Today after 3 days of incessant rain we were rewarded with a most beautiful sunrise at Mount Popa. This mountain east of Bagan is densely forested with virgin rain forrest and looks untouched for the most part. Dense green vegetation covers every inch of the ground. Birds and little animals make for a very nice sound backdrop as did the drip of the water drops onto the roofs. No civilization noise for a change.
Mount Popa resort is a very pretty bungalow style resort on top of a hill opposite the much more known monastery on a sheer rock called Taung Kalat. From here we knew we could have spectacular views onto the monastery. We got up right at dawn, while it was quite chilly outside, and headed to the viewpoint. We should be richly rewarded for getting up so early. What was one grey wall of clouds yesterday with no hint whatsoever that there was a monastery on a rock in front of us, now revealed itself as a most breathtaking panoramic view of the rock and the monastery in the early morning sunlight. We just wanted to sit there for an hour and watch this grandiose sunrise from dawn to when the first sunrays lit up the golden pagoda of the monastery until it was in full light of the sun. Amazing to watch the transformation of light.
After a very nice breakfast we made our way back down and to Bagan Airport to catch our flight to Heho. We had one more stop planned that morning at a palm sugar plantation. Burmese cuisine and snacks use three kinds of sugar : made from sugar cane, made from palm trees and honey. The sap of the coco palms is collected regularly and cooked in five stages and kettles for as long as it takes to become a brown, caramel looking goo which is cooled down and rolled into small sugar dots and left to dry. It’s probably the Burmese equivalent to our Zuckerwürfel in Germany. It is extremely sweet and can hardly be eaten in its concentrated stage.
Better are the Burmese version of choco crossies. Coconut is being rasped into little pieces, mixed with some palm sugar and coked again. The small portions are lft out to dry and they then look like choco crossies and taste very nice.
A third product is produced from palm sugar is palm schnapps. All is produced by hand and slowly. No pressure cookers here…
On we went to the airport. The drive was only an hour long in total but what struck us a pretty sad were the people along the road begging for money. Young, old, men, women, children, many sat at a distance on the ride of the road and started waving once our car approached. When we asked our driver about it, he said that they are looking for easy money and that the hard field work paid less than the begging. Pretty sad to watch. So far in Myanmar we had not encountered any beggars in any other place.
After a really short flight, we landed in heho, the closest airport at Inle Lake, our final destination on our trip in Myanmar. Three days we have here at this very shallow lake ( 2-3 meters depth max).
We were picked up at the airport , perfectly organized as always, and driven to Nyaungshwe, a little town at the north end of lake Inle. On your way we passed a lot of locals dancing , playing a version of volleyball and eating. We decided to make an impromptu stop and explore the festival grounds. Needless to say that we were once again the only non-locals and got stared at quite a bit. But people are more reserved in the east is seems. In the South we would have had to pose for many pictures already by now. It turned out that January 4th is the Myanmar Independence day and for that reason there are quite a number of festivals all over the country. We just happen to discover one of them.
We also made a short stop at the old but active monastery Shwe Yan Pyay with stupa, completely built in teak wood ( except the corrugated iron roof, which has replaced so many organic roofing materials here).
Then we had to say good bye to our car. What we did not know is that most villages and hotels on lake Inle are not accessible by car, only by boat. So we hopped on a long boat with all our luggage and were driven 45 minutes to our hotel. It was a fun ride and it is a strange sight to check into a hotel from the waterside. No curbside check-in ;o)).
On our way we saw several fishermen balancing on small boats all day for a good catch. The evening we watched a beautiful sunset over the mountain ridge across from our small lodge. A perfect ending for a very nice day.