Browsing Category


Inle Lake/Nyaungshwe, Myanmar April 13, 2012

Inle Lake, Myanmar in Pictures

Inle Lake, Myanmar

The most iconic image of Inle Lake, a large freshwater lake in the middle of Myanmar, is of its fishermen.

They are known for their conical fish trapping device and their unique way of rowing – one hand on the top of the oar and one leg wrapped around the bottom. Then, with a swivel of the hip, the boat magically moves forward.

You have to be see for yourself to appreciate it 🙂

Inle Lake, Myanmar

Quintessential Inle Lake

The fishermen of Inle have developed this unique way of rowing standing up so they could see over the tall reeds growing in proliferation around the lake.

The best way to see the lake is by renting one of the many motor-powered long boats. Along with visits to handicraft workshops, most of them were just kind of ‘meh’, we also visited the village where the market happened to be that day.

The traditional market around Inle is run on a 5-day rotation basis as it visits a different village around the lake each day. Even though it’s getting more popular with tourists, it was still largely traditional.

I always love going to the local markets. It’s a good place to see the local produce (lots of fish), try the local food (mushy tofu, anyone?), the local snack (delicious sambusas), and observe people of different tribes coming in to do their weekly shopping.

Around Inle, the most distintive looking of these tribes is the Pa-O, with its women wearing orange towels wrapped around their heads.

A tribal woman at the Inle Lake marketplace

Incidentally, the market also provided a good opportunity to see what Burmese kids were allowed to play with.

These 3 kids were playing nearby the market with leftover veggies. “How cute,” I thought, “They’re pretend cooking.” Until I realised they using naked razors as their “toy” knives.

Kids playing with razor blades at the rotating market at Inle Lake

What was most interesting was seeing these villages that exist inbetween the two worlds: land and water. Inle Lake is a marshy lake with no definite “this is where the lake starts”. The land just slowly gets soggier and soggier as you try to get closer to it.

These villages are built on the parts of solid land that jut out into the lake and are interconnected by bridges and waterways. Visiting these villages, I realised how rowing standing up would be an advantage. You can easily get lost in this watery world.

Burmese temples

Riding on our boats through one narrow channel after another we passed beautiful traditional wooden houses on stilts, vegetable gardens magically floating over water tended lovingly by their owners perched over their boats, numerous temples and monasteries. I couldn’t help but be fascinated.

View of Inle Lake from a lakeside resort

Burmese going around their business on Inle Lake, Burma

Alternatively, you can also explore Check out Inle Lake by bike.

Inle Lake was truly a different world.

Where to stay in Nyaungshwe: We stayed in Teakwood Inn. Nice rooms, great breakfast, but at $25/night it’s a little pricey. DON’T let them arrange your boat tour – they overcharge like crazy.
A boat tour should cost around 25000 Kyats per boat.
Where to eat in Nyaungshwe: the market in the center of town for traditional food, Mimi’s Cafe for strawberry lassie (they also have good bikes to rent).
Bagan, Myanmar April 5, 2012

The Fairytale Temples of Bagan – Even better in real life

Bagan, Myanmar

There’s a photo on the inside cover of our Myanmar guidebook. It shows a landscape dotted with temples as far as the eyes could see. Ever since I saw that, I’d wanted to come to Bagan and see it for myself.

Fast forward to short while after, we arrived in Bagan.

We arrived at 3 in the morning in the dark and deserted bus station. All the locals immediately got off and disappeared into the darkness, leaving behind a handful of sleepy, confused tourists still on the bus. We weren’t scheduled to arrive until 5 am.

“This can’t be it. We have 2 more hours to go,” we said to each other. I even turned around and got ready to go back to sleep.

But the bus driver came back up, “This is Bagan. The bus goes no more.”

And that was how we arrived in Bagan. As soon as got off the bus, the horse cart drivers descended upon us. Stumbling in darkness with our stuff, rubbing sleep off our eyes, and being pursued by horse cart drivers wasn’t a welcome we had in mind.

(Btw, Bagan is so small we got together with other tourists and ended up walking to where all the guesthouses were.)

But in the end, it was all so worth it.

The Temples of Bagan

Later on that day, we rented a horse cart to take us to see the famous temples of Bagan. Individually, they are not as intricate as Angkor temples but I like these temples in Bagan so much better.

Exploring the temples in Bagan, Myanmar

For one, they’re almost completely deserted. Almost eerily so. We didn’t have to compete with busloads of sweaty tourists, jostling elbows to get inside.

As a matter of fact, some of the people we jostled elbows with were the locals. Some of these Bagan temples are being used daily as a place of worship so we got to see how much religion played in the daily life of the Burmese people.

A temple in Bagan with praying attendees

And lastly, they are just so many of them. So, so, so many.

Seeing the sun setting over dozens, no hundreds, of temples dotting the grassy landscape of Bagan was probably one of the most amazing sights I’d seen. My brother and I climbed up one of the temples and simply enjoyed the view. It was one of truly unique landscapes I’d ever seen. How did I get so lucky?

The temples of Bagan in Myanmar

I was utterly enchanted.

I was afraid I’d be disappointed in the real thing after seeing the postcard perfect version. But in Bagan, the real thing was so much better.

See more pictures from this amazing place.

Bagan, Myanmar

How to get to Bagan from Yangon: Bagan is about 10 hour ride from Yangon (15000 Kyats). Buses leave from a bus station 45 minutes away from center of Yangon. Far from ‘bus from hell’ experience, it was a decent, air-con bus and the road was paved all the way.

Where to stay in Bagan: Just like everywhere in Myanmar, there’s a shortage of guesthouses at that time. Booking ahead is recommended. We stayed in May Kha Lar guesthouse. It was decent.

Myanmar March 20, 2012

The People of Burma in Pictures

I took more pictures of people in Burma (Myanmar) more than anywhere else during our trip around the world. This is due to the following reasons:

I’ve learned that looking back at my pictures, those with people on it tend to be some of my favorites. I have horrible memories and sometimes looking at a picture, taken less than 1 year ago, I’d be drawing a blank, “Where was this?” – but I remember more about a place and its people when the act of taking a picture involves an interaction with a person. Somebody. Anybody. Even if the interaction is as simple as asking them for permission to take their picture.