Messages From Myanmar #07
08 December 2015
“The more I see, the less I know for sure.”
Photo Update Alert:
“Inle Lake” “Inle Lake Stupas”
Hello there… Rodger French here.
After almost three months in Yangon, Anne and I were ready for a break. So, in the great British tradition of international travel, we elected to spend a month - well, four days - by a lake. Specifically, Inle Lake in southern Shan State.
Inle Lake is a picturesque place and, at an elevation of 880 m (2900 ft), offers a cool respite from the heat. The downside, of course, is that tourists both domestic and international visit in large numbers; like, in herds. Granted, this means a lot of cash coming into a local economy that can surely use it. But the strain imposed on the shallow lake ecosystem by this relentless influx of visitors presents an enormous challenge.
At A.J.’s suggestion, the Embassy travel office booked us a room at the Inle Lake View Resort & Spa, a very comfortable and relatively low-impact establishment located on the west side of the lake, a 35-minute drive from Heho Airport, which is a 65-minute flight from Yangon. The resort is tastefully fraught with teak, grows much of their own food, and employs more than 60 people who live in the nearby village or in staff housing across the road.
The staff, in typical Myanmar fashion, were extremely courteous and helpful. One of the services they provided was to arrange two half-day private boat trips so we could hit the lake along with all the other gringos and see the sights. It was tons of fun, if a rather intense tourist experience.
[Nautical Sidebar: There are two types of boats in use on Inle Lake. Fishermen use a flat-ended canoe, which they row with one leg while standing, thus freeing their hands to fish. Major tourist photo op. The other type is a long boat made of teak (costs about $2500, lasts about 35 years), powered by a very noisy diesel outboard motor, and used to transport goods and passengers. We loved cruising in these.]
Cue the highlight reel:
Floating Market - Moves daily to different lakeside locations; caters to locals as well as tourists, who get the hard sell. That wears very thin very quickly.
Cottage Industries - Including textile weavers, boat builders, silversmiths, blacksmiths, and umbrella makers. Bought a grand pink and black paper parasol, with no clue where it’ll end up. Doesn’t matter, it’s fabulous.
Monasteries - Bare feet on cool teak floors, Buddhas galore, and (allegedly trained by the monks) “Jumping Cats.” It seems, regrettably, that the latest generation of feline troupers has decided to change their schtick to “Snoozing Cats.”
Stupas - In a fantastic variety of sizes, colours, and conditions. Acres of stupas… forests of stupas... a righteous plenitude of stupas… and splendid photographic opportunities.
Floating Gardens - Farmers gather up lake-bottom weeds and transport them back in boats to create floating beds for growing fruits and vegetables. To quote Mr. Spock: “Fascinating.”
After two days, however, we’d had enough of the lake thing for a while, and decided to spend our third day exploring the road to the aforementioned village. It was cool and overcast as we schlepped along, occasionally waving greetings to adorable small children and taking photoz of more - altogether, now - stupas!
On the final day, we were scheduled for an evening flight to Yangon, so our accommodating innkeepers graciously let us linger long past checkout; which worked out very well indeed since a cold (by Myanmar standards) rain had settled in for the day; a pleasant, low-key coda to our little holiday by the lake.
In our absence, meanwhile, Christmas had broken out all over Yangon, especially here at the Shangri-La Residences, aka “The Shang.” We’re all for it. What the heck, why not celebrate everybody’s holidaze? More fun, less work, and good diplomacy, too.