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If there is one place still relatively ‘untouched’ by the chaos of the world, that would be Myanmar, the land of faith. A Buddhist country, Myanmar has managed to keep its serenity and peace with charming sights and friendly, happy locals. If you need a place to snap photos without a worry, Myanmar will be the place to be.
I was amazed by how kind and unassuming the locals were – all-embracing and welcoming to foreigners. Their smiles were disarming, even though we did not speak the same language; children were happy and loved seeing new faces; the young adults spoke fluent English.
Living a simple life, we can see how the country is slowly awakening from its deep sleep and opening its once closed doors to new opportunities. Changes are in sight over the upcoming years as foreign multinational corporations set up offices, factories and operations in Myanmar. Will this result in a double-edged sword?
This Charming Lake
If there is one place I recommend when visiting Myanmar, it will be a cobalt heaven known as Inle Lake. Spanning 13.5 miles, scattered with mashes and floating vegetation, there is no other place on earth quite like this.
We spent a good two nights on the lake and it was beautiful. No ordinary lake, you don’t dock onto land, but rather roam around the seemingly border-less lake. Even accommodations, like resorts and villages, were built on stilts above the waters. It was as if you were in the middle of the lake with nothing else but water.
Boating is the only way to get around once you are on the lake. It was really a marriage of thrill and serenity as we boated through parts of the village with our boatman, under the sweltering heat and hot sun. Everything came to a standstill when dusk fell, while the early mornings were cool and peaceful until the villagers arose from their sleep.
Make a point to visit Indein Village. Indein in Burmese means shallow lake and is famous for its collection of ancient ruined pagodas − Shwe Indein Pagoda. Indein Village is a local market fairly populated by locals who are on their way to the Shwe Indein Pagoda. The market retains much of its identity and is, surprisingly, sparsely littered with foreigners. Why? Most visitors to the pagoda will have their boats docked directly in front of the waterfront beside the pagoda. We docked right at the front entrance of Indein Village and walked over to the pagoda. I would suggest this for a more localized experience.
Back to the market, we suspected prices were marked up for foreigners, but well, I see nothing wrong with that. After all, they are trying to make a living and, if it’s not too huge a jump in price, why not contribute to their income?
Shwe Indein Pagoda
Located right at the end of the market, and connected by a wooden bridge, is the aw-inspiring Shwe Indein Pagoda, a sight not to be missed.
Transversing the covered stairway from Nyaung Oak will bring you to the ruined ancient pagodas of Shwe Indein Paya, constructed in 17th and 18th century. This marks the start of over a thousand steps up to the main shrine. If even the elderly could climb up the thousand steps, there is no way that you and I can’t.
The steps were fairly easy to climb and not too steep, though wide. Spot the beautiful ruined pagodas along the way. They are truly mesmerizing. What lies on top is a small shrine, of which I could not take photos.
As a rule of thumb, when travelling in Myanmar wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off as you will be removing your shoes at every shrine you visit. For ladies, make sure you are not wearing overly-revealing tops or short-shorts. Do pay attention and give respect to the local customs.
We met the ladies from Kayan, known as the Kayan Lahwi, who had on brass neck coils. They were obviously there due to the demands of tourism, but we were glad to see these pretty ladies up close doing their weaving displays.
I have only praise for these young ladies. It’s certainly not easy to live with those weights on, and I sigh in vain that such “tough” practices are still carried out on young women in the 21st century. But, with due respect, certainly I wish these ladies well.
I promise, you will not be disappointed with the views that greet you at Inle Lake. Your trip here will be an unforgettable experience living on the waters.
If you are interested in visiting this fascinating country, check out Myanmar Shalom, which offers arranged tours for travelers, carefully crafted to the needs and interests of each individual and group. Their local guides and sightseeing tour programs are carefully chosen to provide an insightful, authentic and meaningful connection to Myanmar’s people and to directly benefit the local economy.