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 !!