Today I wish to rely mainly on fate and chance, as I often do when I travel. I fill the daily backpack with snacks and fruit from the market and I walk towards the distant village of Inthein, in the south-western side of the lake. I want to be positive and hope to reach it, but I am not so sure since the roads marked on my map are not very clear. After only a 10-minute walk on a peaceful country road, I raise my hand to hitchhike and stop a young man on a moped that has seen better times; he accepts to give me a ride without much fuss and takes me all the way to the hot springs where I was yesterday. From here I start walking again, with the lake and the countryside to my left, and the mountains topped with white clouds to my right.
After a 5-minute walk during which I absorb the surrounding beauty, another young man on a motorbike stops without even the need of raising my thumb. He is well-dressed; his English is poor, but we somehow understand each other and he invites me to get on his new vehicle; he looks so proud of it! He continues to turn towards me and talk while driving; the scooter lifts a tremendous amount of dust that enters in my throat, plus I do not understand anything of what he says. When he realizes that that my intention is to reach Inthein, he stops the bike and bursts out in a non-offensive laughter. He tries to explain that there are at least another 15 miles of dusty road and no public transport to get there. I tell him it does not matter, not to worry, and I motion him to continue the drive. We pass the village of Kaung Daing and finally arrive at the entrance of his village, Kin Lin. He stops at the junction with the main road, where I get off the bike and thank him. He gives me a bewildered look, he tells me he is so sorry that I do not follow him to his village where I could meet his family, and that I do not take his advice not to continue on my quest. He looks at me getting far without moving from the point where he stopped, until I lose sight of him.
I arrive in the proximity of a hotel where I notice a van that is downloading merchandise for the restaurant. I walk in and try to explain myself to the driver and to the owner. It turns out that the truck goes precisely to Inthein to deliver food and drinks! They whisper to each other and shake their heads a little. On the one hand they would like to help, but from what I understand, the young man does not want to take the responsibility to take a foreigner with him. In addition, the owner of the restaurant explains in an English barely understandable that the sky threatens serious rain, and if it does rain, this road would become so muddy that it would be impossible for the boy to get back with his heavy vehicle. I would then be stuck with him, something that does not sit well with the young guy. I completely understand the situation and I do not want to embarrass them any more than I already have. I go out to observe the sky: big, menacing blacks clouds are approaching from all directions. I decide against my will, also given the time of the day, to abandon the mission, and I backtrack.
Back in Lin Kin, I sit in a teahouse to relax and drink tea Le Peyé (name that locals give to black tea) while I socialize with the owners, their entire family watching me curiously. On the road, a boy riding a buffalo that sports big horns and an enormous dangling penis passes in front of my table. The little boy is about 10 years old and already has the air of an adolescent peasant, with his flip-flops, a hat bigger than his head and a traditional Burmese pouch strapped to his shoulder. We do not know which one of us looks at each other with more curiosity. All around me, glimpses of rural life: cultivated fields, hills planted with fruit trees, nice shacks made of bamboo and roofed with iron sheets. In front of the teahouse I catch a glimpse of the arched entrance of a Buddhist temple. I pay the tea, say goodbye to the friendly family and cross the street.
In the temple courtyard I entertain families of a tribe wearing detailed and colorful clothes and headgears; I take pictures of the kids, which I show them in the small screen of my Canon: they are appalled. Too bad I do not have with me a Polaroid camera that can print pictures on the spot. Further on, a group of young monks in orange robes plays animatedly by rotating rudimentary spinning tops carved out of wood with the help of a rope. Upon my attempt to take a picture of the playground, they drop everything and vanish in a hurry, with worried looks; some, in particular the little ones, have scared expressions and hide inside the temple building, refusing to come out again. The ones on their teens back out from behind the huge trunk of a giant tree where they had taken refuge, look at me with little trust and set back to play, but as soon as I motion to bring the Canon to my eye to shoot a picture, off they vanish again. No pictures – mutters one of them in English. I respect their wish and head to the inside of the temple, where there are people eating, praying and drinking tea. I make friends with those most likely to socialize, I snap some photos of a few young monks and I head back to the main road. I really want to avoid the downpour that is on the way.
I love hitchhiking. Another youngster with nonexistent English takes me to the intersection for Nyaungshwe, and after a few minutes an overweight man on a rickety bike stops to assist. I’m not very confident with this ride, but the clouds are getting closer and closer and I know that it will rain soon, it is just a matter of time. I get on and he leaves; my legs are dangling as there are no passenger footrests, and this is a difficult task along a route where the fat man averages 10 chilometers per hour and seems to want to hit all of the existing holes. Nonetheless, he sports a blissful smile, like a huge contemporary Buddha. We arrive in Nyaungshwe safe and sound, and as the protocol wants, I thank him and he looks so pleased to have been able to help me.
It was a cheerful trip that gave me the opportunity to mingle with the locals, and I found out that most speak little or no English, that they go out of their ways to help you, and that in them you often notice the desire to confront with foreigners. It is mid-afternoon. I stop at a little restaurant located in a side street, where I eat a mango salad accompanied by a substantial banana lassi drink, as I observe the sky downloading a tropical downpour that in just 15 minutes soaks the village dusty roads.
At the port, the comings and goings of wooden boats that sail the channel is as intense as usual. The sun gains space between the black clouds and hits the west slopes of the mountains. The Inle lake is proving to be a really nice place, a must-visit in a trip to Myanmar. Too bad it will soon be time for me to leave.
READ ALSO PART 1 http://asianitinerary.com/inle-lake-trip-part-1/
READ ALSO PART 2 http://asianitinerary.com/inle-lake-by-bicycle-around-the-lake-part-2/