From simplicity to extravagance

Valleys of agricultural activity spread out beside us as we walked.

Today was day three of our trek through the countryside from Kalaw to Inle Lake. We woke at 6 am to a beautiful sunrise in the home of a local village family along the way. Our cook prepared another fabulous breakfast and by 8 am we were walking again. Anna, Lukas, Fumi, and Hein and we are all friends by now, having spent so much time together. We have slept in the same room and eaten every meal together. We’ve learned each others’ personalities and can joke together with insider knowledge. It’s fun and comfortable.

Morning sky across the rooftops from our homestay.
Looking the other direction at the pink clouds of morning.

Today was the shortest hike, but with the highest elevation gain. We saw more stunning vistas and interacted with more generous, loving, local people. We laughed and talked and asked a hundred questions of each other.

When we first met our guide at A1 Trekking in Kalaw, we had the option of choosing a private tour. This would be me and Margaret traveling with our own guide. We chose to hike with others and I am so glad. The price drops for more people, but that was not our reason. We thought with two weeks of being together, day in day out, that it would be nice to interact with some new personalities. It was the perfect decision and we were lucky to join a group of good people.

Our guide, Hein, has been a resource for every question we have. He is constantly in good spirits and helps us avoid embarrassing circumstances. He said his smile solves all difficulty, based on his four years’ experience trekking.  I began referring to that as his super power. Hein smiles and we are all immediately ready to comply with any request.

A man carries a single bamboo pole. I wish I had been better positioned to show the entire pole. It was enormous and must have been difficult to carry.
Small boy entertaining himself while his mother worked in the field.
A bike loaded down with goods.
Our view near the highest point of our trek.
These women were selling crafts near the fee station. We all had to pay a $10 fee to enter the Inle Lake region.
Entering a bamboo forest.
Some of our cook’s incredible creations in fruit, for our last lunch together.
The whole gang! Left to right: Cook (can’t remember his name, gah!), Lukas, Anna, Hein, me, Margaret, Fumi.

At long last, but also too soon, our trek was over and we had to say goodbye to Hein and our cook, who traveled with us the entire way. They handed us over to a boat man on the shores of Inle Lake. We had left our heaviest luggage with A1 the day we left, and only carried what we would need for three days. Our luggage was on the boat when we arrived. We climbed into a long, narrow boat and I spoke up and asked that Fumi sit in front. He is an artist with his photography; making more of the sights with his camera than any of us could. I wanted him to have an unmarred view because he had promised to share photos later.

The five of us had three different destinations. We traveled north to drop Anna and Lukas off at their homestay first. A homestay is like Air BnB. The boatman took us through the shore communities to their homestay. They were staying with a local family.

The journey was through a community entirely on the water. Crops of beans, squash, lotus, and many other things we couldn’t identify were grown on the shores of the lake. Houses and workshops were on stilts, and everyone travels by boat. There were restaurants, pagodas, cultural sites, and homes, all on stilts above the water. I think this is the first time I have ever seen such a community. It is fascinating to me. Rather than try to describe it, I’ll include a bunch of photos and let you see it.

Making our way through the channels between crops in Inle Lake.
This is what the view looked like from where I sat in the back of the boat.
Heading under a bridge.
Our boatman.
Woman working the crops. Here I am guessing they mostly harvested lotus root.
Convenience store on the water – so funny!
Other boats blasted past us on a water highway.
I like the yellow windows.
I also love buildings that are falling down.
I still can’t believe all these places are built on stilts.
What seemed like neighborhoods cluster along the shores of the lake.

After our goodbyes to Anna and Lukas, we took a long, long ride south to our stop, Inle Resort and Spa, where we had to say goodbye to Fumi. It was unexpectedly sad, to leave the boat and leave our connection with our new friend. When Margaret and I stepped out of the boat, it brought home the realization that our friends were all gone and we were on our own again.

Our boat pulled up to Inle Resort and it was a whole new world. Our luggage was carried for us, and we were greeted with hot towels and juice. Our room is exquisite. The toilet is indoors AND you can sit on it instead of squatting. Yay!!! There is a shower with our first hot water in three days. Hell, our first non-ice water in three days.

The dock up to our resort hotel.
The dock from the other direction.
Me, sunburned, bathed, and really happy not to have to hike anymore. Oh, look: I’m blogging. Always thinking of you guys.
Sunset across Inle Lake.

13 thoughts on “From simplicity to extravagance

  1. I have some catching up to do here and everywhere. Good to see you smiling, sunning and savoring each moment. I imagine your eyes would hurt with so much to look at daily. Good stuff all of it. Wow.

    1. So much to look at every day! You are right. This country is a new favourite. I had never even thought of Myanmar as a potential place to visit until Margaret asked me to join her. It is simply wonderful and I am having the best, best time.

  2. LOVING the photos and blog posts. What a trip!! It’s funny to think that you’re so close by and yet still so far. Some of what you’re posting is quite familiar to us: the loaded bikes, the people working the fields, the smiles and friendliness… This is a special area of the world. Sending love across the (fewer) miles! xo

    1. It is really fun to be so close to you. Wish we could have pulled off that rendezvous, but… I guess our connection was meant for another day. It’s not surprising that some thing are familiar to you in Thailand, because some things remind me of Japan too. When countries are near each other, it’s not surprising that ideas spread around. Thanks for coming along with me! Much love my friend. xxoo

    1. Yes!! I had blisters between my toes from the flip flops, then blisters on my heels from the new sandals I purchased. On the second day in Yangon, despite the heat, I went with socks and hiking shoes. I stuck with the hiking shoes each day until the trek started. That gave my poor feet two days and three nights to heal somewhat. By the third day, they still hurt, but I was completely able to begin my trek. The first day we did something like 22 km, so thank goodness my feet were ok!!

      The motorbikes loaded with things is one of my favourite things to see here too. I’m also enjoying the many motorbikes with a passenger riding side saddle. Often a woman on the back, in a lovely dress and heels, and no helmet, sitting sideways while the bike zooms through traffic.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Derrick. Yes, our companions on the three day trek were all so wonderful. Each person was a delight, and together we had a good time exploring the countryside and learning the people of the villages.

    1. They were each a delight! Fumi from Japan, Lukas and Anna from Austria, Margaret from California and me from Oregon, and of course our guide and the cook were both from Kalaw, Myanmar. Sort of a crazy mix, but we pulled it off and were friends almost immediately.

      Glad you like the photos. I come home each night with hundreds of them. With sketchy internet and usually an hour or two before I’m too tired to keep my eyes open, I have to choose only a few, and edit, and write, and post. Gosh, it’s sometimes hard to keep at it. But you know… if I miss a day it will take me an age to catch up.

      I’m still working on the three missing days: Golden Rock, and the first two hike days. Well… you’ll hear about it soon enough. 🙂

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