Mandalay to Inle Lake

An early start this morning. We must say farewell to our ship and continue our tour. Holiday part three coming up!

We join our private coaches for the drive to Mandalay Airport. Our boarding cards are again brightly coloured stickers and a piece of card, but they seem to work again, and we are soon in flight towards Heho Airport. Yes, it's off to Heho we go. On landing we are met by our two Inle Lake guides, Sue and Twee Twee. They will accompany us during our final three days. Shortly after leaving Heho we stop at a paper workshop to see how paper is made and transformed into parasols, books and various other products. It’s really interesting and amazing how the parasols are made from bamboo with no real mechanical intervention. We received the gift of a parasol on board ship, so it is interesting to see how they are made in this traditional way.

We are heading for Nyaung Shwe, the gateway town to Inle Lake. On arrival we take a walk around the busy food market. It is fascinating but we have to take care because the market stalls are less than 5 feet high so we could bash our heads easily. The stalls are constructed of bamboo and covered with tarpaulin secured with string. Over half of our guests have to stoop to walk around. It is clear we are the main attraction, particularly the taller members of our party! After our market visit, we enjoy a nice lunch at the Green Chilli Restaurant, before transferring to the quayside to join our private water transport to our hotel. Our water taxis are long, narrow wooden boats just wide enough for single chairs with cushions for added comfort. Each boat takes four or five people (one behind the other) and the boatmen propel us with an outboard motor on a long pole! We have ten private boats (each carrying the Furlongs Travel logo!) and they will remain with us for all our Inle Lake adventures.

The journey to the Aureum Palace Resort Hotel takes around one hour. At first we head through fairly narrow inlets and then the scenery opens up dramatically. Inle is a freshwater lake located in the Taunggyi District of Shan State. It is the second largest lake in Myanmar with an estimated surface area of nearly 45 square miles and its one of the highest at an elevation of 2,900 feet. During the dry season the average water depth is 7 feet (2.1 m), with the deepest point being 12 feet. During the rainy season levels can increase by 5 feet or more. Approximately 70,000 people live in the four main towns bordering the lake, in numerous small villages along the shore and on the lake itself. They call themselves Intha. Most residents are devout Buddhists, and live in simple houses of wood and woven bamboo on stilts. They are largely self-sufficient farmers. En-route to our hotel we sail past some villages and start to see what life is like. When we arrive into the main part of the lake we also see some of the local fishermen. They are known for practicing a distinctive rowing style which involves standing at the stern on one leg and wrapping the other leg around the oar. This unique style evolved for the reason that the lake is covered by reeds and floating plants making it difficult to see ahead while seated. The leg rowing style is only practiced by the men. Women row in the customary style, using the oar with their hands and sitting cross legged at the stern.

We’re soon arriving at our hotel and having fun disembarking from our water taxis. They wobble a bit when you stand up (the boats that is). We are greeted on arrival with traditional drums and cymbals of the region. It’s hard to speak whilst the musicians play, as it’s the loudest welcome we’ve had all tour. We’re soon being shown to our rooms by the hotel staff. Rooms are accessed along private paths or wooden board-walks and are huge. A vast bedroom, an ante room, a huge bathroom. Suffice to say, you can lose your spouse or friend within your room. Time to settle in.