We’ve started our Myanmar bike trip, known to one of our favorite stuffed animals as the Best Bicycle Bonanza in Burma! We’re starting slow: yesterday we flew from Yangon to Heho, a provincial capital about an hour north of Yangon, and then drove another hour to the small town of Nyaung Shwe where we’re staying for two nights. This morning we got on our bikes, but only for about 15 kilometers, spending most of the day on a boat tour of Inle Lake. Tomorrow, though, it gets serious, covering 75 kilometers, including an 11-kilometer climb up out of our valley and into the Western Shan Hills.
The highlight today was time spent on Inle Lake which, at about 45 square miles in surface area, is the second largest lake in Myanmar. It’s a beautiful, calm lake with large floating communities, gardens, and lots and lots of fishermen. The fishermen have a strange and unique style of boating: they stand on one leg at the back of the long, narrow boat. Their other leg is wrapped around the oar. That leaves their hands free to work while giving them the height advantage to see over reeds and other plant life that is all over the lake. Fascinating to watch.
Early in the day, after biking just five or six kilometers, we stopped at a vineyard for a wine tasting. Really? Burmese wine? At 8:30 AM, barely after we’d started riding? It turns out Burmese wine is slightly better than you might expect, provided your expectations were extremely low. After that our trip included a stop at a satin weaving shop, where women were doing incredibly complex work on old-fashioned wooden looms, paid about $4 a day I was told. And then there was the Buddhist monastery, famous for the cats trained to jump and do other tricks. We were pretty excited about that, until we learned that the trained cats had pretty much all died out. There were still cats, and some adorably cute kittens, but no trained cats. Perhaps they were just an urban legend.
So that was our first full day; a little biking, lots of boating. Tomorrow is a whole new ballgame.