Inle Lake, stilts and cool water

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Drifting across the inky black water in an oversized canoe, it’s all too easy to feel the real world is oh so far away. Inle Lake in Shan province is a world of its own, a community built on stilts and floating gardens, where kids get picked up from school in long paddle boats and traders sell their wares while simultaneously bailing water from their canoe.

We’ve got a stunning view of life on Inle lake from the Golden Island cottages, a slice of luxury on this otherwise budget trip. The best moments come from just observing the people – once out on a boat ourselves, I found Inle lost some of its charms.

As one of the most visited spots in Myanmar (and probably on every tourists’ itinerary!), Inle is something of a floating shopping mall, and our boat driver took us from lotus silk shop to cigar shop to boat-making shop to umbrella making shop to basket-weaving shop… You get the picture. Some of it is very interesting, but it gets less so when you realize that the same (lovely) silver knot bracelets they’re selling as ‘local’ are the same you bought to promote your book with. Hmm. Also, we’d done most of our souvenir shopping in Yangon, which is still the place to get the best quality and prices, it seems.

Still, once I’d firmly conveyed the words ‘no thank you’, there were many delights to be found. The village of Inthein was gorgeous, with its ancient ruined stupas and over 1000 new ones. The Jumping Cat monastery (can’t quite recall the Burmese name!) was also very cool, and different to anything else we’ve seen.

We stopped at a market (not the right day for the floating market, unfortunately) and while we weren’t tempted by any of the goods, we WERE tempted by the hot fresh doughnuts being cooked up by the entrance. At only 7p a pop, they were an awesome mid-morning snack! Plus, there was delicious Shan noodle soup, simple and comforting.

Retreating from the balcony of our little cottage-on-stilts to avoid the mosquitos, the sky opened out to a blanket of thousands of stars. Out here, there’s very little electricity or light pollution to mar the sky, and for that sight, it might be worth visiting all the lotus silk shops in the world.

(Pictures to come – Inle internet too slow!)

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