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Lakes, lanslides and fishermen on one leg
Rating: ( 5.0 ) ( 2 votes )

Inle Lake, Myanmar
Jan 04, 2004 22:08

Pros: beautiful scenery
Cons: choice of beer

Swapping the luxury of the embassy-lifestyle of Rangoon for the sights and sounds of the "real" Burma, we landed in the middle of a field, shuffled off the tiny plane that had just about carried us north and headed for the concrete outhouse that we took to be the terminal. Heathrow it ain't.

We'd arrived to take a whirlwind tour of Inle Lake, often described as outrageously beautiful and the one place that really had everyone we spoke to in Rangoon licking their lips. Ten minutes into the taxi ride into town we caught our first glimpse of some truly lovely scenery; twelve minutes and we almost became part of the scenery, grinding to a swift halt just a couple of cars behind a landslide that completely blocked the "road" into town.

Eventually the rubble was cleared, and we set out on the hour's kidney-busting drive to the lake, arrivng just in time to see the sun setting over mountains guarding a lake so still and scenic that it just didn't look real. And that effect was only enhanced the following morning, when we rose in our cabin hut overlooking the lake (shared, of course, with the inevitable family of geckos) to a clear blue sky, mirrored in the clear blue lake. Feeling I was being taken advantage of by the local boat drivers, my pride and I headed into the nearest village to recruit a boat for the day, and stumbled into market day - and market day for the locals, and not just for the tourists as we've been threatened with elsewhere on our travels (it was here also that we met the coolest monk you've ever seen, proudly patrolling the gates of his monastery with Elvis-scowl and glasses straight from an episode of CHiPS).

Once the cheese sorbet-limited conversations had hit a deadlock, I manged to recruit an English-speaking local to help me secure a boat for the day, and two very cheerful, though painfully simple, guys spent a day showing us around the various sights on the lake, responding to our various whims of stops and starts with a mixture of tortured and delighted expressions in equal measure. It was a wonderful day. I'm just glad that our boatmen didn't employ the traditional rowing technique that we saw displayed on the lake, standing on one leg while the other pushed the oar through the water. We thought the Vietnamese version was odd, but this just seemed ridiculous.

Beer Watch: Limited for choice, the only "sensible" alternative to Myanmar Beer is Mandalay Beer, which is like one of those post-Christmas experiments into home beer-making. Cloudy, tasting like old socks crossed with petrol, this one isn't for the faint-hearted.