Inle Lake / Sagar
Our optional excursion today involves a long sailing to the south of the lake. We’re travelling to the Sagar region, where few visitors explore. We were unable to reach this location during our 2015 tour due to the narrow parts of the lake being blocked by water hyacinth, so fingers are crossed today for better success. We head off across the lake and down the narrow channels. At the bridge which was blocked last year, we're able to proceed without issue, and we notice a small elephant being washed in the river at this point. It's unusual to see an elephant in this region, and we guess it may be a retired logging elephant being cared for by local people.
A little further south, and we traverse a tight section of bends in the river. Dawn's group gets through without problems, but one of Richard's boats takes the wrong angle between some marker posts, and effectively beaches itself on a sandbank! Fun and games transpire. All the boatmen jump into the water and try hard to pull the boat free. No initial success. Occupants of the said boat have to shimmy up and down to change the dynamics. The boatmen heave again. Finally we're free, and we can continue on our way. And all of this before consuming lunch!
On arriving near Sagar, we make one visit before lunch and one after. The Sagar region is in Pa-O territory, formerly completely off limits to foreigners. The Pa-O are a local tribe who for years maintained their own army but they came to terms with the Myanmar government and the region has now been open for nearly 10 years to tourists. Sagar itself is a tiny village with a group of ruined stupas on the outskirts. In the late monsoon season the stupas can be partially submerged! Some young school boys meet Richard's group while our guide escorts a village walk. One young boy encourages Richard to chew on what looks like a green carrot. Richard agrees to participate and then pulls a face to describe how bitter the taste is. All the boys laugh. So do our clients! Then it gets worse. Why not dip the "carrot" into this salt? Richard obliges again. The salt has hot chilli mixed in. Wow! The carrot turns out to be tamarind, a tart fruit from a tree, used as a souring agent! Never again.
Across the water we also visit the Kakku Pagoda Complex, an amazing cluster of ancient monuments, pagodas and temples built in the 16th century.
We all meet up for a great lunch at "Little Lodge". The restaurant is on an upper level of an old building and down below in the gardens someone spots some very young puppy dogs. These prove too tempting for Dawn and some of our guests.