Another early start, and we were off to Mandalay airport for our flight to Heho. At 25 minutes, we are pretty sure it was the shortest flight we have ever been on. The airport terminal was more like a bus terminal, and, after collecting our bags, were collected by our guide Momo. From the airport, the drive to Inle Lake took an hour, so we settled in and enjoyed the view as we drove.
Shwe Yan Pyay monastery was our first stop. It was built in 1888 and is a red teak structure on stilts. The monastery was built to provide shelter for orphaned boys in the village and it is still used for educating novice monks today. The oval windows used to house 2 stained glass windows from Italy but have sadly been destroyed.
Next stop was meant to be the market however some logistical issues with our driver meant we had to give it a miss - oh no!! (We know sarcasm doesn't work well in text form but we definitely were not annoyed!) So we headed straight to our hotel instead, 81 Central Hotel. Check in was speedy, with a refreshing welcome drink, and we had a quick 15 minutes to turn ourselves around before heading out on the lake.
Sunscreen slathered on and we were good to go! We took a Tuk Tuk to the jetty (jetty is an over exaggeration, it was a very rickety wooden structure balancing, very precariously, across 4 bamboo poles that were hopefully grounded in strong foundations under water). We boarded our single file, long boat and sped off out into the water. We passed many of the leg rowing fishermen, who were all too happy to pose for pictures.
First stop on the lake was a silversmith. We watched as the men poked and prodded the silver, working at it as it sat in the hot fire before beating it over an anvil. A lovely young girl then talked us through the process of making both silver bowls and necklaces. It was interesting to watch, especially without the use of the technology available to us in the West! In true Myanmar style, it was an "exit through the gift shop" effort where we wandered, but didn't purchase anything.
After the silversmith we headed on to a floating market. We watched a very talented gentleman make a paper umbrella from bamboo, and once again got to meet some more members of the Long-neck Karen Hill Tribe, as we had in Chiang Rai.
Next we headed to Mr Toe's restaurant (we think/hope something must have gotten lost in translation) for lunch which we were both desperately needing, having been up so early in the morning. We enjoyed a chicken soup each and some tofu crackers - definitely tastier than you would think.
Revived after our lunch we hopped back on the boat for all of 30 seconds to the Hpaung Daw U Pagoda. The pagoda houses 5 small images of Buddha. This time Katy was allowed in (woohoo!) however was not allowed in to the middle area where the 5 Buddhas were kept. She took this opportunity to ask our female guide why this is and apparently it is because menstruating women aren't allowed near buddha - clearly women can't be trusted to be honest about this sort of thing so there is a blanket ban on it. Interestingly, she also added that men and women's clothes must be washed and hung out separately for the same reason.
After the pagoda, we headed on to a cheroot factory. Women sat cross legged on the floor effortlessly hand-rolling cheroots (a Burmese cigar) - apparently each woman can make 500 a day. Tobacco is rolled into a leaf along with dried banana, star anise, honey, tamarind, sugar, rice wine and just about anything else you could imagine. More of the "exiting through the gift shop" nonsense, the hard sell definitely didn't work on us here, however still very interesting watching the traditional manufacturing process.
Back on the boat and we moved seamlessly onto a Lotus weaving workshop. The lotus flowers are grown on the lake before being harvested. The fibres are then removed mostly by hand which are rolled to form long, thin threads. The next step is to weave the threads using a hand turned wheel to create a spool. This is then dyed a variety of different colours then transferred to a hand loom to make it into the final product - mostly scarfs, ties and longyis. It was again a fascinating process to watch, and very clearly took a lot of patience!
Leaving the lotus workshop behind, we began our journey back towards the hotel. We wove through the floating gardens, where locals grow vegetables and fruit on the surface of the lake when the lake is approximately half the depth, during the dry season.
Our final stop of the day was Nga Phe Chaung Monastery. Built on stilts over 200 years ago it is known locally as Jumping Cat Monastery as monks have previously taught cats to jump through hoops. Sadly we didn't get much of a chance to explore (nor see jumping cats) as we arrived close to closing time but, from what we saw, it was a stunning monastery.
After the monastery it was time to make our way back to the hotel but not without watching the sun go down over the lake.
Arriving back at the hotel we were both about ready to crash out however needed some dinner first, so off we headed to Innlay Hut Indian Food House. This was based on another travel bloggers recommendation, and we should start by saying the food was amazing. However, the restaurant had a theme. And that theme was the American rapper Eminem. We weren't too sure what to expect before we arrived but that's probably for the best. The walls were covered in Eminem memorabilia, Eminem played loudly over the speakers but best of all Stan, the owner was not only dressed as Eminem but talked like him to. When he came to take our order he told us "I just told the table downstairs that if they don't like my music they can get the f*ck out of my restaurant", the WiFi was called F*ck Trump (we couldn't argue) and Craig very quickly became his "brotha". It was truly one of the most surreal meals we have had however we laughed the entire night and can see why the restaurant was recommended!
The hilarity brought us back to life enough that we then headed to Asiático Bar to meet the Mexican lads who are on the tour with us. We managed just to go for one (no mean feat!) and Craig enjoyed a game of pool with them. Then it was back to the hotel to crash out!
The next morning we enjoyed a bit of a long lie followed by watching the Packers vs 49ers game (we won't talk about the score) and then, for the first time in a long time, we lazed about for the rest of the morning. It was just what we were needing after such a busy few days and so many early starts.
About lunchtime we organised a Tuk Tuk and headed to Red Mountain Estate Winery, again with the Mexican lads. A little find by Katy, we weren't too sure what to expect from Burmese wine, however we enjoyed the 4 glass tasting menu. A Sauvignon Blanc, a late harvest white, Pinot Noir and a Shiraz - none incredible however we both agreed we had tasted far worse! The setting of the winery was the real selling point so we all decided to stay for lunch and, another couple of bottles. Not a bad way to spend 'Blue Monday'!
Bottles of wine finished and back in the Tuk Tuk to the hotel we were all ready for a lie down! After some more chilling out we popped out for some dinner at Chillax Bistro and were in bed for an early night.
One final early start in the morning and back to Yangon we go!