Even before landing in Heho, the airport closest to Inle Lake, my camera was already filling up with photos.
The taxi ride (about 25 USD) was a breathing taking hour ride through the mountains of the Shan state. We switched around as we made our way down to the lake.
We drove by part of the lake, but only a small tease of what would see over the next few days.
We decided to try to bike around the lake, but the road doesn’t so much go around the lake, as it does around mountains, and vineyards and country roads. Sounds lovely, right? Only you’re still in a developing country, so your bikes are old cruisers, the road is an old country roads half crumbling, and you’re sharing it with trucks and tractors that blast past you. O and it’s really hot. It was lovely, but after a few hours we got tired and hired a boat man to take us around the lake.
Tony negotiating. I tried to convince him we should just continue biking, but luckily he won. For $15 we had a boat for the rest of the day.
Since we also had a full day of boating the next day, with ruins and markets, we decided it would be okay if we visited some tourist traps, I mean factories/shops.
The first shop was a lotus making facility.
It was actually a pretty cool sight to watch.
Next we stopped by a metal works and watched some silver making.
Afterwards we made over to the boat making shop where the tourist friendly price for your own boat was $3,000.
Our final factory/shop was the Kayan women silk factory, which I found a little creepy.
There are many ideas regarding why the coils are worn. Some anthropologists suggest the rings protected women from becoming slaves by making them less attractive to other tribes. Contrastingly it has been theorised that the coils originate from the desire to look more attractive by exaggerating sexual dimorphism, as women have more slender necks than men. Kayan women, when asked, acknowledge these ideas, and often say that their purpose for wearing the rings is cultural identity (one associated with beauty). However, when it comes to Inle Lake, I think a large part of it has to do with the tourist revenue.
Boat rentals are easily negotiable, especially after 10AM when most tourists are already out on the lake. I heard people pay anywhere from up to 60USD for the day. We paid 15USD for a boat from 2PM til past sunset with just me and Tony.
Overall, if you have some extra time to kill, visiting the tourist factories/shops is a fun way to kill an hour or two, but the prices there are definitely 5 times higher than the normal tourist price you would get at the market.