Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Day 2/3 in Myanmar: Nyaung Shwe/Inle Lake

In late November last year, I went for a solo trip to Myanmar. If you are curious about my experience, you can read more from my previous posts here:


Day 2: Nyaung Shwe/Inle Lake

The bus dropped me off in the middle of the road at close to 6 am in the morning. I was cold, tired and feeling lost. The roads and streets didn't look like what I would see in a supposed tourist town. I approached this local and kept repeating my destination to him. Throughout the bus journey, I constantly checked back with the bus attendant to make sure that she would not forget my destination. Thinking back, I think I must have seemed like an insecure nutcase to all these people.

A truck came and said 8000 kyats to Nyaung Shwe town. I was too tired to bargain and so I said 6000 kyats and he agreed to my price. I hopped on to the truck and on the way to my guesthouse, I got to catch the moment before sunrise.

I was dropped off at May Guesthouse. If you are looking for a comfortable and cosy place to stay, May Guesthouse is a good choice. I paid USD$20 for a night but I got a whole room to myself and breakfast was included as well.

May Guesthouse
85 Myawady Rd.
(opposite the Hlaing Gu Kyaung Monastery)

I washed up, left my belongings at the reception and headed out. I had planned to do the one day Inle Lake tour which should start by 730 am. It was USD$18 for a boat and you can have a maximum of 5 people on the boat. So, it makes sense to do the boat tour with more people but I was alone so I decided to head out myself!

Streets of Nyaung Shwe town
After the long bus ride, I decided to treat myself to some fried dough. Bought the plain one and the one with bean paste inside. It was oily but yummy! I felt that the fried dough in Myanmar is a bit more sweet than those we have in Singapore.

I walked to the jetty and a guy came up to me and asked if I wanted to take the boat tour. I said yes and so off I go!

There's a pretty standard itinerary which includes stops to see the famous leg rowers, a weaving factory, cigar-makers, boat builders, local blacksmith among a few others. The boat tour was an interesting experience but I was a little bit disappointed with how the tour seemed to be specially made for tourists. They bring you to houses along the lake where they try to sell you their 'local' products and stop at places where people pose for photos for tourists to take. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the magnificent scenery a lot, which made the whole boat ride a great experience on a whole.

Some of the famous leg rowers are hired to pose for tourists like me. After striking a pose, they will actually wait for you to tip them.

Weaving factory

Cigar making in the process

There will be vendors on boats trying to sell you stuffs as well. The water lilies were really pretty so I decided to buy one bunch.

I ended my boat tour really early, at around 2 plus. The boat tour was supposed to end around 5 pm normally but I guess I move quite fast, especially at places where I was not so interested in.

Lunch with a perfect view

I headed back to the guesthouse and took a 30 minute break before heading out on a bicycle. Bike rentals are so cheap in Myanmar! I got my bicycle for 1500 kyats for the entire day.

The sun was a killer but luckily, the weather was not humid. I cycled around the town and bought some postcards. If you head to Myanmar, you will realise that the locals like to go to teahouses. The traditional Myanmar teahouse is basically a place for tea, snacks, breakfast, noodles; a place for people to catch up or for a simple meal. If you have a chance to, you should definitely experience their local lifestyle at a teahouse.

I had the Shan Noodles with chicken. Okay, Shan Noodles are really yummy and it is a must eat if you visit the Shan state! Nyaung Shwe town is in the Shan state, so Shan Noodles are available everywhere. I ordered a cup of milk tea (I didn't know that they have different kind of teas until I met this other group of backpackers who shared with me their tea knowledge.) as well.

After my tea break, it was time to head to the winery. I had a hand drawn map from the guest house but I guess it wasn't really drawn to scale, so I felt lost after a while. Luckily for me, I saw this guy who was cycling in the opposite direction. I called out to him and he was nice enough to stop his bike for me. It was such a coincidence because he was actually out looking for the winery as well but was heading back as he could not find it. I was pretty bent on finding it, so he decided to join me!

I think we took around 45 minutes to cycle to the winery from the town. When we reached the winery, it was bustling with people (mainly foreigners). The winery has a nice outdoor area, overlooking the town; a perfect spot to catch the sunset.

I am not a wine expert but my new friend, D, is a wine connoisseur and works in a winery/vineyard in Australia and he said that the wine was pretty good!

We left after the sun was almost fully down. It was quite exciting cycling out in the dark and we had no headlights with us.

We ended the day with dinner and some Myanmar beer. Good day!

Day 3: Trekking

Before I reached Inle Lake, I had read other travel blogs that mentioned about a day trek in Nyaung Shwe. I really wanted a break from all the city life I have been leading and so I decided to sign myself up for the trek. I thought that it would be really expensive as I was by myself but it turned out okay!

Cost for 1-day trek: USD$18

I had breakfast at the guesthouse and headed out with my guide, Aung, at around 830am. I was surprised to see such a young guide actually.

We trekked past schools, temples and villages throughout the day. Our first stop was at a school. I was actually quite surprised to find a school in the middle of all those mountains. The children started crowding around us and Aung took out his packet of sweets and started asking me to distribute to the kids. I felt so bad that I didn't prepare my own packet of sweets.

Lunch was at a house in the village. I was really hungry by then and I was so happy when Aung turned to me and said that it was lunch time.

The food was simple but it was enough to lift my mood up. I didn't have to pay for lunch but I decided to drop a tip for the host family who was nice enough to make space and food for me.

The trek ended at around 3 pm in the afternoon. I was feeling burnt and tired at the end of the work. The last stop of the trek was back at the winery! I had another round of wine, this time on my own.
Then Aung sent me back to my guesthouse. It was time for me to pack up and wash up for my night bus at night!
Headed to this famous Italian restaurant Golden Kite just 5 minutes away from my guesthouse. I would definitely recommend this restaurant! I had Gnocchi with eggplant in tomato sauce. The homemade gnocchi was yummy and the eggplant tasted really sweet.

Lin Htett Myanmar Food

Lin Htett is located along the main street of Nyaung Shwe. I paid around USD$3 for a set of curry. This was probably the best Myanmese Curry I had in my whole trip. There were plenty of beef and the sides were really yummy as well.

If you make a trip to Myanmar, you should definitely try their local curry. The usual choices would be chicken, pork, beef or fish curry. The sides and the curries are on the salty side so please have it with rice!

After dinner, I headed back to my guesthouse and waited for my pickup truck to come.

Time to head to Bagan!

Stay tune to Day 4/5/6 in Myanmar.

Have a blessed week ahead.


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