When we first stepped into this new hotel in Mandalay, we were mostly welcomed by the manager, an old man who has travelled in so many countries and worked in many hotels before. We were also surprised that he can even speak some of Bahasa Indonesia, and told us many times how much he loves Indonesia (well, especially the beautiful girl named ‘Ratna’ whom he adored when he was young. It was sweet). He liked us so much that finally, he offered us to stay and live with his family in Inle Lake after our Bagan trip. We had amazing time staying with the locals and therefore I am writing you the ultimate list of things to do in Inle Lake
Inle Lake was never actually in our plan. We were too excited to see the temples and learn about the historical places, and we thought, oh a lake was just.. a lake. Aren’t we just wrong? 🙂 Hearing that we could actually live with an actual family in a floating village was actually kinda nice. So we changed our itinerary again and decided to take the chance of Inle Lake.
It was the highlight of our trip to Myanmar.
Inle lake is a very long lake and it took us one and a half hour to get into the village by the boat from the small harbour in Nyaung Shwe. It was 5 a.m and it was so damn cold! But we managed to survive and arrived safely at the house.
The first impression on our first day around the boat was the scenery. We have blown away with the majestic view and how peaceful and quiet the place was. You can see why we often held our breath when you see this kind of view!
The villagers and tourists from other boats often greeted us on the way and say “Hello” or “Minglapar” (meaning “Hello” in Burmese) with wide smiles. It is true when they say people from the village are friendlier than the one from the city.
The most interesting part is how the villagers live their life on the lake. They wash clothes, they swim, they farm and go anywhere with the boat. They already get used to this kind of life. Can you imagine?Me and Arma were also touched by the kindness and friendliness of the family that took us in. The mother cooked breakfast and dinner for us, and boy.. don’t we just love the real homey feel of Myanmar food!
We visited a couple of workshops on the lake that we couldn’t resist buying once we saw how it was made! They use fibre from the orchid’s stem to make the thread for weaving, and they still do it in the traditional way. This is the only place in the world that uses this kind of method.We also went to the jewellery workshop and learnt how they made it with full of attention to details. I bought the silver fish necklace as Inle’s holy animal, they said it will bring me fortune and luck 🙂
Since Arma is a smoker, she was happy to see the traditional cigar workshop of Myanmar. It’s a small house where all of the workers are women.
Another tradition that we were amazed was their way to row the boat while fishing. They use one of their legs to hold the paddle and row the boat while their hands are occupied with the net. All of the men able to do this since they learnt how to do it since they were little.
The second day on the lake we decided to visit the temples. We usually loved the traditional ones, the ones where we can see the old lush temples from centuries ago.
Most Burmese people tend to use gold in many of their new pagodas, to show how grateful they are to God. There is only one big temple in the lake where most of all the villagers come to pray. On the side of the temple is the market where most villagers on Inle Lake sell their handicrafts. We got a chance to see several women from the different ethnic group, tasted some real traditional snacks, and ate fresh tomatoes from the wonderful ladies who gave us to try. Oh yes, tomatoes from their floating farm. Yum!
Seeing how much we loved temple and pagoda, our boat driver took us to another pagoda that was far away from the lake. We took a ride to one of the rivers, walked a bit after we hit the ground, and climbed hundreds of shallow stairs to these pagodas. It was jaw dropping awesome view! We got to see the gold pagodas, the white pagodas, and the old ruined pagodas that were still attached. (Don’t you see how much we love temples?)
We were so sad that we got to leave the family so soon and continue the journey. The night before we left, we watched tv together, chat and practice English language together. We were so happy with the experience so we decided to give them some presents. I drew a picture of the mother so they have something to remember us by.
This place taught me how easy it is to live a simple life. When I observed the house, the rooms, and the activities of the family, I was full of awe with how they live. There is no laptop, there is no McD, there is no Playstation, and yet they were happy and peaceful. There’s no need to use Facebook or Line with others, just come over to their places by boat. I didn’t even touch my laptop and phone at all during the time. I was too impressed by the view and the people! Inle Lake was definitely our favourite place in Myanmar. We were a bit sad that we have to leave and take the next trip to Yangon. We really do wish we can meet Ibu Dowa family again one day!
p.s: Thank you so much for Ibu Dowa and family, Terrance, and the boat driver. It was the most amazing experience that we had during our trip in Myanmar.
© 2017 Writing & Images copyright of Marina Utami.