Breakfast out of the way, time to begin enjoying day 6 in Myanmar and my second day on Lake Inle.
First stop – Phaung Daw U Pagoda which houses five small gilded images of Buddha, which have been covered in so much gold leaf their original forms can hardly be seen. Once a year these images are placed on the Royal Barge and towed around the lake by long boats filled with leg-rowing Intha males for veneration. Only four Images are now carried on the journey while the fifth remaining image is left behind to watch over the monastery. The reason for that being, at one time while all five images were being carried on their annual journey, strong winds suddenly erupted on the lake causing the royal barge to capsize in the middle of the lake, and sink. When divers searched the lake-bed for the images, they found only four. The four images were carried back to the pagoda and when they reached the monastery, they found the lost fifth image sitting there covered with lake weed. A mystery indeed. Anyway, whether they considered the little blighter was bad luck or not, he now gets left at home. However, leaving him at home did not help in 1965 when once again the royal barge capsized but all ended well with the four images being safely found.
Leaving behind capsized royal barges and mysteriously returning Buddhas we dropped in on some local businesses along the canals dealing in hand hammered silver and beautiful handmade paper umbrellas. The craftsmanship is exquisite and time consuming but the beauty of the products far surpasses anything a machine can do. Here once again, I came across some Kayan weavers similar to the ones I met in Bagan. One women enthusiastically showed me how her interlocking neck rings could be released (but not removed) at night to allow for a more comfortable sleep.
From there we headed inland via a narrow twisting creek 8 km to the ancient Shwe Indein Pagoda temple complex. The creek twists and turns and the long boat must climb up over weirs at speed through a gap not much wider than the boat. The weirs help divert the water into the rice paddies on either side. The paddy fields are tended by farmers and their faithful water buffaloes and at lunch time while the farmers are eating, the water buffaloes wander down and take a dip in the creek. So the boat not only has to negotiate tricky weirs but also half submerged equivalents of living boulders.
Arriving in Shwe Indein was the 1st time in 36 hours I had set foot on dry land. The Shwe Indein site features over a thousand 14th-17th century stupas in the Indian style, highly decorated with fine figures however many of them are in an advanced state of decay and are being slowly reclaimed by nature. Lizards rest in the shade of these weather-beaten, overgrown structures, adding to the exotic air of this picturesque site. The trip back to the lake was just as exciting surfing down the weirs to a well needed lunch stop. 🙂
After lunch refueling it was off for another trip around the floating villages and gardens of Inle. There is something harmonious about drifting slowly around the canals in a boat on a sunny day enjoying the beautiful view, or alternatively the blood sugar rush after lunch. I never tire of the view.
We made a stop at another popular attraction for every Inle visitor, the Nga Hpe Chaung monastery (jumping cat monastery). Situated on the lake, the monastery has become a kind of refuge for cats. The monks take tender loving care of their four-legged friends, and much to the enjoyment of the spectators the cats used to perform tricks by jumping through hoops for a piece of food which the monks held up. However, in recent years the monks became unhappy with the show as it became the main goal of the visitors who no longer paid attention to the sacred monastery and its valuable collection of ancient Buddha images from India & Tibet, so the monks put an end to the show! No more jumping puddi-tats! 😦 If you are after the cat show you probably should not visit the place but if you enjoy visiting temples with ornate wood carving and gild work then it is worth the visit.
The day done, my faithful boat chauffeur deposited me back at the dock to my hotel where I bid farewell to my favourite guide of the trip thus far. Hau was previously a secondary school teacher for nearly 20 years however state-funded salaries are so low that she took on guiding to supplement it and found she enjoyed it. Her easy going, laid back motherly attitude combined with her local knowledge and history made for a very pleasant visit to Inle. Farewells done, I now had some time to spend before dinner, I took my chance to relax on the hotel terrace and enjoy my last evening on Lake Inle admiring the view, the passing traffic, catching up on some reading and a nice cold beer in the sunset.
I like it here!!!! 😀