After our unexpected visit to the Pindaya Caves it was a two and a half hour drive along bumpy red mud roads to a small town called Nyaungshwe.
Nyaungshwe, rather like Kalaw, is a backpacker sort of town. The main street is mostly internet cafes, cheap restaurants and budget accommodation. A few parallel streets hide a small market and the real shops that help a town survive. Nyaungshwe is notable for the number of foreign people…men mostly…wandering round as red as lobsters, unwilling to accept that it’s possible to get sunburn on an overcast day. Sunscreen is a must as out on the lake there’s no protection from the sun.
It’s also amusing in such a backpacker hangout that Marco Polo Syndrome is in full effect here. Lots of tourists sit in the colonial-looking internet café, tapping away on their iPads, convincing themselves they’re the first foreign person to make it to Myanmar.
Depressingly, everywhere advertises banana pancakes and pizzas. Do backpackers really love them that much? Maybe I missed out, but when I was backpacking there would always be some local street food to try that was equally cheap and often, but not always, tastier. There seemed to be nothing in the way of food stalls whilst we were in town.
Inle Lake Visitor Fee
The main boarding area is located around the bridge at one end of the main street. Here boat captains and net fisherman jostle for space to get the best catch. There are slim pickings for the fisherman, but the boat drivers seem to be doing reasonably well. A 20 minute water taxi to a lakeside hotel is a minimum of US$15 whilst a full day trip round the lake can be had for as little as $20.
There’s an Inle Lake visitor fee of $5, and I’ve got a receipt, but no recollection of where and when we paid it…
The Viewpoint at Nyaungshwe
Our boat wasn’t there when we arrived so we dropped in at the closest bar for a drink. The Viewpoint is right next to the boat boarding area and offers views not just of the boats, but across the paddy fields to the rear.
They had Wi-Fi for 10 minutes before a power cut occurred. There’s not enough electricity to go round, so the government schedules daily outages to ensure all the towns get a share. This doesn’t stop the internet cafes, which still open despite having no computers, no internet and no cafe.
Wi-Fi in Myanmar was generally too slow to be enjoyable, so I was enjoying being unconnected for a couple of weeks. As a result I was taking more time to observe my surroundings, including the menu. There were some unexpectedly good tapas on offer, and I am weak of will…Fortunately for once I took a photo before eating it all…
Finally we saw our guide waving at us as our water taxi had arrived, ready to take us to our hotel, the Inle Lake Resort.