Day 4 – Inle Lake : Shopping, Cottaging, Wine & Pressure

15 Mar

So, another day, another breakfast – this time 3 quick pancakes with honey and some cake to rush away with.  Still stuffed from the previous day.

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We were back in the boats today, so a short walk to the jetty found our favourite boatmen ready and waiting.  Boat number 3 was off down the canal and into the lake without delay.  This time, we were heading towards the east side of the lake, and slightly further south.  Immediately, we came across two photogenic fisherman who were keen to show us their balancing and oar skills as well as the fish they had caught … in return for some money.  They lost interest when we didn’t.

The sun was beating down steadily on my left side as it had done all the previous day, and the legs were beginning to turn red – on one side, and staying religiously white on the other.  This isn’t helped when returning later in the day, as the sun is still on the left side when heading north.

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The first stop of the day was at a market which only happens every 5 days.  Everyone was there, and empty boats piled up in the water as far as you could see.  Some boats were trying to sell things to you before you even managed to touch land.  However, we successfully deboated onto a strip of land barely wide enough for two tables displaying the wares and two people to pass between.

This started off as tourist tat, but on reaching the mainland, developed into a local’s market, with everything being sold – live or dead, cured or raw, chopping or in the process.  In particular, the fish were still flapping in bowls, or lying on the ground next to the family of the fisherman that caught them.  The chickens had beaks and giblets in separate containers, or just lying everywhere.  Cleavers were being used in places that can’t be mentioned.  It was a gruesome sight – for vegetarians.  Or a delight for meat eaters!  Most of the market was far more normal – locally grown vegetables from the floating gardens were on sale, as was palm oil for cooking, betel leaves and lime for chewing (gives you a high, and red teeth for weeks!)  Other things that could be identified include soya bean, chillies, turmeric, tomatoes, garlic and onions, lightbulbs, torches, scissors, clothing, dried fish, colourful bags, eggs, herbs, flowers, spring onions, ginger, carrots, beans, potatoes, tea and music CDs.  You get the idea.

As well as all that, there was a barber – responsible for all the footballer style haircuts  and hair dye being sported by everyone under 20.  There were also many places where food was being cooked fresh – on wood fueled stoves and eaten.  Debenhams cafe has nothing on this for atmosphere.  Also spotted was a young boy reading a comic book.  So basically, life as we know it, but without the western style setting.  Who really needs it?

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I did splash out when I encountered by bow seller from yesterday.  He’d manage to find a smaller one that looked like it might fit in my bag.  Turns out it was really used for firing small stones, but don’t spoil my pleasure.  It’ll hang nicely on a wall (without needing much dusting!)

Passing through yet more stilt villages – with some houses under construction – we arrived at Ngwe Zin Yaw – a traditional cheroot making workshop and the first of the cottage industries we would visit today.  Cheroots, in case you don’t know, are small cigar like objects.  They make them from large green Sebastian leaves and tobacco flavoured with different things such as banana, star anise, mint, honey, betel nut & pineapple.  All of the reformed smokers in the group reverted to day 0 and had a go with the free samples.  The workers were making up to 1000 a day, each and in full view of boatloads of tourists.

Three young girls fresh from a swim in the lake had to battle through our group as we waited to board our boats.  Rather them than me.  It looked minging!

We moved on to Inn Paw Khone, the home of the weaving industries on the lake.  Two boats made it to the correct workshop, but ours took a slight detour on the way.  Our boatman soon found the error of his ways, although it is quite difficult to do a three point turn in a longtail boat in a narrow waterway.

On our arrival at Mya Setkyar Inlay, we were shown how they make thread from the stalks of the lotus plant, and spun it ready to be used.  They also tie-dye the yarn precisely (the men do this demanding work), so that the ladies that weave don’t have to think when they operate the hand loom.  Several were working on the various stages when we visited, and the shuttles of the looms were clacking away merrily.  They also work with silk and cotton. They produce lotus products – US$150 for a small scarf; a silk and lotus mix – US$55 for the same thing; or just silk – much cheaper!  The Dalai Lama’s yellow scarf is a lotus one made in this workshop.  I didn’t ask if he’d paid for it.

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The same place had a restaurant, which we headed for, over a steep wooden bridge over some water.  We dodged the pork crackling, crackling away in the sun and found a scenic, shaded area with large open windows (gaps).  The table were offered long tofu (yellow bean) crackers with a sweet chilli dip – we had to ask for more – delicous!  Main course for me was chicken kabba – a nicely sweetened sauce.

Moving on in the boats for another short journey, we reached a boat making workshop.  One was in the process of being made, and was likely to see for about US$2,500 – US$3,000.  An investment for a lifetime, as they are likely to last about 70 years.  Also being made there was a smaller craft for families and fishermen for ~US$700.  The workforce seemed to be made up of 3 12 year olds, at least one of whom was “visiting for the summer”.

No power tools were being used (or available), and the effort of screwing, planing and sanding was impressive.  They reckon they can build a boat with 5 men in 10 days.  Jim, Alan, Rod, Ann it looks like we could have a project!

Sitting in the front of the boat for the first time on the return journey was both a blessing and a curse.  Great photos were available, if only I could stay awake and avoid my OCD regarding the planks on the boat floor.  Why did they not make them symmetric?  Why?

An hour later, we arrived back at the hotel, in time for a freshen up before some headed out again in a couple of tuk tuks to the local winery.  The driver drove us past three monasteries, his house (where his kids and wife waved!), a sugar cane crop and genuine, non watery countryside.  He did struggle up the winery’s hill in second gear.  I’d not eaten that much!  But after much engine noise, it did make it to the top.  We took our seats, perused the wine list, ordered a white and a red (and some snacks) before the sun set behind the hazy mountains.  If only it did that everyday, life could be perfect.

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Back in the tuk tuks, we rushed back to the hotel, only for me to head straight back out again to the local spa – to sample a traditional Myanmar massage.  It started with clove tea, then a ginger foot wash and then the massage – clothed in their traditional outfit (me, not her). Described as “deep” pressure, it was very similar to Thai massage, with perhaps a slightly higher degree of inflicted pain.  It was genuinely relaxingly, although she did concentrate around my legs a lot.  Toes were cracked without inflicting any damage on the poor woman (unlike some previous experiences).  And only £12.50 for 90 minutes!  Absolutely no happy endings!

Last stop of the day was the foreigners pub.  Quieter tonight.  The rest of them had mostly gathered on the terrace and had consumed a lot of alcohol.  I ordered a hawaiian pizza and added a dash of chilli oil to each slice – great way of doing it – just make sure you have mild chilli oil!

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John was keen for a game of pool, so he and I teamed up against Karen and Graham.  John turned out to be a semi-professional pool player.  Thankfully the 3 litres of lager evened things up a bit.  And yes, John, I know you are reading this.  This is to help you remember what happened.    Graham tried his hand at pool coach, but all the pressure was on John to win.  And win we did.

Some other folks fancied a game, including Amanda from Brazil, who hadn’t ever held a pool cue in her life.  She was therefore at about the same competancy as me.  We lost, due to the other player.

At chucking out time, the bill was eventually settled, and the group walked back to the hotel, past a pack of sleeping dogs.

No pressure tomorrow, except for the early start …

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One Response to “Day 4 – Inle Lake : Shopping, Cottaging, Wine & Pressure”

  1. Clare Robertson-Hunt March 15, 2017 at 8:52 pm #

    Loving reading about your daily adventures, some cracking photos 😊

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