Last week, I took a trip to Inle Lake, in Myanmar. I have lived in this part of the world for more than three years, and I have been to a few pretty places in SE Asia. Inle Lake is the first place to truly amaze me in a long, long time.
Our first night, we landed in Nyaung Shwe and cruised around the great little town. We stayed at La Maison Birmane, a lovely hotel with with kind service, pretty bathrooms and yummy welcome drinks. After dropping luggage, our afternoon-large-meal took us around the corner to Green Chilli, a Burmese/Thai restaurant where we ate everything. Due to incredible levels of hunger, I forgot to bring my camera, and even if I had remembered, the food wouldn’t have lasted long enough to take photos. I assure you, it was nice. One pleasant surprise was that Green Chilli carries copies of the Saffron Guide, which we picked up and purchased immediately. It’s sort of a high end, curated Lonely Planet, and does a great job explaining what’s what, and what’s worth it, in Myanmar. If you are in the neighborhood, I highly recommend picking one up.
The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering through town in the rain, where we stumbled upon a tomato ripening warehouse. I was happy to put this on the list of thing I have never seen, or expected to see, and have now. It was gorgeous, and smelled like a million green tomatoes, which makes sense. There is probably a lot more relevant information I could add here, but I know nothing about tomato processing, and we have a lot to get through here.
The next day, we woke up early to catch our boat to the lake. The long boat we jumped in took us through a few misty canals before getting to Inle, where we were greeted by traditional fisherman (who apparently have the best balance in the universe.) Most of the local economy is supported by fisherman and farmers of fresh water seaweed, and it was amazing to see it all in action. It was a chilly and quiet morning and I took about 389557920 photos before breakfast.
Thanks to a local tip, we stopped at Thahara Inle Heritage training school, located lakeside. The breakfast was silly good. Everything was homemade, local, and delicious and the staff was incredibly competent and attentive. They grow all their produce on site, and offer gorgeous accommodation in bungalows along the river. I’m staying here next time. They also have a Burmese cat sanctuary, but I feel like that deserves a separate post.
We made our way to a local weaving collective, where they use lotus root fibers to spin into silk. I may have purchased a few things here. It felt a little touristy, but to be honest, that’s a good thing. It’s good that people are coming here to support an art that is unique to this tiny region. I think it’s great that they can trick tourists into over-spending on scarves and hats and ties. The more money goes into this art, the longer the art will last.
A few hours later, happily windblown and broke, we took of from Inle Lake to the Aythaya Vineyard, 45 minutes away near a town called Taunggyi. Vineyard? In Myanmar? Yep, and it looked a lot like southern France. We pulled up, gawked at our accommodation, and decided to never leave. The vineyard has three rooms, and mine had doors on all sides that could be pushed to make the room completely open air. It was not terrible. We drank a very respectable Sauvignon Blanc, watched the sunset, and ate cookies. There was a party at the vineyard that night, where I learned that elderly Burmese men find it amusing when lanky blonde girls do the robot.
The morning after was lazy, we walked around the grounds, I tried to convince the resident golden retriever to come home with me, and ate a bunch of Shan noodles. If you made it this far in this long-winded post, congratulations. The point of all this is that you should go to Inle Lake, eat everything, drink everything, and try not to fall in.
Bonus points! Here is a video of the lake that I didn’t film.
Potentially helpful information:
608 Merchant Street, Floor 3, Pabedan Township,
Htone Bo, Aythaya
Taunggyi, Southern Shan States
Phone (+95-81) 24 5 36
Hans-Eduard Leiendecker, director, technical operations
All photos property of Caitlin Decker. If you steal them, you need to raise your standards.