So after two days in Yangon where we were just getting the hang of feeling a bit like local celebrities, it was time for one part of the journey that we had been dreading since we left Thailand – the overnight bus where we’d stumble off at 4:30 at the morning into the darkness that is Kalaw. Kalaw is a town where many people begin their treks to Inle lake. Dave and I are not “let’s walk for 3 days to get to a place people” when a 3 hour car ride would suffice so we did not trek. Not even a little bit.
We had bought “VIP” bus tickets the day before and were dropped off in the INSANELY LARGE BUS STATION. Holy crap, it was like a mini city! We spotted our chariot and then we were a touch less worried about our transit. We ended up paying 25,000 kyat per person for the very nicest bus we could afford.
The bus, was the nicest bus I have ever been in, in any country. There were two seats on one side, and one across the aisle. There was a very lovely attendant lady to look after you. There were thick, clean blankets and your business class type seat reclined nearly the whole way. They showed Myanmar beauty pageants and we had croissants.
We were huge dummies and didn’t really sleep though. We were really concerned — most things we had read involving getting off at Kalaw were the bus barely coming to a full stop as it swung down a road and you dove off. We slept maybe 2 hours on the bus before it pulled up to Kalaw at 5am. The lights came on and it was clear that “hey, you white people, GET OUT”. If you want to book this yourselves look for a “Higer” express bus. It was worth the money.
We were greeted by a man with Dave’s name on a sign (my long-ass name was too complicated, which I do not begrudge them) and we hopped into the man’s car (a better name would be a “nap-mobile”) and drove off into the dark to Pindaya. I promptly fell asleep. We awoke to have a ritzy hotel breakfast as it was the only place open at 6am sharp. Then we were off to the Caves at Pindaya. In one cave temple there were 8,700 Buddhas. It did not disappoint.
We watched sunrise over the temple
and I snapped 400 pictures of Buddhas. This were to be the first 8,700 of the 4.67 MILLION Buddhas we would see in this beautiful country.
After the caves, which may have been my favorite thing ever, we fell asleep again and when we woke up we were bumping along an unpaved road. This — again — would be the first of many bumpy, unpaved roads in our future.
Finally we arrived at our hotel in Nyaung Shwe, which was nice enough but should have been $30/night and instead was $80/night. The staff were very sweet though. Also there were avocados with breakfast. I ate many avocados in Myanmar as the food left something to be desired and avocados seemed to be a “thing”.
Nyaung Shwe was nothing special, in my opinion. There’s some OK food. I guess. We met some characters (including a lovely, kooky, lady named Hope who was (of course) an organic farmer from Denmark). We either were on the lake or drinking beer on our tiny hotel room porch.
Dave would like for me to confess to making a grave error. Our beer of choice in Myanmar was — shocker– Myanmar Beer. It is partially owned by the government but what isn’t? It’s practically the national drink. What kept us coming back was an American favorite , a gimmick! Under the bottle cap you could peel away a layer of plastic and each bottle cap would reveal whether or not you won: nothing, 200 kyat off your bill, 500 kyat off your bill, or a FREE BEER! Well, we won a free beer in Inle (you can tell because all others are in Myanmarese — 200 or 500 off looks like Burmese script spelling the word “glow worm” if you were reading Burmese as English. You will find yourself doing this when you cannot make sense of any signs around you and your brain is desperate to process things. However winning is easy. You know you won a free one because it says “Myanmar”. The longer phrase means “thank you! you win nothing! Now buy another beer!”.
Anyway, I dropped our one “we won a free beer” bottlecap between the slats in our front porch. I know. I am terrible.
On the lake we had our own private boat!
And took in the views.
We saw the famed fishermen of Inle lake perched on the tip of their boats with their legs wrapped around the oars.
We got a bit of government-approved for tourist sights of the villages where people build on top of the Lake, even farm on it!
And the best part, which should no be skipped, Indein Pagoda and the surrounding village, which were breathtaking.
We scampered up a small hill and were all alone with a small pagoda and took in the views and both felt in that moment, both very small, and very fortunate.