Our travel from Bagan to Inle Lake was our only daytime bus trip. Zhufeng chats with our guide, Minmin, waiting for boarding.
Many many of Myanmar's vehicles are used ones from Japan. And usually money is not spent repainting them. It was a bit "deje vu" seeing a Japan Railroad Kanto bus and the like thruout the trip. So many vehicles are right handle in a country of right-hand driving, that highway toll booths are on the right side of the lane!
The well maintained buses from Japan are well maintained here too. Curtains, lace doilies, seats, air con and DVD players... And they are well used: low plastic chairs in the aisle can take care of over-booking standbys.
The nine-hour trip was broken for lunch in a small town.
We chose to walk the streets and eat junk food over the bus-stop restaurant.
And check out the other forms of transportation: a well loaded smaller bus and equally well loaded pick-up truck.
"Offices" for Aung San Suu Kyi's NLP political party are everywhere. Above her photo is one of her father, General Aung San, who led the Burmese Army during WWII and the ensuing take-over of the government from the British.
A furniture maker, with ax and chisel, cuts mortise and tendon joints...
...keeping watch on his (?) children eating lunch. The two on the right have the very common application of "thanaka" on their faces. It is made by grinding the bark of the thanaka tree on a moistened stone, and applying like a sun-block. It has been used for centuries.
All over Myanmar were these ads. How long will it take to knock off the "thanaka" tradition??
These two bus decals are of interest. Inle Lake in the Shan State, which has been in various stages of civil war against the Burmese for decades. The boy is beating a very large version of a traditional Shan Drum and of course Che needs no introduction. But together they are a quiet reminder of the simmering revolution, not only among the Shan, but other minorities as well.
In the town of Kalaw the bus was stopped by a long procession heading to a temple, with various groups taking offerings of everyday utensils to the monks.
Accompanied by percussion groups playing, among other instruments, that Shan drum.
They were parading along the major highway in the area, causing a considerable traffic jam behind them.
Much to the aggravation of teak log hauling truck drivers. And this Japanese truck looks like is has hauled a few!
Upon arrival at Inle a travel agent assists booking boat trips on the lake, return bus tickets to Yangon, and a "tuk-tuk" taxis to accommodations. Note Suu Kyi's photo on his desk top.
Sometimes reservations run into over-booking, and the "tuk-tuk" driver can not located a guest house or hotel with a vacancy. A monastery in town takes in the "homeless", providing a large cloth to define a bed, two blankets, two pillows, two towels and directions to a basic toilet and cold water shower at the end of the room.
And they recommend the Inle Pancake Kingdom for meals, pancakes the local term for crepes. And very good crepes. Next door an internet cafe with wi-fi can make it the restaurant of choice: sitting outside, eating chocolate banana crepes, drinking beer and reading email.
For breakfast a tea shop with instant coffee and "youtiou", a favorite Chinese breakfast.
In the morning the Four Sisters Inn had a vacancy, and hopes that they would have them for the future nights as well, but the tourist accommodation network was extremely stressed due not only to the "land rush" nature of foreigners visiting, but to a major local festival as well.
The Inn has a few rooms around a garden, and is located close to the main canal and marshes on the lake's north end.
And it is the lake which the tourists come to see, ride on, bike around, trek over hills to get to.
For the local economy it is the road of commerce for all the villages and farmers living along it. Much of the lake is devoted to a form of hydroponic agriculture, and it was tomato harvest time, the long boats bringing the product to the warehouses along the canal.
Where they were graded and packed into crates...
...to be trucked to markets in Mandalay and Yangon.
Meanwhile green ones (not ripe? green variety??) were piled into warehouses or...
...set out for livestock to consume.
A staff member from the Inn lived above one of these warehouses and has s Buddha Box with a photo of mutant tomatoes which are said to resemble the Buddha in seated meditation.
Of couse the lake provides a means of transport for residents, and ...
.... the major component of the tourist industry.
Smaller boats share docks with cargo boats: teak beams going on this one.
The first tourist site is the obligatory demonstration of the fishing technique unique to the area.
It is not only done for tourists, men still fish with their stand up paddle board style of rowing and large funnel nets.
Beside fishing, weaving is a major activity. The Festival Holiday meant much of normal activity was on holiday, but a few folks were on hand to explain and demonstrate. The cotten thread is all imported, and wound onto bobbins on the floor here.
The warp threads are laid out to a length of 90 meters!
Most of the looms had two-shafts with string heddles.
Some had Flying Shuttles, which were activated by a sharp pull on a rope.
The informal display of products gives a glimpse of the many colors and designs produced.
As everywhere in Myanmar, the Lake has numerous Buddhist temples, and some are very popular. As this was a major Holiday, the temples were crowded with families.
Phaung Daw Oo is the most famous, particularly for ...
...its five statues which have become golden globs due to the build up of many many small squares of gold-leaf applied by devotees. (Maybe that is where the mutant tomatoes got their start....)
Alo Taw Pawk does not have quite the frenzy, ...
... but the statue is a popular object of mobile phone photography.
And Nga Hpe Kyaung is quite low-keyed.
It is a repository of many old and diverse images.
Close observation of these images reveals they are mostly of the "touching the earth" mudra of the Buddha. In what was to be his final deep meditation under the Bodhi tree, the Buddha called for assistance, and witness, from the Earth Goddess by lowering his right hand, touching the earth. With her assistance, and witness, he was able to achieve Enlightenment.
Some images are small dioramas...
....some are of scenes from the Buddha's life.
Some monks enjoy speaking English with visitors.
Visitors, local, distant and foreign arrive at these temples by boat.
Youngsters greet them selling flowers for alter offerings.
And of course it is a market opportunity as well.
And the people must be fed.
And the occasion preserved on a digital point n' shoot.
And of course there are opportunities to take a group picture with all the members in it on their camera. First on their camera then my camera as well. Myanmar ranks among, if not the, most "photo-friendly" countries we have visited. I can not recall one instance of my request being declined.
Most likely it elicited a small nod of the head and a big smile.
The town at the head of the lake, Nyaungshwe, is pleasant to walk about, along canals large and small...
....finding temples, large and small.
Yadana Man Aung is known for its stepped, not smooth, sided stupa.
And has a gilded Buddha to match the gilded stupa..
An Aung Nan Aung Hsu Taung Pyi (is appears that Burmese might be a difficult language to learn...) is an open air temple south of town among rice fields.
Street walking comes across street scenes.
Arriving late she makes a place for her bike, flashes a smile for the camera, and rushes off to school. Note the "thanaka" circles on her cheeks.
There is a mix of residential architecture to be seen: on the edge of town, next to the fields...
...and in town as well, basic structures are made of bamboo mats, thatch roof, and bamboo pole walkways, stairs and railings.
The architectural form remains but with more durable wood siding and metal roofs. Note even in town houses are raised above the earth since rainy season can turn yards into ponds.
With enough money, new houses are sited at the grade level, but with durable concrete block; above that, the traditional wood siding and casement windows are done with updated components.
If, however, you wish to have a ventilating lower lever (think green tomatoes), a raised first floor....
...with slated floor and walls is the answer. The second level is done with solid wood walls and tight windows.
Some components are made on site: concrete rings will be stacked to make the casing for a water well.
A popular activity is to go out to a hot springs near the lake. Some take a boat and walk aways, some ride bicycles, pick-up, buses or take a "tuk tuk". The driver pulled over to take a phone call, raising the children's hopes that it was to toss them some candy or other donations.
An elderly man waved for a ride, and thankful of it, indicating he had a bad knee. I gestured that so did I!
A hill by the hot springs offered a temple to inspect, and a wider view of the area.
The springs are popular with local residents for the warm water and showers, an item they do not have at home. Most bathing is done along the canals, or around public wells.
Seems number eight might also limit ones time in the tubs...
The staff explains the options: Men Only, Women Only, Mixed.
The full moon of November is occassion for a festival of lights...the nearby town of Taunggyi is famous for its fire balloon festival. But first, dinner....
...then out to its large amusement park...
...where even more food can be found.
The main show are un-manned hot air balloons, with a payload of fireworks on slow fuse dangling below. If all goes well, the balloon ascends, an appropriate elevation is gained, the fireworks are ignited, and descend like a water fall of colors (since rocket propulsion is not needed, its a silent fireworks display). If all does NOT go well, say the balloon fails to ascend, but falls down onto its payload of fireworks, well...one brief but hellofa show!