Inle Lake was absolutely stunning and one of the most photographically rewarding places I visited in Myanmar.
I had read beforehand how the boat tours could be extremely touristy, so I opted to pay more money for a boat that would take me to the south end of the lake. This was definitely an option I’m very glad to have taken. We did all the touristy stops first, stopping at a silk shop, the ‘jumping cat’ monastery (apparently the cats don’t jump anymore) and a cigar shop. We also got to see the fishermen on the lake, fishing with their traditional one-legged paddling. The balance required for this is very impressive. I opted out of visiting the Karen tribe (long neck village). I accidentally got roped into visiting the long neck hill tribe villagers in Thailand, and have regretted it to this day. In my opinion, these tourist traps seem like human zoos and make me very uncomfortable. I’m not sure if it would be the same situation in Myanmar, as these villagers live there, as opposed to Thailand where they are brought in, but I opted out anyways. I would be curious to hear other opinions on this.
At the end of the day, we were hot and exhausted. Our boat driver pulled to a stop and asked if we would be interested in seeing his village. Of course, we perked right up and docked the boat. We walked through a boys monastery, over a couple of rickety bridges, and into his village. His wife greeted us at the door and quickly brought us some food and drinks. I thought that the language barrier might make things awkward, but our driver spoke fairly good English and we talked about everything from soccer (sorry-football) to what it is like to live in Myanmar. When he found I was an English teacher, his family crowded around my phone to see pictures of my Thai students. Soon most of the members of his village had come out to greet and welcome us. The children were still very shy, but warmed up immediately when I pulled out my book of stickers. They all chose multiple ones, giggling when I stuck it on their foreheads. The women kept plucking at my skin, saying it was fair and beautiful. I tried to explain that Western women want to tan and find their skin to be so beautiful, but they didn’t believe me. We also joined an impromptu soccer game. The children found my lack of skills to be quite funny.
I was astounded how kind and generous these people were, regardless of their circumstances and the immense oppression they have had to endure from a corrupt government. The Burmese people have shown me immense amounts of love and kindness, and their beautiful spirits will stay with me forever. I can only hope that my presence as a tourist in their country helps, rather than hurts. I believe if travelers are conscious of the money we are spending in Myanmar, and try to limit money going to the government as much as possible, we can really make a positive impact on the lives of the Burmese people. If you are looking to travel in Burma- I would really recommend reading ‘Land of the Green Ghosts.’ The author provides a lot of history about Myanmar, along with telling his own story of his life as a rebel in the Burmese jungle. I was also featured on the adventure travel blog, thisworldexists. Please check out my introductory post here. They support sustainable education projects in the developing world, and I am so happy to be a part of their mission!