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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Inle Lake, Myanmar

Inle Lake, Myanmar

March 14 Nyaung Shwe (Inle Lake)

Inle Lake is the second largest lake in Myanmar(formerly known as Burma). The freshwater lake is located Nyaungshwe or Nyaung Shwe, Shan State District and a part of the Shan Hills in the country. This is our next destination. Home of the famous floating villages, farm gardens, markets and their unique art of fishing.

We took the night Bus from Bagan to Ngaung Shwe,Inle Lake the previous night. This is our second sleeper bus trip in Myanmar and I'm loving it! It feels liberating, unsafe, uncomfortable, adventurous, carefree, exciting with a sprinkle of gypsy vibe dust. It may not come appealing to some, the trip doesn't come with soft mattress, fluffy pillows, noise free and dim lights. But for backpackers like us the bus felt like home after a tiring,wonderful day out in the wild. Sleeping in a bus brings back memories of 4 hours trip to the beach with my friends in Cebu, Philippines, going to Angkor Wat a day before my birthday and some of my trips to Malaysia. The trips with my friends were special, I'm really missing them now and all the hilarious memories in the past.

Good thing, we got a room in Bagan to wash up before making the trip or else we will smell like rotten eggs the whole day in Inle Lake. We booked a different bus services for this trip. Bagan Min Thar Bus service is not as comfortable compared to JJ express but they were only the bus company that operates from Inle to Yangon on that day. It was the best choice for time constraints backpackers. We didn't have our own TV set this time around, no snacks too yet we had one bottled water, a blanket and our very own neck pillow. It was a bumpy ride, as I was charging both are phones and power bank I had to keep track of it to make the cables are still attached. The batteries must all be fully charged as we don't have the time and place to have it charge again. Another challenge of sleeping in a bus is keeping an eye of your belongings. Everytime the bus stop for toilet break we make sure we have our passports, id's and money with us, by being cautious it will totally save us from disaster. Moreover, In the middle of our sleep the bus stopped at a checkpoint just like in Bagan and of course collected a zone entrance fee again, better change those big notes you have to avoid the hassle. It was a good sign thou, a morning call to everyone to get ready as we have just entered the town of Ngaung Shwe. 

Booked Online
Bagan Shwe Pyi High Way Bus Terminal to May Gate
Bagan Min Thar Night Schedule: (Last trip) 20:30-04:00 
Bus Fare: 25 usd / 30 sgd per pax

Inle Zone Entrance Fee: 12,500 kyats/10 USD/10 EURO, Valid for one week.

We arrived in Nyaung Shwe (Inle Lake) around 4:30 in the morning, the weather was surprisingly very cold I had to zipped my jacket all the way up to my neck. It wasn't a bus station were the bus dropped us off but there we're still a few drivers who welcomed our arrival. I'm not sure if those were hired to pick up their hotel guests, we were just happy that there was one vehicle available for us. The driver spoke  the universal sign of language of Ok which had the same meaning with all the English language in his dictionary. We laughed. I really loved their down to earth vibes, they're just genuinely kind and caring. The language barrier was tough it even got worst when he pulled out his friend and introduce him as our boatman. They know exactly what they were doing  I guess we're not the first tourist who ask for a boat tour as early as 4 in the morning. Another significant challenge of being homeless is looking for a public toilet. Good thing our driver was smart enough to find a place for us, I'm not really sure where we were at the time but I'm guessing it was near a temple. We were at their mercy, two female backpackers tired, restless, with a few cash in hand,used clothing and with pretty big grins on our faces. A test of honestly and faith in humankind. All went well. They waited and wondered. When nature calls you just gotta do what you're suppose to do. 

We traveled for 10 minutes to the boat pier. A translator came along and explained that our boatman as we already know can't speak a single English word and our driver will pick us after our tour. We were that lucky as these guys were pretty much nice to us. There was no plan at all, come what may was our motto for our Myanmar trip. I'm just happy that things were laid out nicely for us. 

Pick up (back and forth): 4,000 kyat each 
Boat Tour: 25,000 Kyat 
Sightseeing: Sunrise, Pagoda, Traditional Fisherman

It was freezing cold as we make our way to the lake. The dark waters showed no signs of marine life. It got even colder when were out in the open space. Seriously speaking we were not prepared for it at all. I wore a harem pants with a cloth thinner as cotton and an even more feather like sleeveless for the expected heat but we were terribly wrong. The first blast of the air caught us off guard, both of us looked at each other and shivered like a dog after his bath. We didn't know the temperature drops to that extent where I had to take out my scarf to keep myself more warmer. All was forgotten when we saw the first rays of light, it was breathtakingly beautiful. The boatman stopped the engine, we sat their mesmerized with its beauty. As one fisherman at a distant throws his net in the waters his silhouette made the whole scene more surreal, it was as if I'm inside in one of those national geographic magazine cover. 

When the sun took over the morning sky, the temperature slowly climb and the heat was on. There were more people crossing the lake, even the birds were awake to greet everyone hello. We visited a pagoda, a farm garden, a few workshop and then had lunch in a restaurant overlooking the lake. While strolling around the lake we passed by this unique store in the village, it reminded of Philippines sari-sari store and I pointed at it like a little kid who just spotted an ice cream truck. 

In early afternoon, the heat was getting in our heads and so we decided to end the boat tour too early as expected. Our boatman was pretty much happy about it, he can tell from our face that we were exhausted from the intense heat. He called his partner and picked us from the end point. The extreme temperature change really sucked out the energy out of us, we needed something to re-energize our senses. We decided to go to a Spa and mind you looking for a spa in Nyaung Shwe  is quite a challenge. Good thing we found Amaradavi Day Spa, eventhou it was a bit pricey we decided to go for it. It was also a great excuse to get a body scrub because we haven't taken a shower the whole day, plus a shampoo and blow dry for our sticky,messy hair. It's my first ever body scrub, I can't imagine people doing things which I can do for myself. Anyways there's always a first time. Two ladies did the scrubbing for me and they showed no mercy, they scrubbed really hard and it got me thinking is the dirt in my skin which made them scrub that way or it is just how it's supposed to be. The funny thing about it is I can totally doze off with every spa treatment especially in the hair shampoo part. I totally lost it when they blow dry my hair, I'm glad my spa attendant was so kind to me and she just let me do my thing, she even gave me a back massage which totally made my day.

Body Scrub and Shampoo in Amaradavi Day Spa: 30,000 kyat (each person)

We decided to have an early dinner, at the same time celebrate my friend's birthday. It's her second time to celebrate her candles day abroad with me. I wanted to make it special, so I asked the team from the restaurant to send out her sort-of dessert cake with a candle on my signal. They agreed with the plan. Then out of nowhere one guy approach me and handed over a lighter, I was ok with that because I can just light the candle on my own then. In a minute or so the lady gave me a candle, the ultimate surprise epic fail was right before my very face. We just laughed it out. I sang her a happy birthday song, we drank a bottle of Myanmar Beer and chit chat our hearts out. My friend had rosy red cheeks as head back to the Bus office. We laughed here and there, I love a little bit of alcohol to make things more interesting, even as we brushed our teeth in their office we really can't stop laughing. What a perfect way to remember Inle Lake in my travel memory bank.

Night Bus from Nyaung Shwe to Yangon
Booked in Facebook (Pay with the Driver)
JJ Bus Address : A5/6, Mawlamyine Street , Aungmingalar Highway Bus Station.

Nyaung Shwe (Inle Lake) to Yangon
JJ Epxress Night Schedule: (Last trip)
18:30-6:00 am
Bus Fare: 23,300 Kyat (includes dinner)