Arrival to Inle
After two full days of trekking from Kalaw, we finally arrived, muddy and exhausted, to Inle Lake. We had a lunch break and washed off as much as we could, and then caught a little wooden boat across the lake to our hostel.
We stayed at Ostello Bello, after an enjoyable stay at the same hostel in Bagan. I definitely recommend Ostello Bello if you are traveling alone and looking to meet people, as both locations are very social! The hostel was located in the Nyaungshwe Township - we had a little adventuring across a very sketchy "bridge" to get there, due to some construction going on. Also, I had to laugh at the "security" here - just as in Honduras, people will sit shards of broken glass on the top of their walls for protection.
After checking in to our hostel, Gaby and I went out for some exploring. We got pedicures at a cute little salon nearby, called Lavendar Spa and Beauty Center. It was SO nice after days of trekking, as well as extremely cheap! The women who worked there were all so kind. Afterwards, we got dinner at a restaurant called Paw Paw's, run by a sweet woman named Zizi. The restaurant also serves as a community development project. All of the employees are marginalized women from remote areas of Myanmar. Zizi takes them in, giving them a place to live, a job, life skills training, and empowering them emotionally. The project accepts volunteers - contact Zizi if you are interested. She is such a big-hearted woman, and sat with us for several hours to share about Myanmar's history, current political conflict, and her personal life experiences. Time with her was such a blessing and encouragement!
The next day, Leah, Gaby, Rafael, Laura, and I met up with Ooh Ooh and took a boat tour around Inle. Our first stop was the silversmith workshop, where we learned how silver jewelry is made, and were able to watch the process first-hand.
Next, we stopped to learn about the tradition of wearing brass neck rings. Apparently, this is for protection against tigers. Women begin wearing 7 rings as children, and then increase to 25 rings as an adult. They also wear rings around their knees to counter-balance the weight on their neck.
Ooh Ooh took us to the market, where we sampled so many delicious foods!
Hpaung Daw U Pagoda
We visited this pagoda and Ooh Ooh told us about the Buddhist religion. The 5 stupas in the center of the temple are apparently buddhas, but they are so covered in gold now that they look like snowmen!
Outside of the temple were some shops, and of course - more food!
We got to see how the traditional wooden boats are made here in Inle.
We also saw how cigarettes here are made. The women working here were really friendly and talkative - great company as we watched them work!
Lotus and Silk Weaving
Here we learned about the processes for lotus and silk weaving. In Myanmar, they make (a very expensive) fabric using only lotus (the flower). It was so interesting to see how the traditional longye skirts are made from start to finish.
Inle has a unique way of life, with many homes right on the lake itself. The primary mode of transportation here is by wooden boat.
Meeting Ooh Ooh's Family
On the evening of our last day here, Ooh Ooh invited us all to her family's home in a village just outside of Inle. We took a "taxi" (aka back of a pickup) up through the hills and were warmly greeted by her smiling family.
We shared a delicious meal and lots of laughs, before heading back to our hostel in time for Gaby and I to catch a night bus back to Yangon.