Sometimes it is good to be a tourist. The touristic places do not have to be bad if you work out the system and you do not follow the crowds. There are some obvious advantages of staying in touristic spots: a big choice of safe restaurants, lots of offers of cheap and good accomodation and fellow backpackers you can bond with for couple of days and hang out together. As such I was pretty glad when I arrived at the Inle Lake – I had a place to stay, I was not hungry and I found new friends in the hostel. Just perfect!
Together with my American friends we did the „obvious sightseeing”. We went on the bikes to a popular winery to take part in wine degustation – the wine was awful (especially the red one), but the view on the lake and the sunset compensated the flavour. Also we took a boat and traveled around Inle Lake with the local guide. Boring! He took us to the most popular spots plus to a big number of shops in case we wanted to do some shopping. Well, we did not. Also visiting the monastery full with other tourists was not a highlight, however the place was really nice and maybe in other circumstances I would like to spend more time there. To sum up – it was nice, but the next days I just wanted to spend „my way”.
I did some research, asked around local people and I figured out that there is one spot really worth seeing – Sankar Lake. Remote and almost unknown among tourists lake had one disadvantage only – it was really expensive to get there. However, you should never give up – I just decided I needed a crew. One more time I was lucky – I met two Canadian guys that did not have much ideas what they wanted to do, so they gladly welcomed my propositions.
We departed early morning and when we crossed Inle Lake and left touristic area I already knew that choosing Sankar Lake was a good idea. We were surrounded by the myanmar nature – birds flying high, hills and bamboo forests and totally unspoiled silence. The Sankar Lake itself is much smaller than Inle Lake and also much more unspoiled, however it offers everything what makes this region of Myanmar so famous for – houses built on lake, pagodas flooded by water and traditional handcraft but all less touristic and not so overwhelming as in the Inle Lake area.
Half of the day we spent wandering around the forgotten villages, drinking tea with old men sitting in shade in almost empty pagoda. We also visited the rice wine factory. Our visit resulted in long and very emotional discussions about life and death matters and with our mutual decision to explore the Inle region next day together as well!
The first stop following day was a local market with fruit, vegetables and herbs filled with Myanmar people. The women sold thanaka – famous paste from thanaka tree that locals use for skin protection and most peculiar makeup. We were also wandering around the villages to finish with the most touristic accent of Inle Lake – sunset on the boat observing fishermen during their work. All in all it was interesting and worth it!
When you travel you can have two different approaches towards sightseeing. One is the touristic option – you can stay in hotels, do tours with the guides and eat out only in the restaurant recommended by Trip Advisor. The other approach is usually to negate all popular routes – so you stay at local people’s houses, you eat out only in the night markets and you tend to miss out all tourist attractions. If you ask me what is better I would answer: “Somethings exactly in the middle!”. It is sometimes good to be alone and hang out only with locals, but spending time with fellow travellers doing touristic stuff might be fun as well! Just keep you mind open!
Author: Joanna Zubkow