the little things in life and for me, it's very timely because this was my 2nd to the last SEA country to visit and instead of looking for things that are not in PH, it really helped me reflect and think about what I like in my own country.

We departed early in the morning and told the hotel if we could just bring the breakfast with us instead. And here it is. I partnered it with affogato because why not

Happy face because I really missed PH <3

Will I go again? Hmm... Probably. Looking forward to the day Myanmar gets more known and had more tourists. And probably, on my next visit, I can see the actual Bagan hot air balloons.

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