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Monday, 31 August 2015

Inle Lake, Myanmar - Page 4

Written by Richard Taylor
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We started back, Kupa slowing the boat when we neared any sunset frieze that tickled my sense of cliché.  Fires burned in the surrounding hills and the breezes carried the billowing smoke over the water’s surface.  This was an eerie sight – fishing craft and motorboats emerging from the vapours as if the lake itself were on fire.  The air began to chill rapidly.  Up in the stem, Makai was again a formless blob under a blanket.  We reached the mouth of the Nan Chaung canal and continued for several minutes until the engine sputtered and Kupa pulled into the reeds.  He shouted to Makai, who still wrapped in her blanket, hopped down to the stern.  They murmured and chatted and Makai produced some enormous shears.  Apparently, a piece of the priming rope had caught in the engine and we waited twenty minutes while Kupa cleared it.  Makai moved out front again but she’d forgotten her blanket.  I gave her mine.  We reached port after dark where they helped my out over the tilting crafts.  They looked at me gravely.  I suspected the jammed motor had resulted in a severe loss of face.  I didn’t want them to think I’d been upset by the incident, so I thanked them for a fascinating tour and gave them a large tip.  They bowed. 


The day after the lake tour, I rented a bike and cycled around the east side of the lake.  There was no dramatic Fisherman’s Dance this time – the farmers, their oxen and the women cutting sugar cane went about their business in what seemed the conventional way.  The country road was generally sound although passing through the little village of Maing Thauk was a boneshaker, the lanes under construction or in need of it.  Finally the way was smooth again and all was pastoral tranquility until a massive five star hotel came looming up on my right.  It had no real business being here.  I had to stop.


Two men on the other side of the road were hosing down and polishing a cobalt blue vintage Mercedes (I don’t know from cars but this definitely wasn’t current).  They were Frenchmen of course and when I inquired why they’d risk a fine car on uncertain terrain, they bid me turn around and check out the Palace Hotel’s main drive.  There, parked along both sides of the semi-circle were gleaming autos from decades passed:  Jaguars, Bentleys, Citroens, even a Mustang.


“It’s not a very good car,” one of the Frenchmen said of the latter.  “I don’t know why they brought it here.”


It was a cross-country race, the men told me.  I mentally filed this under THINGS I’D NEVER EXPECTED TO SEE IN MYANMAR.


Later that afternoon, I cycled the other way, beyond the passport and ticket booth, heading up the road we’d entered by.  Flanking my right was the narrow, elongated body of water we’d passed on arrival.  My taxi mates and I had wondered if this were the famous lake, since none of us knew better.


“This can’t be it,” we muttered, this picturesque pond but rather pathetic lake, and we glowered at each other like we’d been had.

(Page 4 of 5)
Last modified on Monday, 31 August 2015

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