Inle Lake, Yangon and heading Home

Left Kalaw high up in the mountains.    An old colonial Hill Station and now a sizeable metropolis.     This was the only city/town/village on this trip so far, that was not an overwhelming sea of smiley faces and welcoming locals.    Even my guide (who is from the area) confessed that she was happy to move on !!    A centre for the military administration and the corrupt generals who run and are doing their best to ruin Myanmar and my first, and so far only, glimpse of the “dark underbelly” that so often festers in these wonderful Asian countries. 

A two hour drive down to the idyllic Inle Lake.    Everything here is either built over, floating on, or sadly sinking into the lake,    This includes houses, markets, gardens and restaurants etc.   Agriculture and needless to say fishing are the mainstays of the economy.    Vast fields of tomatoes and a myriad of other crops floating on rafts of weed and linked with a series on narrow canals and creeks.  

Virtually everything is accessed by boat, including the tourist infrastructure which tragically has “fallen of a cliff” in the past few years as a result of the adverse publicity and international reaction to the Rohingya genocide etc.      Large 4/5 star resorts lie empty and in many cases closed down.    Meanwhile the corrupt few who own and run this country continue to build more resorts which lie unfinished and empty, while they also spend a fortune on renovating and building new pagodas and stupas everywhere.     A few tourists (French mainly and the inevitable Chinese) including Yours Truly still come here to explore and enjoy the tranquil surroundings while the local population struggle to make ends meet.     The usual story that the kids are all heading to the cities and a huge range of local skills & crafts that have been handed down through generations are fading away and slowly sinking both economically and physically into the lake !!

The usual collection of amazing faces and a veritable forest of Stupas and Pagodas.

Lots of well nourished temple dogs. The Milk Bar is open…

Sunset and Sunrise over Inle Lake and then a flight to Yangon for a quick city tour terminating at the gobsmacking Shwedagon Pagoda. The biggest and goldest and holiest in Myanmar and the logical place to watch the sunset before heading back to Home which involves 4 flights and hours of hanging about in airports etc.

Street food in China town. Decided not to risk it so back to the safety on hotel cuisine.

These folk have a lot to learn about tourism and service and cant keep blaming it all on the “Generals”.    They are constantly “shooting themselves in the foot”.   Yesterday as the Shewdagon Pagoda I bought a guidebook that promptly started to fall apart.   Priced in $$s they refused to accept a brand new $100 bill as it had an ink stain on it.     It was part of the watermark !!!   Then refused a $20 bill because the picture *Abraham Lincoln” was old and out of date !    I explained the he was dead but to no avail.    Their currency meanwhile often looks like it has been through the mangle in a sewer and definitely warrants much hand washing after handling etc.     I was probably the only customer they had had all day !!

A wonderful country,  and am booked back next year for another month.     I fear that they will take many generations (if ever) to recover from their history and legacy.   So I highly recommended it as a place to visit before it descends into further anarchy and total chaos !!     

Steer clear of the cities.   The rivers are the way to explore this extraordinary country and have been the transport arteries for thousands of years.    The roads are virtually non-existent !!

Am home now with happy dogs and a new addition to the pack – Hurley – brother of Zeus & Apollo – Nick and Sara’s latest additions to their family.

So far so good in that Max seems to have accepted him.

Happy Xmas !!

Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp – Possibly the highlight of the trip !!

Back down into the valley – A 4000 ft. drop in altitude and LOTS of hairpin bends etc. The camp is amazing and houses 8 elephants rescued from various traumas and living out their retirement in 200 acres of jungle with 24/7 TLC and veterinary care. All survivors of the now defunct teak logging industry where their services were replaced by the introduction of the chain saw. Much rejection, neglect, trauma and abuse followed.

These 8 were the lucky ones !!!! Amazing !!!

An honour and privilege so get up close and personal with these amazing creatures. The photos speak for themselves. 7 females and one male (easily recognisable by his HUGE appendage !!) Varying in age from 8 to 68. The photos speak for themselves……………So I will put them in large format.

That was the feeding – yes that is my hand in her mouth. Then came the bathing……..

Then more feeding before his mahout brought the male in for a pedicure…..

Another delicious lunch and them back up the wiggly road to Kalaw, its market and train station. Back in the lodge with Christmas Carols and log fires blazing/blaring as the 82 staff members put up the Xmas decorations for us 7 or so guests. Internet access still remarkably still there (albeit a tad sluggish). Will publish this now,

Off to Inle Lake tomorrow for two days of Stupa overload and floating everything. You have to do this !!!

Leaving RV Kanee Pandaw & The Irrawaddy

After the Beach Party we got to say farewell to our Crew who were amazing and had looked after us all in typically brilliant and smiley Pandaw style !!!

Needless to say there was more somewhat cringe-worthy audience participation

Final sunset & sunrise before disembarkation at dawn for a short, though a tad delayed, flight from Mandalay to Heho where I was met by my new guide & driver combo and off to see caves and golden Buddhas . A photo stop to see some rice winnowing just before their lunch break,

We stopped for delicious lunch is a local home en route

Caves and Buddhas and some flight crew, posing for selfies The caves guarded by a large spider who was slain by a fearless archer way back. Or so the Buddhist story goes………….

A stop off for paper and umbrella making demo.

Then lengthy drive into the mountains to Kalaw – 5000 ft up and many hairpin bends later arrived at Kalaw Hill Lodge – home for the next two nights and a definite “chill in the air”. Not many fellow guests, apart from a loud Chinese family (just for a change !!) but a delicious dinner with log fires blazing and Xmas Carols playing in the background. Yet again very surreal !!

Relatively early night. As off to see the Elephants tomorrow……………

Watch this space as it was mind blowing !!

A village visit followed by a Beach Party…..

After the Largest brick pile and Bell, it was back to the ship for lunch and then a short cruise upstream for another “unscheduled” village visit. Huge marble quarries in the distance and the usual “life along the banks” !

These guys were peanut and rice farmers with a motley array of livestock including cows, oxen, chickens and some Huge pigs. As usual there was much hospitably and giggling and the whole village gradually came out to greet us. First the mooring and then the livestock….

Lots of smiley people and a new pal ….

We cast off and cruised across to a large sandbar in the middle of the river where we moor up and the crew relocate all the deck furniture for Happy Hour. Disco and conga dancing to Abba, Neil Diamond and Michael Jackson. Hot air balloon/lanterns that never got hot enough and some rather lame fireworks. Somewhat cringe-worthy but some of my fellow passengers loved it ! The highlight of their vacation etc !!! No Comment !!!!!

Then back on board for dinner. A village visit today to see pots see BIG pots being made.

The Milk Bar is open !!

Then back on board to start packing as the cruise portion of the trip comes to an end. Two days at an Elephant sanctuary and two days on Inle Lake (floating markets and more Stupa overload). Then 1 1/2 days in Yangon (Rangoon) before the long haul home via Bangkok , Heathrow and Malaga and the reality of Elections and Brexit etc. Go Boris and get it done for Gods sake !!!!!