Plan B swings into action

Added 11 Jan 2015

An early start morning and we plan to be out all day. We wrap up warm and board our water taxis to cross the main body of the lake to a local market. Our final approach is along a narrow inlet. At the market the local Pao tribe women are selling their wares. They wear a traditional brightly coloured woven scarf. We also see cattle, fruit, vegetables, dried fish and cheroots, as well as clothing and many everyday items. People also come to the market to buy firewood. We also have some great news … toilets (Western style!) are available here. Just 300 Burmese Kyat a go! About 2.5 pence.

After the market, we all board our boats again to head south. The lake narrows and as we approach a bridge there seems to be a queue. Everything has come to a halt. There are a few wooden boats ahead of us and lots of waving and activity near the bridge. It turns out the heavy rains experienced in the mountains a few days ago has moved a lot of floating hyacinth plants and the channels under the bridge are totally blocked. Richard goes to investigate and manages to get up onto the bridge. The verdict – we are scuppered! There is far too much debris to move and even if we did get through, it may get blocked again and we’d be stuck the wrong side.

In the meantime our boatmen have pulled up on shore and we’re having great fun watching some local kids roast corn. By now the temperature has warmed up so most of us have taken coats off and we’re happily enjoying the sun. Richard and Dawn find a shop nearby and buy some pre-packed pieces of cake as a snack for everyone! One of our guests also decides to eat a sweet taken from the hotel sweetie bowl. By the time we advise it is a hot and spicy tamarind sweet it is too late, it is in the mouth! Oops. Always read the packet, even if it is in Burmese?

Our guides are making phone calls to discover what may be possible. Plan B swings into operation. The only issue is that lunch is booked and paid for down south. We have to find a different lunch stop. Naturally Furlongs are up to the challenge. Somehow we get a message to a restaurant on the north-west shore of the lake and by the time we arrive they are busy cooking our lunch. Richard and Dawn decide it must be time (yet again) for more complimentary beers, wines and soft drinks.

After lunch we visit our “daily pagoda” and this one has a floating Royal Barge used for special occasions. On route back to the hotel we sail through some floating gardens. The local farmers grow vegetables, flowers and fruit here. The floating garden beds are constructed by the farmers. They gather up weeds from the deeper parts of the lake, bring them back in boats and make them into floating garden beds, anchored by bamboo poles. These gardens rise and fall with changes in the water level, so are resistant to flooding. The constant availability of nutrient-laden water creates as incredibly fertile growing area.

Dawn Furlong

Photo: Guests waiting patiently as we formulate Plan B © Dawn Furlong