Our boat journey started with the obligatory trip to a couple of shops – this time a silversmiths and a pottery. It was all very attractive, but highly unlikely to survive the baggage handlers on our flights back to China.
In the back of the store was an unexpected sight – members of a local tribe who seek to stretch their necks with golden hoops. The elderly lady did indeed have a very long neck, but her purpose in life mainly seemed to be as a curiosity for tourists. Worse was her grand-daughter who was unenthusiastically being groomed and stretched to become her successor.
I snapped a photo then immediately felt a bit awkward. This feeling wasn’t shared by the middle-aged English couple who were there at the same time. Their conversation went along these lines:
“Mingalaba – see we’ve learnt your language” – Mingalaba means hello. Now you’re fluent.
“Take a photo of me with the freak” – this despite it being clear that nearly everyone in the room spoke English.
“Now take a video” – followed by the portly man bear-hugging the elderly lady and shaking her to make the golden hoops jingle.
They then turned towards the granddaughter who understandably walked out.
“Mingalaba” again and they left without buying anything.
The market rotates round the villages on the shore of Inle Lake, recurring every five days. Today the market had come to Ywama. Boats selling shiny fresh fruit and vegetables drifted between the stilted houses. Those people selling tourist trinkets took up residence on an island containing a forest of white stupas.
As the morning continued it was getting too hot wandering around in the sun and humidity. There was nothing new here so we went back to look for our long boat driver amongst the flotilla of tourist vessels come to visit the market.
Our underwhelmed demeanour soon disappeared as we set off up a channel away from the Ywama and the main lake. We puttered along faster than normal as the river was interrupted by a series of barricades, each letting through a small waterfall. At higher speed the boat could climb up these, and by passing a few dozen slowly raise the boat into the hills.
Our journey through the jungle ended at the village of Indein. The river banks around Indein are just a collection of expensive restaurants and even more expensive toilets, but walk through these and past the school and you get to Shwe Inn Thein.
Shwe Inn Thein
Here a set of covered steps with hundreds of wooden columns lead the way up the hill. The steps must once have been beautiful but are now lined with trestle tables stacked with low quality souvenirs. Everything is available for a lucky price…
Reaching the top of the hill you’re reminded to remove your shoes before continuing into the temple. More importantly, there’s a lady there with a fridge full of reasonably priced cold drinks.
The temple itself is quite small, but it’s set amongst a field of densely packed stupas. These range from new and white painted, to gold coated and ancient crumbling brick examples. The new ones are fine, but the real joy was getting lost amongst the vines curling around the decaying brick pillars.
Back at the base of the hill our boat driver once again informed us that 1pm was the end of a full-day, which we couldn’t really dispute this far from the lake so headed back to Nyaunagshwe for drinks.