Our departure day from Bagan was a 0445hr alarm ready for the 0525 pickup for our Balloons over Bagan flight. We arrived at the launch field to a hive of activity with 20 balloons being readied for flight. We here treated to tea and coffee while the final preparation where being made. After a safety briefing and boarding our balloon and it was time to rise silently into the still morning air. The burner only punctuated the silent from time to time while we drifted over the fields below with the many Temples and Pagodas spread throughout them.
Our rally friends from Bhutan had been here the previous year recommended the balloon flight to us, and what a recommendation it was. It put a whole temple thing of Bagan into perspective and the magnitude of what it would have been like with 10,000 temples 800 years ago.
After returning to the Hotel for a late breakfast we headed off on the 380k drive to Inle Lake our next 2 night stop.
Our original plan for the trip didn’t include Inle Lake in the trip, but Frank suggested we should visit, as he been here about 10 years ago. We changed our plans and extended our stay in Myanmar to fit this in.
The drive over was through some of the driest parts of Myanmar we have driven. This region bought back memories of home with the smell of Eucalyptus trees everywhere.
We left the flat dry plain to climb the hills up to the Lake area and it was so visible what an effect terrain has on rainfall. As soon as we reached the range the vegetation turned greener and by the time we had gone a couple of miles we were back in rainforest.
Climbing the range we new we would be entering a market garden area as we meet so many trucks loaded with Cabbages and Cauliflowers. We levelled out on the rolling Plateau at 1300 metres elevation and it was miles and miles of the nicest farming soil on this trip so far. There was so many different and varied crops grow up there the farmer in me just couldn’t take it all in.
We left the rich plateau to look down into the valley with Inle Lake spread across the valley floor. We arrived in town for our 2-night stop just on dark.
This morning Tin arranged for us to take a day boat ride on the lake.
The day on the boat was so fantastic I don’t know how to start. We head south across the lake past fisherman with the most incredible balance as they stand on the bow of the boat on one leg while paddling an oar tucked under the arm with the other leg and pulling in and cleaning the net with both hands. Just standing on the bow of the boat would be enough trouble for me with out doing it on one leg and all the other jobs. The photos say it all.
As we headed down the lake we meet boats loaded with local produce heading up to town. We soon found that this produce was being grown on floating farms. The weed platforms are literally pushed together then stacked to the bottom then Tomatoes and Cucumbers and all sorts of things are grown on the floating bed with all the work being done from the small boats.
It was then on to visit a weaving place, which showed us how to die the weft thread so that the colours work into a pattern. The rest of the morning before lunch was visiting the blacksmith, a cigar making shop and a Temple that was built on some of the only solid ground in the lake. Everyone living on the lake lives in houses on stilts with a platform at the water level for entry, bathing and washing the clothes and dishes.
After another local lunch it was a visit to the silversmith before one last Temple and the trip back up the lake to our Hotel.
With a couple spare hours in the afternoon I decided to get a haircut, which I was badly in need of. After the haircut I realised I should have waited a bit longer as Julie now has a job turning it into something respectable that wont take 3 weeks to grow out.