Day 6: Bagan – Inle Lake
My stay in Bagan ended in the same disastrous way as how it had begun. The night before I left, a cyclone passed through Myanmar (on its way to India), and it poured down like hell. It was still raining when I left for the airport after lunch. The cyclone somehow transported me back to that elastic rubbery chewy time dimension once again, and my flight’s 15 min delay stretched to 1 hour. As I landed in Heho, I realized that the rain was here to stay. It was raining everywhere.
Having read that a ride from the airport to Nyaungshwe was quite expensive, I decided to ask a group of 3 Americans whether I could share a taxi with them, and they happily said yes. We bid farewell at the boat jetty, with them taking a boat to a fancy resort out on the lake, me going to Mingalar Inn. I had booked a room at this lovely small hotel for 3 nights, but as I decided to skip Mandalay and headed straight for Inle from Bagan, I arrived a day earlier. And guess what? It was full. And so was every single hotel I called. What the hell!!! I could not @#$%^&* believe it. Did the cyclone lift all tourists from Bagan and dump them in Nyaungshwe? How could I be in the same situation as I was 3 days before? It was impossible. And it was still raining.
Another guess what? My guarding angel blessed me, again. The manager at Mingalar Inn knew a guesthouse nearby without Internet or a phone line, so nobody could book it ahead of time for sure. He sent his son on a bike to that guesthouse to check whether they had an available room. Miraculously, they had one, so this super kind man took out his motorbike and brought me there, double checked again that I had a room to stay for the night before leaving. I had a quick cold shower (as hot water ran out by the time I finished washing my hair), then went to a restaurant nearby for dinner. Actually it was an Italian restaurant, the very first Italian restaurant in Inle. The owner told me how he learnt to make fresh pasta and pizza in 3 days from an Italian tourist, how she sent him seeds from Italy, how he grew his own basil and tomato and made fresh sauce everyday, he even showed me the wood-fired oven for baking pizza. A very lovely chatty man! As it was still raining I gave up on the idea of catching up with Patrick and Linda at their hotel. They were leaving for Yangon, then Bangkok the day after. I hope one day our paths will cross again.
Day 7: Inle Lake
The first thing I saw on my 7th day in Myanmar: RAIN. Oh God! What could I do on a cold rainy morning? I took my time, and it paid off well. At the breakfast table, I met a guy from Hong Kong who’s working in Manila, Philippines, an old man from Finland with very long red hair, a guy who was born in Myanmar, spent his teenager years going back and forth between Myanmar and France, settled down in France in his 20s, and now came back to Myanmar to set up a business, and finally a French architecture who was helping this Myanmar entrepreneur to build a brand new hotel in Inle. We had a great time chatting about more or less everything, from how awful the weather had been for the last few days to how delicious Myanmar avocado is with lemon, to grander topics like how rapid development in developing countries is destroying the environment, how sweatshops pours money into foreign investors’ pockets, and how Myanmar government rolls out their plan to install the very first ATM machine in the country next year with such crap internet and telephone networks. Fascinating!
Afterwards, I checked out and moved to Mingalar Inn. By mid-morning, the rain ceased, but it was too late for me to go for a boat tour around the lake. I got a map from the hotel manager, rented a bike, and cycled around. The highlight of the day must be Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung, a monastery built in teak with unique oval windows, and the nearby Shwe Yan Pyay Pagoda with cave-like corridors, walls decorated with beautiful glass mosaics and hundreds of small Buddhas in niches. As young novices gathered in the ordination hall for their mid-afternoon pray, I went downstairs, even though some other tourists stayed to take photos. The novices were very cute, cheerful, and playful, as young boys of their age should be. One of them in particular was very cheeky. He was sitting with his back facing an oval window and his hands holding a well-used prayer book. After a while, I realized that he had a small piece of mirror hiding in the book to check out the tourists outside. Every now and then he would turn his head to see if anyone knew his secret, then giggled with the fellow by his side.
A very threatening sky in the morning
On the way to a vineyard
On the way to a vineyard
It was such a surprise to discover a vineyard in Myamar.
Tiny green grapes
Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung monastery
Two novices sitting by the window
One of three famous oval windows of Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung
A beautiful Buddha statue inside Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung
A Bunsen burner and a silver bowl – Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung
Every monk holds a fan like this when going out for alms
Two novices shaving for each other
Shwe Yan Pyay Pagoda with hundreds of Buddhas in niches
Beautiful corridors of Shwe Yan Pyay Pagoda
Buddhas in niches
Even the tiled floor looks beautiful
Buddhas and glass mosaic decorations on the wall
A Buddha niche
Buddhas in niches and fantastic glass mosaics
Glass mosaics on the wall of Shwe Yan Pyay Pagoda