Inle Lake is on Burma’s short list of best places to visit and home to various ethnic communities, small farms, and lots of wildlife. It has the added benefit of being at 3,000 feet elevation so its climate is much cooler than our other whistle stops.
We flew to Inle Lake from Bagan, where airport security did not need to see our passports but did give us stickers as evidence that we had made it through through security. Airport security was a wooden bar that had some kind of metal thing attached to it. We waited for our flight at Gate 3, right next to Gates 1 and 2. All three gates went out to the same bus that took us to our prop plane on the far end of the tarmac. It kinda felt like a game of Junior Airport.
We hired a taxi from the airport in Heho to our hotel in the tiny town of Nyuang Shwe along a lake canal. Most transportation around the lake is by boat, mostly long wooden boats with diesel engines, although many locals continue to use row boats for fishing — and they row with their legs, not their arms.
After settling in, we hired Jokai to take us around the lake in his boat, and visited floating temples, craft workshops and an outdoor market that smelled like fish.
The local area is great for biking so after our day on the boat, we rode around the local village and hung out at a coffee house to enjoy a coconut caramel lassi and creamy hummus with chopped tomatoes — unusual treats in our Burma travels but not quite what we were looking for. We were hoping to find a good wifi connection in town and learned that were unlikely to find that anywhere around the lake. Burma’s government recently provided all households in the area with smart phones but apparently didn’t increase transmission capacity quickly enough. So hurray for Burma’s families getting access to information and another step to democracy in Burma. And hurray for One Owl Cafe in Nyuang Shwe.
We had to abandon the other plans we made for our visit to Inle Lake because I had mouth pain that was getting worse by the minute. I think this is among every traveling American’s worst fears — getting sick or hurt in a country that lacks advanced medical technology. But it can always be worse than where you are. Melissa reminded me that Tom Hanks knocked out an infected tooth with an ice skate in “Cast Away.” I would have done this without hesitation if I knew it was the only way to get rid of the pain. Fortunately, I had antibiotics, ibuprofen and a ticket to Bangkok.
In case you are wondering, Tom Hanks was reunited with Wilson earlier this year after 15 years of separation.
We loved Burma — the people, the land, the feeling of a community as it comes out of its isolation. We are back in Bangkok and looking forward to a little bit of life in the big city before Melissa heads home on Tuesday.