After our beautiful, yet tiring walk from Kalaw, we were glad to have booked a hotel with a nice pool so we could recover.
So after a day of relaxing, we headed to a winery on the edge of town on bicycles. We cycled past some abandoned temples and alongside vineyards and before we knew it we were there.
It was on top of a hill and faced westwards so had lovely views as the sun began to lower in the sky. We started by tasting four wines – sauvignon blanc, muscat, syrah and shiraz temperanillo. Which were nearly all terrible. The shiraz was just about drinkable. But the view and setting were tremendous.
We moved into the bar and shared bottles of the sauvignon (which grew on us) and the shiraz as the sun turned red and round. At 6pm the vineyard closed, so we headed back to our bikes. Unfortunately, only one of them had a light so we proceeded gingerly along the dark roads (filled with lightless tractors) back to town.
After stopping for some delicious dim sum, we did a drunken cycle crawl around various bars ending with us being chased by wild dogs (no doubt rabid) in the pitch black with one of us falling off their bike and waking up the hotel manager to let us in (everything in the town shuts down around 11pm). Oops.
After some pool time, nursing our hangovers, we thought it was time we go out onto the lake. For the princely sum of £3 each, we hired a boat and captain for five hours to take us around.
Our first impression was that it was massive – 116 sq km and we were here in the dry season. In the wet season the surrounding plains flood and it’s even bigger.
The next observation was that it really is a working lake, and not just for fishing. There was a huge section of floating vegetable gardens which we cruised through as well as whole villages built on stilts in the middle of the lake.
We stopped at a weaving factory to see how they make fabric from lotus flowers (i.e. very slowly) and bought the biggest coconut I had ever seen. You had to hug it while you drunk from it as it was so heavy.
Just around the corner we visited a silversmiths and watched them melt the metal and bash it into shapes. When it was in the liquid form it reminder me of the shape shifting T1000 in T2.
Next it was the cheroot factory where we watched young women deftly roll fruit cigarettes made from leaves. It was mesmerising.
Usually these tours are full of the hard sell but like so much in Myanmar, it was relaxed, unhassly and really interesting.
Finally, we headed back as the sun began to reflect on the water and stopped to watch the incredible technique of the fishermen. Whilst lowering the triangular cylindrical net, they control the boat by moving the oar with their foot. I watched several of them do it but could not understand how it worked.
Another incredible few days in Myanmar.
Next stop: beach time in Ngapali