Saturday, April 22, 2017

Riding the Struggle (Mini)Bus to Inle Lake

April 22, 2017
Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar

The food-born illness that we've been tip-toeing around finally caught up with us. Yesterday started benignly enough.  Scott woke up early to watch the sun rise before heading for a hike up the hill on the southern border of town - traveling alone, as Caroline was already not feeling 100%.

Watching the sun rise, listening to the disembodied voices of the omnipresent chanting monks
Scott hikes it solo up the canopied stairs to the lookout
Kalaw does not suffer from a shortage of stray you can see here, lounging by the lookout.
Hiking up beyond the lookout, looking Shan-tastic in Shan shirt and hat
By the time Scott returned, he had to lie down, and was joined by Caroline in short order.  Day slipped into night, and we made sure to get our money's worth out of our Dream Mountain bathroom. 

Woke up feeling slightly better, after a long evening. Scott managed to have tea, a banana, and toast at the Dream Mountain Inn. (Caroline only managed the tea and banana). We hung out in the room until one-o-clock, before setting off for the bus stop, as today was our scheduled travel day to Inle Lake.

One of several Aung San Suu Kyi photos in the dining room, this one with Hillary! Her portrait also graced the wall in our room. Clearly, they're fans at the Dream Mountain Resort.
We were told that the bus would stop in Kalaw between 2 and 3 pm. We got there at 1:40 to be safe.
Caroline tries on the stylish Shan hat before leaving it behind in the room - too big and unwieldy to travel with!
Made it to the bus stop... 1 km with a backpack, still feeling sick, but smiling!
The strange fellow that chatted us up at the market the other day (twice), and randomly teaching us to say hello in Thai (why???) was hanging out near the bus stop, and offered to help flag down the correct bus that would take us direct to Nyaung Shwe, the town where our Inle Lake hotel was located. His name, for tourists, is "Dance," supposedly because it's easy to remember, but I think there must be more to it. 

Dance, hanging out near the bus stop, looking for our bus - for an hour! Helpful people here in Myanmar.
The (mini) bus finally came around 2:40, and we squeezed into the two remaining seats all the way in the back seat, where two other women were already sitting. After just 15 minutes or so, the driver pulled off at the first town we passed through, to stop at a restaurant. A couple of guys went with him, while the rest of us stayed in or near the van. 15 minutes later we were back on the road, with only one more brief stop where the driver got out at some strange stand in the mountains to look at some kind of animal leg and dead birds. 

15 minutes into the trip - time to stop for lunch! Driver, co-pilot, and monk head across the street for a bite...we'll just wait here.
We arrived at the Viewpoint Lodge at 4:40 pm. It’s a beautiful place, designed to evoke the “colonial” feel, which is probably lovely for guests and possibly strange for locals?  Our room is a pretty and charming little bungalow suite sitting on stilts over the water.  Our west-facing deck is a lovely place to watch the sunset over the mountains, beyond the small road over the fence 30 feet away, only mildly busy with mostly agricultural vehicles.

Caroline was feeling pretty carsick from the ride (and ongoing food poisoning recovery) and so almost immediately feel asleep. We skipped dinner again tonight, but had lime sodas in the lounge. We arrived back at the room to see that all of the lights were on. We turned them off, no? Thinking we were just forgetful, we discovered (eventually) that the mosquito net was unfurled over the bed and we'd gotten turn down service. So the friendly Shan ladies had turned the lights on for us! So much for the "eco"-lodge. There definitely seem to be more employees here than guests, in this, their low season. And every one of them wants to say "mingalabar" to us whenever we walk by. Mingalabar!

The Viewpoint Lodge.  This will do very nicely.

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