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Trip Report Trip report from Myanmar - part 2

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Inle Lake - Heho airport is about 1 hour away from Nyaungshwe. Taxi cost was 25,000 kyat (managed to share a taxi which was great). The roads are unbelievably bad - the trip is an hour, not because the distance is so great but that traffic can only go so fast because of the road conditions. Liberal use of horns to indicate to the car/bus/motorbike ahead that you are going to be passing them. $10 US entrance fee to enter the Inle Lake area - paid just before getting to Nyaungshwe. The Princess Garden Hotel, as mentioned earlier, was my favorite hotel in Myanmar - very highly recommended, especially for the price of $25/night with the most fabulous breakfast.

First day was a trip to Kakku - KoAung (hotel owner) arranged for a car and driver for me (55,000 kyat). Took about an hour to drive to Taunggyi to stop and get the Pao guide - $3US for enterance fee, $5.00 for the guide). To travel to Kakku you need to have a Pao guide even if you have a guide of your own. About 1 1/2 hours to Kakku from Taunggyi Get to see the kids dressed in their green lonygi (school uniform walking along the side of the road next to all the traffic, piles of rocks on the side of the road in preparation for road repairs. Apparently the govement does not maintain the roads here - it is up to individuals to contribute money to get the road fixed. Lovely scenery. At Kakku you need to take off your shoes before entering the complex. The complex was lovely but it was not as big as I thought is was going to be, nor as "magical" as some people have reported - but interesting and beautiful nonetheless.Spent about 1 1/2 hours there taking pictures and wandering around. If you go to the bottom right corner of the small pond which is to the right side before you start walking between the stupas you can get a lovely shot of the stupas reflected in the pond.

Day 2 - walked from the hotel to the teak monastery - about a 45 minute walk each way. Got some nice shots along the way. At the monastery was able to get some pictures of the monks bathing/washing their robes and some pictures of young monks in the round windows of the monastery. In the afternoon went on a canoe trip (4000 kyat) - again arranged by KoAung - that took me through some lovely water lily fields and a village to the Ywa Thit Monastery where I had a chance to meet and speak with the monk in charge there. He was a really sweet man to loved having his picture taken (I promised him I would send him some copies of the pictures I took). Got a sunset shot taken from the monastery window overlooking the flooded rice fields. The canoe trip was just so quiet and serene - a really nice way to finish a day.

Day 3 - rented a boat for the day - 16,000 kyat (arranged by hotel). Started out at 6:30 so as to avoid the rush at Indien as it was the market day there. It is definitely chilly/cold when you are on that boat first thing in the morning. I would recommend socks, a fleece or sweater and some type of jacket (I had a fleece and rain jacket). Out on the lake you have a chance to see and take pictures of the fishermen with their one-legged rowing.. Stopped at a silversmith shop of the way to the market but didn't stay long as I really wanted to get to the market early. Arrived there at around 8:30 with perhaps one or two other boats there. The market was in full force - definitely a market for the local people as there were fish and vegetables for sale as well as household goods. Got some nice shots (i hope). Several carts with oxen. Then on up to the ruined stupas behind the village. Very picturesque with greenery growing from the crumbled buildings. - 500 kyat camera fee. Stupidly I hadn't reviewed the info on Indien in Lonely Planet before I came so I forgot about the second set of stupas which I believe are really supposed to be worthwhile seeing. On the way back through the market - this was about 10:30 or so there were tons of tourists and the market was closing down with alot of people packing up their stuff and leaving - by ox cart and by truck.. When I got back to where the boats were the place was jam packed - but by arriving early I had the market and the stupas pretty well to myself.
After Indein went to a shop where 3 Padaung women were weaving - took a few pictures and bought a scarf. The women get the money from the articles for sale that they weave. Also visited a weaving shop - very interesting to see the whole process from getting the lotus strands from the stem of the lotus plant (the fibers are like really thin filaments). The lotus fiber is not dyed - except for the monks' robes - and is basically a beige colr. The lotus fiber scarves were quite expensive - about $80 for the smallest one - so I opted for a silk shawl instead. Also went to see a cigar/cheroot shop - would give it a miss unless you are into cigars. Went to the Phaung Daw OO Paya - not at all impressive in my mind. The Buddha is now an amorphus blob due to all the gold foil that has been applied over the years. Only men are allowed to approach the Buddha and to apply the gold. Didn't want to go but managed to get there anyway was the Jumping Cat Monastery - otherwise known as the "sleeping cat monastery" - plus one sleeping monk. Can certainly give it a miss. The floating gardens cover a huge area - what I saw were tomato plants. Really couldn't get over the size of the area that these gardens cover. Got back about 4:30pm.- pretty tired.

Day 4 - boat trip to Sankar - really the highlight of my trip. KoAung managed to find another couple to share the boat with me to Sankar so it wouldn't cost me so much. The boat itself was 40,000 kyat then the entrance fee was $5 US each and the Pao guide was $10 US. You stop at the Nampan Hotel on the lake to get the guide and pay the guide fees and the entrance fee. We had Kyaw Zaw Win (Kyaw Kyaw) as our guide and he was just great. I would recommend trying to contact the hotel to get him as your guide. He does not have an email account of his own but the hotel's emal is nampanhotel@mptsat.com.mm. He really was good. The scenery on the way down to Sankar is just beautiful. It was the five day market at Sankar so we had a chance to go through that market as well. People here would ask for money if they were aware you were taking their picture - I hadn't had that happen before. After spending time at the market we went through the village and really got a sense of village life. The most meaningful time for me was when we met the doctor at the hospital in the village. He was almost desperate to talk to someone - his English was very good. He must have been about 25 and had been there a year - probably his first position after graduation. As a government employee he was placed there. He told us of his frustrations and difficulities. When he and a nurse arrived the hospital was a bare building - no supplies, equipment, beds etc. He does not speak any of the tribal languages in the area so communication with his patients is extremely difficult. It has been difficult to get the trust of the people as he is "an outsider". He is learning that he can't just tell people they are wrong (hey - he's just a new grad and we all know new grads want to change the world immediately) and that change is going to take a long time. High blood pressure is main medical condition - who would have guessed. Childbirth has a high mortality/morbidity rate usually caused by the midwives who are trained from a book - no practical training - but who think they know everything. They will step on a woman's stomach to help push the baby out. Medicines are available without a prescription so people just buy whatever they want - creating alot of drug resistant bacteria now. As well most of the medication is from China - alot of which is counterfeit and worthless. Even then the instructions are in Chinese. This poor guy was almost in tears as he was talking to us - I'm sure he would have talked for alot longer but we had to leave. Unbelievable. On the way back from Sankar we stopped at another village to see pottery being made - another opportunity to see village life. Kyaw Kyaw knew these people and was able to take us around and show us alot. So overall a really enjoyable, educational day. A must do if you go to Inle Lake.

I would have loved to have spent at least another 2 days here - or longer - as there was so much that I didn't have the chance to do - ie to just relax and swim in the hotel pool for one.

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