From Yangon we took a very long 12 hour overnight bus to Inle Lake. These sorts of trips are always really tough for me, someone who values comfort perhaps more than anything! But when we first got on, the seats were comfortable and we had a tv screen with movies to watch. The choices were all superhero movies, a genre which I wasn’t super excited by but I did end up watching “Ant Man” and was suitably entertained. Also “Hummingbird” which was a bit depressing but also entertaining (and strangely, the only non-superhero option) on the JJ express tourist bus. Despite the initial comfort of the seats, 12 hours can do a lot of damage to good spirits and by the time we arrived in Inle I was “so over it”. Thankfully, our hotel was able to check us in despite us arriving at 5am instead of the normal check-in time of 2pm. We went straight to bed until 11am.
That first day we just acquainted ourselves with the town, booked in for a couple’s massage, and had fresh fruit juices. When we went out for dinner, Callum had looked online and discovered a well-reviewed Indian restaurant. The reviews talked about how the food was awesome and the proprietor was a very enthusiastic Eminem fan. We located the right place and were indeed greeted by a guy in his early 30s who we couldn’t tell if he was Indian or Burmese, because he was dressed like a gangster, had Eminem tattoos all over his arms, and talked with a strange accent–kind of like a white dude trying to be a black dude. (read: impersonating Eminem’s character “Stan”.) At one time he explained that sometimes he goes for the “Slim Shady” persona, the “Marshall Mathers” persona, or the “Eminem” persona, depending on his mood and whether he takes a liking to you as a customer. He was very entertaining. Oh, and also, the only music blasting in the small open air restaurant was of course, Eminem. One of the funniest things this guy did was all of a sudden, without preamble, he just bent down by our feet and sprayed them with mosquito repellent, muttering under his breath “f**king mosquitoes”. Then did a gangster little dance move and nodded at us as if to say “Yeah, homies, I’ve got you”. The food was truly delicious and I was bopping in my seat along to the music. Cal kept saying to me “Don’t encourage him” so I wasn’t allowed to dance when the guy was around to watch.
The main reason people go to Inle Lake isn’t the Eminem Indian place, believe it or not. It’s to do an all-day boat tour which makes several cultural stops at the floating villages about 45 minutes out onto the lake. A highlight is to see the traditional fishermen with their conical nets manoeuvring their boats with their feet. They balance on one foot and use an oar with the other foot in order to row. This leaves their hands free to deal with their netting. Their balance is incredible to see and I enjoyed the challenge of capturing their movements and way of life with my camera. I wish I could’ve spent more time photographing them, but our noisy motor boat along with the hundreds of other noisy tourist boats is disturbing to them and their work of catching carp. So we moved on. (see a much better photographer’s pics here along with a video demonstrating the fishermen’s skill.)
Along the tour we also visited a silversmith workshop, a large marketplace, a demonstration of lotus root fibre-making and then weaving, a cigar making shop, a stop at a village called Inthein with many pagodas, and finally a chance to see the long-necked women who wear the rings around their necks. I’m fairly certain they were just actors who don’t even wear the rings legitimately. I didn’t come to this realisation until later, when I reflected over the day and looked at the pictures I took. The pictures that I paid to be able to take, because they had a basket out in front of them and I felt like everyone else was so rude by not dropping at least 1000 kyat into it (about $1 AUD). I am just a bit naive and everyone else probably saw instantly that they were fake. Callum did, anyway. Ah, well. I guess I just believe the best of everyone rather than suspect their motives.
After this exciting day, we relaxed our travel pace a bit and it was a good thing we did, as that night we had a meal the result of which made Callum very ill with food poisoning. The next day I was caretaker, pharmacist, laundress and photo editor. It kept me busy while Callum was busy projectile vomiting, a very low point for the poor guy. Inle Lake is probably only a 1.5 day stop, but we were there for 3 days. Below are my favourite photos I took on this day. It’s a common sight to see old wrinkly women smoking their cigars. I asked permission to take her photograph.