Sneaking in a quick half hour of internet in the middle of a jam-packed day in Burma.
We woke up early this morning and met Asher – a UPenn law student whom we first met in Yangon, and happen to bump into again last night – for a bike ride around Inle Lake. Based on the Lonely Planet map, we planned to take a 5 mile ride to the In Thein pagoda, a site of 1000+ crumbling 17th and 18th century stupas on the western edge of the lake. They’re usually visited by boat, but we didn’t get a chance to make it there yesterday, and a 5 mile bike ride looked like a piece of cake!
Well, an hour and a half in we chatted with a local on the side of the road who informed us that In Thein was a further 3 hours down the road… After another 45 minutes on our bikes, a stop at a local market, and a lucky tip from the only other westerners visiting the same market, we devised a hair-brained scheme to rent a boat to take us and the bikes to the pagoda, then back home at the end of the day. We managed to hire a reluctant driver and his boat, which was definitely not outfit for tourists and, ended up with a
smashing-success of an off-the-beaten path (i.e. not in Lonely Planet) afternoon. The crumbling stupas at In Thein were really gorgeous and, as seems to be the trend in this country, we were very lucky to get a chance to see the few remaining structures there which have not been restored into to relatively characterless gold-painted plaster mounds.
Our second day cruising the lake on our way back to town was no less scenic than the first, and felt all the more authentic and noteworthy sitting on the floor of our boat totally unfit for tourist use with our new traveling partner. After our return we experienced a beautiful sunset, if not quite a gustatorily (sic) noteworthy experience, tasting wine at the Red Mountain winery, one of Burma’s two vineyards located in the hills surrounding the lake, and are now headed to a traditional puppet show before dinner.
Again, our deepest apologies for the lack of photos, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed for faster internet in Mandalay in a few days.