Monday, June 9, 2014

3 Days Trekking to Inle Lake, Myanmar (Burma)

this was the best and most interesting trek we ever made. But for Gosia probably also the worst moments during traveling. Three days trekking about 60km in Shan state is like time traveling. Shan state, close to Thailand's boarder in golden triangle, area known by production of heroin, has beautiful nature and mountains full of interesting cultures. Guidebook says that the paths are confusing and no one in mountains speaks English and guide book is right. It’s very recommend to take local guide or join a tour, but.. ehm.. :o) Click Read more..
On the way...

We arrived to Kalaw at around 4AM, it was dark but first mountain guide show up in about five minutes and start to describe trekking possibilities. Not possible without guide, bla bla bla.. But if we rent mountain bikes from him he give us a map and we can go without guide and it’s easy. Hmm. On bike you don’t need guide and walking you need one, Strange. We went for breakfast, Gosia got a map and in some hostel we asked about some more information. In area shouldn't be any snakes or landmines so we decided to go alone. Just Mood went to search for some guided trek. And when she found it our Israeli friend decided to go also with a guide.
Our map, no scale, more just a picture than map
We had map, compass, we knew names of villages where it should be possible to spend a night. (It’s a bit more complicated in Myanmar because every guesthouse has to have special state license to accommodate foreigners). So we went alone, just Michal and Gosia.
On the beginning we passed some military “Restricted Area” but soldiers were friendly and in the middle of the restricted area was just a golf course, so no problem. The way was easy, mountains are more just like a hills. And there are quite a lot of local people everywhere, so you can always ask about way. But no English, they don’t know how to read map and the pronunciation of the villages names is so different than no one will understand you. 
Local shop on the way
Compass was the only reliable source of information. Locals are very very friendly. Once we arrived on a small path to the top of a hill where there were just a small field, small house and one woman and end of the path. The woman showed us the way and she went with us for few kilometers. Later at around noon we found village with shop where we stop to buy water and some snack. Local people were playing some table game there and a monk offered to show us where we can eat. So we followed the monk and ho took us to a school canteen where they prepared table and gave us really delicious lunch. Monk tried to speak with us but his English was very basic so the conversation was more like pantomime. 
Lunch with Monk in local school
After lunch monk prepared two mattress right under Buddha statue. It wasn't for him to pray but for us to take a nap. Latter he showed us all school and introduce us to some students. He didn't want any money, it was just true hospitality. We gave small donation to the school and ask monk to show us way to village where we want to sleep. The monk went with us all way and show us place exactly. Amazing experience. Only problem was that we arrived in the finish station of the first day too early. Another village where we can sleep was about 20 km far away. So we just walked around and met first tourists this day. American Father and son with their guide. They told us about small train station where we can get some food and cold drinks. (almost all villages we passed are without electricity) So we went to Train Station and of course we met there our Friends. They were a bit disappointed about their guides. Most of the way they spent on a main road and they did not get any information about the people and culture from the guides so they both agree that they should probably stay with us. (Mood if you reading this let us know how it was the other days) Unfortunately they stayed in some another village than we, so we bought some snacks for dinner and went back to our accommodation. Our home-stay was very simple bamboo house with mat traces on the ground. 6USD per person. No electricity, just rain water. But surprise for us was a huge dinner and breakfast included in price. After food we were so tired and full that we went to sleep.
Home stay in mountains - no electricity, just a rain water... 
Second day we start tracking with a very good mood, without any worries. Because we already knew how easy is orientation here. And how friendly atmosphere is around here. We tried not to walk the shortest way. Mountains changed to a bit more agricultural landscape and we watched people working on the fields. Villages were mostly empty because people having lunch on the fields so it wasn’t so easy to find something to eat.
Michal is cooking in bamboo kitchen
On one village old man invited us to his bamboo house offered us tee and place to sleep for siesta, but no food. He did not understand single word in English so Michal went to small shop next door and bought some Chinese soups. Man took us to “kitchen” set fire on the ground, we cooked rain water and had a lunch. It starts to rain and since Gosia had already some for some time stomach-ache we stayed about an hour longer. It was already afternoon and to Put Tu a village where we should spend an night it was about three more hours. Landscape changed to mountains again and Gosia's stomach hurts more and more. Rain made from paths one big swamp and we had at least kilo of sticky mud on each shoe. It starts to rain again and way was long. Normally this would be probably the most beautiful part of track but we really did not enjoy it much. It wasn’t dangerous there were still people around, but specially for Gosia it wasn't nice way. Put Tu is village behind mountain saddle. When we finally arrived we found place to sleep in not finished bamboo houses tourist resort. Gosia wasn’t able to enjoy dinner and interesting presentation from local guy about his ethnicity and culture. People here belong to Paoh minority and being part of this ethnic group is for them much more important than Myanmar nationality. Gosia spent most of night with fever on toilet. Prescription only pills for Europe were useless. Another morning we were not able to continue, but Gosia can at least sleep for few hours. Michal went around village and get a lot of interesting information about local people and seen some nice viewpoints.
Our accommodation in Put Tu village
At around noon we had just two possibilities. Motorbike taxi to nearest town or to continue. Gosia after some sleep decide to continue. We were not looking for small paths anymore. And from the next village we stayed on the path. To reach Inle Lake wasn’t so hard specially thanks to two trucks we hitch hike. Thanks to the second one also missed the gate to Inle area where all foreigners have to pay 10USD government entrance.
We arrived to In Dein village south from the lake. This place is known because of hill with thousands of Buddhists Pagodas and Stupas. Gosia didn't have enough power to walk so she preferred to wait under the hill.

Thousands of Stupas in Inle Lake area
Michal took some dinner and we rented a charter boat for an about 10km long ride across the Inle Lake. Boat was expensive, some 25USD because lack of competition, (there was just one boat available) and no other tourists to share.

On the boat on the Inle Lake

Ride on the boat was really nice, even Gosia enjoyed it. Firstly on the river in between villages build on the water, than on lake surrounded by mountains and between floating flower islands.

Inle Lake
After about hour and half we arrived to Nyuang Shaw village and find nice air conditioned hotel with nice bathroom. BTW. This was first better hotel during this trip and also the first one with bed bugs (in Gosia's bed).

One of channels of Inle Lake
This trek is probably the best in Myanmar. Definitely recommended. And guide is not needed if you have map and compass or GPS and if you don’t mind to lost several times. We both ate the same food, just only Gosia drank some water we got from the monk in school. We wanted to use it just for cleaning hands but... 

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