Despite the luxury bus I wasn’t able to get much sleep. It didn’t matter as we arrived extra early: 4am in the morning. A few guides received us with huge coats and woolly hats, it was cold. I got a place to sleep for a very few hours, got some decent sleep, had breakfast and decided to start with the trekking the very same morning.
We had a guide, a guide in training and a fantastic group of people that would bond quite well over the next few days. So the walk started and we completed around 60km in 3 days, with a couple of surprises in the middle. Our super international group had lunch in a monastery and arrived first to the small village where we would sleep. We got a beer and saw the sunset. Afterwards, we just hanged around the fire camp in between locals with their magnificent football team jerseys. We had had a beautiful trek, good vibes, a great sunset, nice dinner and solid sleep.
The second day of our trekking we woke up quite early. I wished I had woken up for sunrise but I had some sleep to catch up with. Breakfast consisted in poori, which brought me nice memories from my dear India and we quickly moved on from the village to continue our journey. Not even an hour walking and our guide Jerry informed us with the existence of a wedding. Of course we want to see it! So we made our way there and we were invited for food that we took as we have had no breakfast at all. Some tasty food after, we were moved towards the desserts area: smaller low tables to sit on the ground filled up with cigarettes, typical Burmese cigars, betel nut and chewing tobacco, some sweets, tea… Wow!!! And as it was a wedding and therefore, a special occasion, some of us had to smoke and actually try the betel nut. Yes, me too. And to be honest, I didn’t find it as gross as I was expecting. Not that it was a pleasant experience either. I had to chew hard parts mixed with tender parts of the leaf, plus spit from time to time without being sure what I was spitting. After a while I spitted all of it and cleaned the interior of my mouth with a napkin several times. Many sweets afterwards I recovered a natural feeling and then we went to see the groom and the bride. The tradition says they have to keep seated during the wedding and they were seated while holding a string each that ended in the same string. Beside each, there was the best man and the bride’s maiden. And after their generosity, we couldn’t do any different than to collaborate with a donation while tying a string around the bride’s wrist.
At the wedding, we also had some incorporation to our group and two Australian girls and a Chinese couple joined us. We kept walking, as the good trekking crew we were and after lunch, we reached a river where we would swim in the freezing water for a while, monks around included. The place where we would be sleeping that night would be a monastery. Funnily enough, we could eat meat, have alcohol, speak loud and other stuff in the dining area right out of it, but none of those inside. Including wearing shoes or socks which was the difficult part because it was freezing. We had a nice fire camp and by the time we got to bed it was too cold. I barely got any sleep because my feet were frozen and had to wrap around them my raincoat. It was still a pretty good experience and this time I felt extremely thankful that there were no chants at 5am.
I was awaken by one of the guys to catch the sunrise but it was too cold to get out of bed plus I didn’t see anybody else doing it, so the social pressure was not there. We were trekking half of the day and after lunch we just took a boat to cross Inle Lake. It was cool to see the fishermen keeping the balance with that strange posture that I understood after finding out that the lake is 2 or 3 metres deep. But the most amazing thing was that the guide in our boat had some bread and he and another girl started feeding the birds around us, who started to follow us to be fed. That was the end for out trekking and though my feet were sore and I had a tiny little blister, it was felt great and I wanted more.
The evening passed quietly and we only were worried about dinner (a magnificent pizza and a strange but yummy Hawaiian pizza), a beer and have a bit of fun, but I was too tired and went to bed very early, as I really wanted to catch the sunrise next day. As I finally did, on the rooftop of the hostel and over breakfast. You cannot really ask for more, can you?
The plan was renting bicycles and explore the area, but one the guys went to dye his hair Asian style (he has black hair and went for a blondie colour) so we were waiting for him and then we proceeded with the bicycles. I insisted very much on a cave nearby and although the trip there was a bit tough, the cave was absolutely amazing: non-touristy, unexplored, it had no end that you could see. I particularly enjoyed the exploration of a chamber, which had a Buddha inside, of course. When I came in to see if there was another path coming from it, I lighted with my flashlight a dragon! Cool, it surprised me and amazed me. It almost scared me, but not quite.
The cave had no end and a narrow low muddy path that you had to crawl by was next, but it was the beginning of the day and I thought that firstly, it wasn’t worth to get that dirty yet and secondly, I have had enough of the cave and didn’t need to see more. After that, we moved to the famous hot springs. It took us almost an hour on the road to get there and it was very disappointing: there was an expensive entrance ticket and when we had a look to them, they were just little pools, completely artificial. The way to our next stop included a taxi boat but the plan had to change and we needed to get back to the town and make our way from there to the winery. It was too much and one of the girls was extremely tired and sore from the trekking. We didn’t know how we were going to do our way back when we found a dirt cheap ride in a shared pickup where two girls and I would fit our bikes and made our way back to town. From there, we went to the winery where we came across the rest of the trekking group and enjoyed a sunset while drinking a glass of Myanmar wine. The way back to the hostel was a bit difficult as we had to make it in the darkness of the night. I was holding my torch while pedalling but honestly it wasn’t enough.
During the night, the guy that got his hair dyed also got a free pizza and that had to be eaten. We went for pizza with him, he shared it with us and we also played darts. As much as I suck as this type of games, I started getting a bit better at it. Then, we went for dinner and all I can say about this night is that it got especially tough in the middle of the night, when I started felling nauseous and I vomited everything I had inside. D*mn it! The night was rough and I was supposed to wake up for sunrise and go with the group for a boat tour around the lake, but the last thing I could feel like is to get myself in the boat. It was such a shame that I spent the last 2 days thinking of staying one or two nights in Inle Lake and when I decided to get an extra night I was of course thinking of the stroll in the lake. But nothing could be done now and I had to put up with my sickness and get over it. The fact that we had a boat ride at the end of the trekking made me feel that it was ok to miss this one, although the company and the activities were promising. I spent the day in bed, I organised my bus tickets to get out and accommodation and then watched a couple of documentaries on my laptop. All I was feeling like was to sleep but I knew I had an overnight bus that would arrive quite early to Bagan, my next destination and I wanted to keep my sleep for the bus. I knew the bus would not be luxurious but I would get sleep this way anyways. And so I did. I didn’t even get off the bus once in the stops it made. I don’t even know how many stops it did and I almost kept sleeping when we arrived to Bagan at almost 4am. But I got there and although sleepy and confused because of the arrival time, I was feeling completely recovered.