Adventures, Races, Kit and Life
We clambered into our long boat in the sleepy, chilled village of Nyaungshwe, pushed off from the shore and began our journey out to the famous Lake Inle. The classic wooden longboats are the local villagers’ equivalent of cars and with their shallow draft, are ideally suited to the Lake’s conditions. They can get right up close to the shoreline as well as effortlessly skimming across the floating fauna that appears in abundance across the lake. The noisy lawnmower type engine has the propeller mounted on an 8 foot shaft which has also been adapted for the shallow conditions and allows the driver an increased level of maneuverability.
It was a scenic start to the day as we cruised down the narrow, calm river estuary, wrapped in warm and very colourful blankets to keep us snug. On both sides it was bordered by tall, thick reeds. A light mist hovered over the water as the day warmed up and the surrounding wildlife was incredibly active. Every now and again we would skim past one of the local river bank, thatched huts, with their boats moored outside and steal a view of the simple lake folk going about their daily business.
Before we knew it, we had arrived at the point where the estuary opens out into the breadth of Inle Lake. As if by magic, we were greeted by the appearance of several local fishermen that the lake is famous for. The boatmen looked like a scene of traditional perfection. Each boat was equipped with their traditional triangular fishing traps. One fisherman was gracefully casting his nets into the waters and reeling them back in. The others paddled towards us, skilfully working their oars with one leg – a highly effective technique, mastered by the locals, that enables them to keep their hands free for the demands of fishing, whilst still moving.
With all of this traditional activity set against the background of the famous lake our first impression was an instant WOW ! The boatmen effortlessly paddled towards us keen to show us the catch of the day and happily posed for photos. Wow, this places is really tourist friendly was our first conclusion… Then they asked for money !
It dawned on us that these were probably not the legendary, hard working fisher-folk of the lake, essential to both the local ecosystem and economics. No, these were the lazy ones, possibly entrepreneurs, that lurk at the river mouth, a prime spot to ambush each and every high spirited tourist boat that chugs down from the village!
Admittedly they did look very authentic and they did pose well. We took some lovely photos but on closer inspection the catch of the day looked more like the catch of last week ….. We gave them a few coins, which they tutted at but on the basis that they hadn’t actually done anything apart from linger, ambush and pose for 2 minutes, this seemed fair.
This was the only fake experience in three days of exploring Inle Lake and the surrounding areas.
The lake was genuinely beautiful. A large expanse of blue waters nestled in amongst the surrounding green mountains. It was a hive of activity with fishermen toiling away. Longboats were laden to the brim with goods and were chugging up and down what seemed to be the main highway connecting the villages on the far side. Unobtrusive tourist boats were buzzing off on adventures in all different directions, packed with camera happy folk, delighting in the scenery.
The shallow waters were very clear and inviting, revealing the often thick vegetation below the surface as well as the bottom of the lake which was probably no more than 10 feet down.
As we cruised down the middle of the lake, effectively the central highway, we passed various stilted villages and gracious temples that seemed to sprout out of the thick reeds. There were a variety of buildings and even vast green gardens, that magically seemed to float on the water. We were then distracted by the first noises that could be heard above the loud din of the petrol motor.
Just ahead of us on the other side of a subtle bamboo boundary was beautiful stilted accommodation that would have looked more in place in somewhere like Mauritius. There was a large central, thatched building with stilted wooden walkways heading off in different directions. All the staff had gathered on the steps of this building in order to greet their guests as they pulled up in their long boat. Some were banging drums, some tambourines, some chanting. When combined all this noise created an overall fantastic sense of welcome. Wow !
Golden Island Cottages 2 was the perfect spot. Suspended bamboo walkways connected the central thatched building with a variety of traditional looking bamboo villas. Each was carefully positioned in parallel to the Lake’s shore in order to maximise the views of the lake and its surrounding mountains. Each villa had a delightful little balcony that allowed you to sit there and enjoy a glass of the local wine (which really is surprisingly good ) and watch the lake life float by and then evening after evening, the most incredibly colourful sunsets.Our boat followed the boundary and then we had a complete result! We turned left which put us on course to follow the guests we had seen arrive. The music started again but this time for us! Yes! It was one of those moments of glory, when having depended upon friends’ recommendation you realise that you’ve booked an absolute winner. Accommodation that your parents will talk about in years to come! Yes! “I love it when a plan comes together!”
The restaurant was great, serving top notch local dishes to satisfy your hunger after a hard day’s tourist activity. The stilted position above the lake helped to keep you cool and we slept incredibly well in our snug little villa. They served a fantastic breakfast to fill your stomach prior to each day’s exciting explorations. The perfect combination for a day’s adventure in a truly beautiful area of Burma.