Horses, Wine, Cake and the Lake (Myanmar part 4)

There was slight ok – mega disappointment from our youngest traveller when we got to our hotel on the shores of Inle Lake. There was no swimming pool. And when you turn 11, and want things to be perfect, a pool would have been a panacea to the over-templing.

However, our hotel, Hupin Hotel Nyaung Shwe didn’t disappoint in the location. The rooms assigned to us where on stilts over the lake. The hotel had water gates that shut at 6pm at night and opened at sunrise. It was a hotel on its own, on the west shore of Inle Lake. Wifi was limited only to reception, only one staff member spoke English and seemed to be omni-present. The dining room overlooked the lake and was a grand wooden room, high ceilings and a ton of tables and chairs. But despite it being high season, there weren’t many of us staying in the hotel.

On arrival Emma and I explored and I ventured into reception to see whether a cake could be acquired for Eleanor’s birthday. I knew I was going to be asking A LOT! It was clearly a request that had NEVER been asked before. The manager took me into the kitchen which was empty and took out a Tupperware box full of cuboid plain cakes, un-iced and looking dense. He asked me if I had any candles to which the answer was no. So he then took me back to reception and said they could order me one from the nearest city. He wanted me to order a 2 pound cake. I had actually no idea how big or heavy that would be, but I went ahead and ordered it. Eleanor nearly caught me doing it, but Emma headed her off. The next night the cake arrived, the manager called me over telling me exactly what they were going to do, and checking who on the table the cake was actually going to. Lights were turned off and Chinese, South Koreans and Australians and ourselves sang Happy Birthday. Well maybe the Chinese and South Koreans didn’t sing – but they got some of the cake later! The cake was surprisingly fine!

Birthday cake complete with shaving foam cream, snowmen and Santa.

The day was spent on the lake. Our boatman was our guide and for 35000MMK for the day we all thought was exceptional value (19GBP) (8.30-5pm). We saw the iconic boatmen fishing… although having seen them from afar our boatman came up close to them, and we took many many photos, and then the fishermen came up to us for payment. Emma and I handed over 1000MMK (53p) each to each man, but by the afternoon when we were heading back to the hotel we had run out of 1000s so had handed over a 500 MMK note, and he was happy with that too. It made us wonder if we had handed over a larger note than expected!

The boat sped up and we got to see a silver smithing station, boat makers, silk weavers and a market that goes round the villages known as the 5 day market. However the day we did our boat tour, was the day that the market wasn’t floating. But the market we went to was extensive. From souvenirs, to clothes, scarves, fruit, vegetables, tobacco and spices, we could have spent hours wandering around. We gave the local temple a miss.

We all bought something in the silversmiths. Probably paid over the top for it, but when it is a business and someone’s livelihood employing local people, I don’t mind paying for the quality. Eleanor chose a lovely little silver fish necklace. The body of the fish actually moves side to side as if it was wiggling in the water. The detail is lovely. The earlier start meant that we appeared to be ahead of all the other tourists.

Coming from Suzhou, known for its silk, we were all sceptical at being taken to see the silk weavers. But these people take weaving to the next level. They use lotus stems. We are used to seeing lotus in our food in China, but here they were cutting the stems and taking out the silk like threads that run through the stems. This is a labour intensive system, as there are only a few strands per lotus stem. None of us bought the scarves or ties, they were so expensive but beautiful and none of us knew that this craft existed.

We stopped off at a monastery after the Indein village, but Eleanor decided to stay in the boat. She actually really had no choice as people wearing shorts, socks and string tops could not enter. Eleanor was wearing all of this – but she was not overly upset at not being allowed to enter. We topped of the day with seeing sunset on the lake followed by cake.

The next day Emma and I took a trip out by ourselves. We went on a half day horse riding trek at Inle Horse Club. I had hummed and hawed about whether to go for an hour or two hours. But the half day meant that we didn’t have to decide between the winery or the local village. Two hours into the trek and I was regretting it. My bum was regretting more to the point. The saddle was not comfortable, and the trek was on paths up hills and down that were stony. However, it was beautiful and I don’t regret it… at the next hotel in Bagan, Emma and I sorted out our aching limbs by submitting ourselves to a traditional Myanmar massage. Our limbs which were sore from the horse were manipulated and pulled and stood on but afterwards we both felt revitalised and navigating stairs were no longer much of an issue.

The ride took us to a cave, that was damp and musty, we left the horses tied up outside and then were told to take our shoes off. I am quite happy to respect ours cultures and traditions but the couple who were in the cave with their guide had not taken off their shoes, and later as I was putting my shoes on over my damp socks I was not happy.

When in Japan, I bought a Go Pro, mainly for Eleanor swimming with but I thought it would be cool for skiing or horse riding. I had a strap around my body with the camera mounted on my chest. Now I don’t pay enough for my WordPress site to do videos, but the videos and scenes from the ride are gorgeous. However, there were some parts of the ride that I would have loved to have captured, and I thought I did – but I didn’t! On the way through an isolate village some children probably about 5 or 6, came out and waved at us, their faces friendly and cheery. The Go Pro didn’t capture it, not did it really capture me taking the lead and riding through a herd of water buffalo by the reservoir. The fact is that when it is strapped to your chest it isn’t picking up on the scenes that you see with your eyes! I move my head when I ride – I don’t move my chest. I caught on to this, and began moving the go pro one handedly from my chest but it hasn’t quite worked. But post Myanmar I have now bought a head strap which will mount to my helmet.

I did however manage to take a few photos of what we saw.

The ride went via a vineyard where the two of us were treated to a wine tasting. Sadly neither of us had any money or the means to carry any wine back. It also doesn’t export but if you are ever in Myanmar then try Mountain Estate Sauvignon Blanc. Deliciously crisp.

Back on the horse, we then stopped at a cafe for lunch about 5 minutes from the estate. Getting on and off the horse was a mission. My legs were stiff and used to being in a riding position but getting on and off the horse was mind over matter. Not as agile as I used to be when I rode every week.

From Inle Lake we went to Bagan. The highlight of that trip was definitely the balloons (Part 3), but the highlight of the food was a place called Sanon. The restaurant is a training school. Teaching English in the morning, each student then does a rotational placement either front of house, in the bar or in the kitchen. The goal is that each “student” finds work to support themselves and/or their families. Many travel in from villages and the place is looking to expand with accomodation as well. The food was delicious, and well worth seeking it out.

In Bagan we said goodbye to Emma. It was lovely having a travelling partner and after she left it was just the 3 of us. For Christmas and New Year we stayed by Ngapali Beach which will be part 5 and the end of the Myanmar blog.