Ok. Let me be honest with you. My first impressions of Burma were not favourable. First of all, the temperature shot up by about 8 degrees – from a bearable 28/29 degrees c to a stifling 36/37 degrees. Combine that with a bus with air conditioning just for show and NO cool air/breeze, sheesh. I was not happy!
Border crossing from Thailand to Burma was effortless. I came in at Tachiliek and yes. You can use an e-visa here, despite all the conflicting info you read on the internet. I went to the embassy in London which wasn’t a problem for me, but other people in the group I’ve joined had to send theirs off at additional cost and worry. You don’t have to!
We made our way to the airport near the border. Airport? Well think of your standard bus station in rural India – that was the airport. No cooling facility, (naturally) heated metal seats and very very grubby. The service on the flight with Yangon Airways was very good, and so was the food for those who experienced both. Everyone got 2 cakes and coffee/tea – I couldn’t eat the cakes, so no food for me.
The plane was filthy as hell though – I promptly feel asleep once in my seat and didn’t wake up until we landed. Maybe that is why the flight was good 🤣. We finally got to our hotel in Nyang Shwe – the gateway to Inle Lake.
Where am I staying?
Hupin Hotel, a road away from the main street and market, a 10 minute walk from the pier to Inle Lake and that is all I can tell you.
The hotel itself was not bad at all. I forgot to take a picture of my bedroom. It was bright, spacious and airy. Ratings?
- Grubbiness Factor: low, just a bit tired in places.
- Bed: 7/10. Nice hard bed but soft pillows for me.
- Shower: 9/10. Powerful, rain shower and really nice toiletries. Whoo!
What did I eat?
Breakfasts were included in the hotel, eggs, pancakes, sausages, fried rice, banana bread. Nothing for me so I had the standard – banana and PB on toast. Didn’t take a pic of that. But what I did take a pic of was the breakfast that awaited me the next day. When the manager found out that I couldn’t eat much, she offered to bring me a home made breakfast. LOOK!
Bearing in mind I haven’t had Indian food for about three weeks – this was a welcome sight. Roti! Puri! Aloo! Oh man. I had all those puris, one roti and most of the aloo. I was in heaven. I even took the rest of the food for the bus ride later that day. Thank you Hupin Hotel Manager!
Lunch? One day – a simple one in the airport – a room with green plastic chairs and garish stuffed toys. I ordered a sprite – and I’m not a soda drinker, but I needed something to combat the heat and lack of air conditioning. I ordered mixed vegetables – which were loaded with pepper, not a bad thing in my book. Delicious, although I would have liked to have a bucket of ice at this point. To eat but preferably to sit in.
We had lunch on the lake one day, and I was told by my guide that the eggplant salad is a speciality of Burma. I decided to dive in and order it. What arrived (along with my lime soda), was a seemingly simple and squishy plate of food. But my word. Aubergine is back on the menu! Loaded with fresh onion, fresh green chillies and a killer sauce, it hit the spot. Oh, and a snack of fried bean curd with a soy chilli dipping sauce also went down very well.
Dinners? Hupin Restaurant, a 2 minute walk from the hotel – I couldn’t manage walking more in that heat. Thankfully the food was stunningly good. I had the same stuff – tofu with veggies, fresh chillies and steaming rice. Proper Chinese food and it was excellent. Soft tofu, tangy, hot sauce (no MSG), crunchy veggies = bliss.
The waiter was so so lovely, he even got me my own veggie soup when he found out I couldn’t eat the complimentary chicken soup. That soup might not look like much but is was so full of flavour. YUM! So recommend this place for the food and also because of the Bollywood movie playing in the TV screens 😬.
What did I do?
I got hot and stayed hot. Other than roasting and sweating, we got on a long tail boat that took us across Inle Lake. Stunning scenery and we came across these fishermen of the lake, putting on a show for us.
Wemade our way to a market that is held every 5 days – and this was a wonderful experience. As you have now gathered, markets are a highlight for me. This one was still so raw and organic and full of so many interesting things – food, flowers, pots, mild intoxicants. And the people. Super friendly and curious, always up for a sign language conversation. After walking around I ordered yet another sprite from the local market caff and people watched. Loved loved loved it.
We then embarked, still on our boats (thank the Lord for brollys and cool breezes), on checking out the local craft action. I’ve seen silk weaving enough times, but what amazed me this time, and I’ve never seen it before, is thread made out of the stem of the lotus plant. Amazing to watch. The stuff produced is a really labour of love, and very expensive. I’m talking $90 USD for a thin long scarf.
The other thing that I hadn’t seen before was cheroot making. Girls with beautifully manicured nails expertly rolling up cheroots, with a lining of newspaper and a corn husk filter. They also had them in different flavours – star anise, rum and banana – they all smelt pretty horrible.. whatever floats your boat I say.
Next? A pagoda with 5 mini Buddha statues. Or they were once – you can’t see them anymore as people have plastered them with gold leaf. So although this was a temple and there were lots of locals, there were also lots of tourists – which meant someone decided it was a good idea to charge 500 kyats if you wanted to take photos. I decided not to pay – on principle – not with all the postcards and posters on sale all over the temple. I was also not impressed that women can’t get near the Buddha statues. Don’t appreciate any culture/religion that imposes such restrictions. 😤
Finally, another highlight. Even more so because the weather had cooled down so much and it was raining. Whoooo! The floating gardens of Inle Lake. Sweet potato, chillies, and 60% of the region’s tomatoes are grown here. No pesticides, grown on the mud dredged from the lake, it was a very impressive sight!
Inle Lake is very beautiful – it is really like a mini city and there is enough going on so there is something for everyone. The first taste of Burma – so far so good. Onward to Bagan, via public bus.