When I was planning my trip through Myanmar, I knew I wanted to see Bagan, and I knew I wanted to go to Rangoon (sorry, Yangon). I kept reading about Inle Lake also being on the “backpacker” circuit of Myanmar, so I tentatively added it. Though I mentally had it on the list of things that could be scratched off if I needed time for something else.
I am so glad I decided to go to Inle! It’s up in the hills and the weather is much more tame than anywhere else in Myanmar. It was cool – to the point where in the evening I was happy to have my pullover on! And it was a bit cloudy while I was there, but a wonderful change from the heat of Bagan.
I was hanging out at the hostel Tuesday morning after getting in on the night bus from Bagan. (Don’t worry… that’s a story coming in a later blog post!) I was a bit tired and was generally waiting to be able to check into my room. As I was hanging out on the couch checking email or catching up on the Internet, a guy named Chris asked me what I was doing for the day. I said nothing, and he wanted to know if I wanted to join on a biking expedition around the lake. He’d met another girl on the bus and they were planning to go, but would love a third person too.
So of course I said yes. Chris, Melena, and I went next door and rented some Trek mountain bikes (slightly more expensive but being the brand snob I am, I felt better going on Trek bikes than the random super old ones the other place had… We are also talking about a 75 cent difference). And I asked to rent a helmet. (cue embarrassed face)
The lady had not one clue what I was asking to rent. And I never saw anyone with one there. So apparently helmets are not a thing.
We started our way around the lake – the hostel had a map of the typical route and said it was about a 4-6 hour loop.
I feel like this is a good time to mention it’s been a LONG time since I’ve been on a bike.
As we were riding, Chris mentioned that at the end of the day it was likely his bum would be sore (though he used a phrase that is not republishable here). Melena, from Austria, mentioned that they referred to that particular area (the specific one that’s in pain after riding a bike) as “the wolf.”
Chris and I started laughing so hard, but let me tell you – the wolf is a perfect name for it! And of course, it became the joke of the day. Any time we went over a particularly bumpy and painful stretch, one of us would howl like a wolf.
I can only imagine what the locals thought of us.
If you like the color green, Inle Lake is the perfect place for you. I have never seen so many shades of green in my life. It’s so lush and gorgeous! Everywhere you turned while biking, it was expansive views of the lake and surrounding farmland.
We rode about 15 km (I think… we didn’t have GPS, that’s an estimate based on using the scale of a map), and then stopped for lunch. The lake is big enough that you really can’t go all the way around it – but it’s normal and typical to have a boat ferry you to the other side.
We asked the restaurant owner from lunch where the boat was (whoops, rookie move), and of course, he said “right here” and pointed downhill and immediately went to go get his friend. People here are nothing if not good at trying to get as much business as possible for their friends – and at the highest rate of tourist extortion possible. But alas… they do need the money, and it’s a good way to get money closest to the people who need it.
So we got in this guy’s boat that had no chairs (it was all of our first ride on the lake… so we didn’t realize chairs were the norm). It also had no life jackets. We loaded the bikes in, and these boats are super long and thin. I constantly thought the boat was about to tip over. It did not, and we successfully made it across the lake!
But we did find out later that was definitely not the normal ferry and we definitely overpaid. (Again, “overpaid” nets out at about $4 USD.)
We continued on around the lake, stopping at the winery (come back tomorrow for that post) and then moving along back to the hotel.
All told, we biked about 30-40 km.
My wolf was definitely howling.