The following is the English translation of a traveler’s story to Inle. Original article was written in Burmese and can be read at To Inle Again.
This time when I went back to Taunggyi (the capital of Shan State), I visited Inle Lake. I didn’t have enough time this time so I could only visited Inle. Otherwise, I would have visited Pintaya and Kattu. Inle is my favorite: never feel bored how many times I visited. The most crowded time in Inle is during the Thadingyut festival (the candle light festival celebrated during the month of October). I had been to Inle during one Thadingyut festival when I was young. It was during the time of Phaungdawoo Pagoda festival. So many boats and so many people: it was a very exciting memory of my childhood. This time I visited Inle, it was on the full moon day of Ta-zaun-mone (November), and was not as crowded as the month before. My friends also wanted to go to Khaung-dine (translator’s note: a place where there is a hot spring), so we visited both places – Inle and Khaung-dine. Actually, I wanted to have some delicious fish in Khaung-dine, but the rest wanted to take a bath in the hot spring in Khaung-dine. Finally, we ended up taking a bath in the hot spring. I wanted to go to the fish ponds afterwards, but my friends who arrived here for the first time wanted to see the candle light festaval at night, so we went back early. (Translator’s note: There are two candle light festivals in Myanmar: during October and November.)
If yo go to Inle from Taunggyi direct, it takes only one hour. To Khaung-dine, it takes another 20 minutes. The road is very bad. A lot of dust. We left Taunggyi at 6 AM in the morning, but arrived at Khaung-dine at nearly 8 AM. By the time we arrived there, there were already a lot of people. The private bath rooms were closed; the reason being a visit by VIPs. There were a lot of people, so I decided not to take a shower. Among hot springs, I like the one from Lashao, where the hot water flows like a stream; in Khaung-dine, it was like small pools. After Khaung-dine, we drove for about five minutes, and arrived at a boat pier. This is where our Inle trip started.
This time we go, we had to pay 30,000 Kyats for the motor boat up to Intein (Shallow Lake). Intein cannot be reached during summer time as there are a lot of shallow waters there. At Intein, we got off the boat, and continued on foot. I think we would have to walk for about half an hour to reach the pagodas. However, after walking about 15 minutes, we were very tired, and finally had to give up, and return our way back to the boat. In Intein, there were shops that sell old currency notes and antique scripts. I am not an expert on antiquity, so I cannot say whether these are the real antiques or not, but many of these so called antiques I had never seen before.
We traveled in Inle using motor boats. Whenever another motorboat passes near by, there are waves, and the boat becomes jumping up and down. It is a really nice feeling. And we wave to other passerby boats, it is like a custom in Inle Lake. For me, Inle is very near to my hometown, so I was used to the place. However, for my friends who come from the central Burma, everything here in Inle is new and exciting. The first time I arrived to Inle Lake was after I learned in my fifth grade about the lake: “Inle Lake is the second largest lake in Myanmar, and had a dimension of 12 mile length and 6 mile width.” For me also, the first time arrived to Inle was very exciting. I still remember asking questions about things in Inle: from the Inle custom of adding small amount of salt in the green tea, to where they get water for drinking. (Later I found out that they go and get the water from the middle of the lake where there are no houses nearby.)
When we reached Phoundawoo Pagoda, our boat cannot dock to the pier, as there were so many boats already there. We had to dock to other boats, and walk on the boats to reach the pagoda. Many people on these boats helped me by holding my hand so that I would not fall down into the lake. I was really thankful to them thinking they were very nice, until I reached the pier when they tried to sell me the golden saffron robe (shwe-thin-gan, a miniature robe similar to the robe where Buddhist monks wear. Here they sell to the visitors so that they could donate it to the Buddha statue). I said I didn’t want to buy, but they didn’t accept my refusal. I told them my friends already bought, but still they didn’t accept. Finally, they insisted that the reason they helped me when I walked on the boats was because they wanted to sell the golden saffron robe to me! Otherwise, they said they would not have helped me. I was very surprised. This was too bad.
While I was waiting for my friends to finishing paying homage to the Phoundawoo pagoda, I had a chance to talk with the friend of our boat driver who came to the pagoda to sell the slingshots. The handle of the slingshot was curved like a bird. I asked him whether he sold them to the children. He said not many children bought them. Most of his customers, he said, were foreign tourists coming to Inle Lake and Phoundawoo Pagoda. This morning alone he already sold four slingshots, and got US$ 12. In his opinion, foreign tourists are like children: just sell them children toys and they will buy all. I cannot help thinking how nice it was for him to earn his own living even though he was already old. When my friends come back, we walked through the shops to buy souvenirs. There were many beautiful Inle made clothes, which make everybody irresistible to buy.
Do you know why they row boats by foot? The reason is because there are a lot of debris from old plants. You have to row through these debris when you row. If you row sitting, you cannot see them properly. In order to see these debris, Inthas (People from Inle Lake) have to stand up and row using their feet.
On the way back, it was already dark. We were all tired, but we were all equally happy.
Translated from Thinzar‘s Blog with permission. Photos courtesy of Thinzar.