Most of Kalaw town centre can be viewed in about half an hour so I didn’t do very much his morning. Noon checkouts provide a nice opportunity to relax. Having expected the bus ride to Inle Lake to take around three hours, it was a pleasant surprise to arrive after more like an hour and a half.
Inle Lake is a large lake close to the geographical centre of Myanmar. The lake is around 15 miles long and is inhabited by various tribes who live around, and in some cases on stilted properties upon the lake itself. Until recent times civil unrest in Myanmar has meant that some parts of this region were unsafe to visit. However nowadays its all fine in that regard. The lakeside town of Nwaung Shwe is probably the most touristy place in Myanmar I’ve visited so far, with lots of hotels and tour agencies, as well as an abundance of nice cafes, bars and restaurants. They even have cocktail happy hours here and you can get an excellent mojito for around £1.
After another excellent meal and following on from the late night entertainment experience in Mandalay, there seemed to be a bit of an appetite for some karaoke. Unfortunately after inquiring at a nearby karaoke place we were informed that their three rooms were booked up until Thursday. Walking around town we could hear some karaoke being performed. This led us to a hotel. A bouncer didn’t seem especially keen upon letting us in but he was overruled by a friendly receptionist who directed us to a lift that went up to a roof terrace. At this point we discovered that the karaoke taking place was actually some sort of staff party. This felt slightly awkward but we were encouraged to stay by the revellers, The sound system was impressive, resembling the sort of kit that Led Zeppelin would have used at Knebworth. Tomorrow someone from our tour group mentioned how she thought she heard someone singing Don’t Look Back In Anger while she was attempting to sleep. Unfortunately that was us, almost a mile away on the other side of Nwaung Shwe!
Karaoke finished at 10pm sharp, in order to allow the good people of Nwang Swe to sleep. It was then onto another rooftop bar, this time atop of a hostel. Last orders around here are strictly at 11pm and even trying to get an attractive person (not me) to flirt with the bar staff still won’t get you a late drink. There was an interesting collection of human beings in this bar. Firstly I spoke to an American fella from Indiana. My go-to facts about this state are that it’s the home of Michael Jackson and the television show, Parks and Recreation. As I much prefer Parks an Rec, I asked whether he liked it. “It’s average,” was the reply. No elaboration or attempt to converse, so I moved on. The next conversation was with a young lady who claimed to be from about 6 different countries. She was travelling on a diplomatic passport that she liked to wave around a lot. I wouldn’t want to make fun of somebody under the influence of drugs or with mental health problems but she was far from the full shilling! I’ve never seen a stare like hers before. The next bloke told me within the first twenty seconds of meeting him that he was in Myanmar to give up drinking and heroin. Good luck to the him but I didn’t really want to get too far into that conversation. It was time for bed!
The hotels we’ve used in Myanmar have been fairly basic but perfectly adequate. They’ve been clean and usually contain a fridge and often a kettle. WiFi speed is usually slow but you’re here to see a beautiful country rather than check Instagram. The Inle Lake hotel certainly has an interesting quirk. At bedtime tonight, my roommate Jamie and I sent about five minutes looking for a light switch to turn the light off. There were a couple of switches in the room but they didn’t affect the big light. When I was almost resigned to sleeping with the light on, the light switch was located in the corridor outside of the room. Why would you have a light switch outside of a hotel room? It’s still a mystery to me. What fun an immature drunk person could have messing around with lights during the night!