Saturday, December 13, 2014

Inle Lake

After a 10-hour night bus to the north from Yangon, we shuffled into Nyaung-shwe in an early morning fog. This town is on the edge of a large lake/swamp where people live in houses on stilts and fish from long canoes. We checked into our hotel, pounded a few cups of Nescafé, and took to the streets to find a boat driver.
As soon as you get close to the water, men start hustling you to pick their boat. Our two selection criteria became: basic command of English, and sobriety. After agreeing to a price for a boatride with a man that met these rigorous standards, he shuffled us down to the water and put us in a boat with his 13-year-old son and an even younger deckhand and then waved goodbye. Classic bait and switch.
He probably should have been in school, but the 13-year-old, sporting a navy sweater vest as a captain's uniform, could really handle his 45+ foot canoe with a lawnmower engine.
We cruised the lake all day, exploring temples, monasteries, markets, and shops. The fisherman paddle their boats with a leg wrapped around an oar to free up their hands for the net.
We got back to town with the sunset and Captain Sweatervest even let Captain Forrest drive, though heavily supervised. Back at the docks, we paid the fee for our all-day, private tour: $17-- but we had to give the money to the captain's mom.

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