It is an hour-long propeller plane from Yangon to Inle Lake’s access airport Heho. Amazingly a full meal was served during our quick one-hour domestic flight, including teacakes and tea. From Heho airport it is a bumpy one-hour drive to Inle Lake. Life might have been easier had the hotel picked us up, but alas we didn’t arrange that. Instead, we drove (or bounced) in a yellow van from the 1960s. Our taxi was decorated as if by a thirteen-year-old girl from 1982 with every wall covered in posters: neon cat posters and colorful American suburban home holograms flanking the walls. Upon arrival our driver put to use his PA system to alert his friend from the water taxi service and help us set up a full day of Inle Lake activities. All of which at the time seemed like a good, maybe even a great idea. Everything I wanted to see for $35? And you will pick me up at my hotel, on a boat? How easy was this! In life nothing is ever as good as it seems, so when my receipt read all “the usual activities,” I should have known.
Upon arrival at our hotel and it was time for relaxing.. I wandered around a resort and tried to photograph all the butterflies and Nick as per usual took a nap. Later on began to wonder why there were no guests anywhere. The resort was huge, with a gargantuan ballroom (imagine an Adam Sandlar movie set, for an Island Resort) and grounds for a few hundred and yet no people. The guests it turns out were off being carted around the lake on a non-stop tourist parade, which we experienced the next day. From sun up to sun down, we were placed on a fishing boat and driven around the lake to the various areas of interest in order to “experience” “admire” and “enjoy” the vast wonders of Inle Lake. Much like my experience in Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, being carted around a lake while gawking, photographing, and being asked to buy products makes me feel awkward. Guilt is a powerful emotion, and as I spend hours trying to find something I might actually want, maybe I think this bottle opener isn’t so bad….I then notice I am holding a wooden dish with a screw half protruding from it to open the bottle. I became increasingly unhappy.
It needs to be said that Inle Lake is beautiful. It is a truly photogenic place, where light hits the water and reflects in marvelous ways. . It has however become one of the top tourist sights in Myanmar and so it seems the whole area has been morphed into an area completely for and dependent on tourists. Eight hours touring the lake by boat is a really long time, and to any future visitors I would recommend cutting it down. No one really needs to see the silver smith, the knife makers, boat makers, and weavers. These artisans are selling you overpriced junk, and no doubt a huge commission to the boat drivers. In the end the beauty of the area is in the fisherman and the sights you might just catch while being chauffeured around the lake from one activity to the next. If I could do it again I would go out for a two to three hour boat ride early in the morning for pictures and return home for some rest in one of the resorts on the lake. We stayed in the Inle Resort and Spa, which was nice except for the forged fifty-dollar bill they gave me on check out as change.