Inle Lake, a place so beautiful and serene, was perhaps the jewel of our Myanmar trip. After navigating Yangon's domestic airport check-in, hanging around in the single room departure lounge, the hour flight keeping a 3-year old entertained, and a 40-minute bumpy journey in an ancient minivan, my first thought upon seeing the lake was 'wow'.
Technically, I couldn't see the lake itself but rather a series of man-made canals that led to the lake. Ringed by mountains and dotted with paddy fields in which buffalos grazed with their soft tinkling bells, it held an incredible peacefulness.
We stayed at the Pristine Lotus, an upmarket resort-style hotel, due partly to our late booking and partly because we knew, with small kids, that we'd be hanging out there more than most guests.
Every day, though, we went out in wooden longboats. The kids loved it, especially 5-year old Maya, who sat up front. Lara took longer to convince and sat with me, my arms firmly around her. There were lifejackets and the boats themselves were very solid. Here are some photos of this beautiful part of Myanmar.
Although Inle Lake was beautiful, peaceful and clearly a tourist favourite, it was also a poignant reminder of Myanmar's poverty. People were living, working and washing their clothes here in the wooden stilt houses we marvelled at from our boats. I tried to imagine how it might be if tourists drove around my street in Canberra, snapping photos at me hanging out the washing or walking the dog. Pretty weird.
It also made me feel quite happy about giving an elderly fisherman 1,000 kyats ($US1) when he obligingly posed for us. He has, after all, fished these waters for decades, why not kick back and take advantage of the tourist trade.
Who knows what Inle Lake may be like in 10 years time. Hopefully still as endlessly beautiful though.
Have you been to Myanmar? What was your favourite part?