Hospitality in Inle Lake

February 5, 2014

The last five days I’ve been in Inle Lake, Myanmar. It is a giant lake in Myanmar where ethnic groups reside. Their homes are accessible by boat, the gardens are small islands on the lake, the schools are surrounded by water and fishing is their main source of food. I’ve been excited to see this place but upon arrival in my boat I remembered the downside of tourism. There were these ethnic, local people living happily once one a lake and suddenly there are thousands of boats filled with foreigners infiltrating their daily lives. I felt like I was invading their personal space as my boat would slowly approach a man peacefully fishing on the lake for tourists to take photos of him like he’s a flipping animal at the zoo. It wasn’t my thing, at all. There’s nowhere for them to go as their on their boat in the middle of the lake. We passed through neighborhoods as women are trying to bathe to have people snapping photos of her. Ugh, I couldn’t stand it. Furthermore, it’s so overran by tourists they take you to these shops all day long where you feel like an asshole when you don’t buy anything. Definitely my least favorite place in Myanmar, by far. Luckily that was only one day, the “main attraction” if you will. The other days were quite pleasant. He first day I was walking around town looking for wifi when I heard “Tea?.. Tea?” I turned around to find a little old lady with betel root, red stained teeth smiling ear to ear holding out a cup of tea in my direction. I really wanted internet but you gotta go with the flow so I obliged and sat down in front of her home. She was so excited I had stopped and pulled up a chair and poured out two different bowls of snacks. She spoke a few words of English but her energy radiated positivity. Her home is literally falling apart as it is on the corner of the road, no larger than my parents garage. Four people loved inside including two growing boys. It sits over a stream that is filled with trash and has a green tint of algae on the top. It was more “in your face” than most poverty I’ve seen this trip. Just like time and time again, these prove to be the happiest people. She pulled out a notebook and showed me the contents. Inside there are short messages written by the hundreds of backpackers who came and had tea with her over the years. She was so proud of his notebook. I read some inside and all were along w lines of “I’m so glad you stopped me today to have tea! you have a wonderful family” etc. each wrote their respective country underneath their names and she searched out the other Americans who sat exactly where I was sitting. Soon thereafter, her husband came back as he is a trekking guide. He is a soft spoken man and sits quietly. It’s apparent she wears the pants in the relationship as he did everything quickly as he was told. My tea never sat unfiltered for more than 15 seconds and when I wasn’t eating she said “Sapa!” Over and over which I gathered means “eat!” Then her two grandsons came by, one seven and one five, who were a ball of energy. They were adorable. I sat there starting at roughly 2:00pm and before I knew it was 5:00 and he sun was going down. I knew it was about to get freezing outside and I had to run back to the hostel since I have only cold cold water for a shower. As I said goodbye she said I couldn’t leave because she was cooking dinner! So I told them “6:00pm” and arranged to come back an hour later and had a much needed shower. I came back and soon after three French individuals came up who met her the previous day. We were all there for dinner. She pulled down a table inside and requested all of us to come inside her home. Wondering how we would all fit, we squeezed gently inside. Once inside all four of us noticed one thing, how peaceful and cozy it was inside. On the outside it looked rugged and depressing but inside it emulated love and comfort. Here were pictures on the walls and giant Buddha arrangement as well. Then she set the table, about five main bowls with some delicious food. I mean it was great. All four of us were pleasantly surprised by what she had cooked on their small open fire in the corner. One we were full she refilled the bowls stating (slightly screaming, but she meant well) “SAPA!”.. So we stuffed our faces again.. And again until it wasn’t physically possibly anymore. She never asked for a dime.. Not one cent. Her life is surrounded. Y the joy of cooking for others. So genuine. It’s priceless! That was my Inle Lake experience. Nothing to do with the lake itself but what this wonderful woman bestowed on me was way more than any lake could offer. If anyone is coming here send me a message and I’ll tell you how to find her, unless she finds you first. So yea, I have gone there each subsequent day, all four days I was here. The third night I got sick.. Again as I woke up in the middle of the night puking my guts out. Sucks. That’s three times in five weeks. I’m over it. Can only go uphill from here! Hmm.. Let’s see.. Yea that’s it for now. Today I went horseback riding which was a nice mix up. Horseback riding in Myanmar! Check! I head to Bagan tomorrow morning and then back to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Tuesday where I’ll spend my birthday before heading to Sri Lanka. Oh and I’ve had a handful of people asking about the school over messaging and thank you! And I promise to tell ya a little bit later. I’ve just been sleeping most these past two days since it feels like fireworks are going off in my stomach. . It happens! Alright kids, take care now.


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