Internal flights in poor countries can be chaotic and a bit scary; and this one lived up to expectations. The airport was a riot of people doing things without any clarity to them. People kept trying to take our bags, and some of them were even supposed to. There was no guidance in where to go or what to do.
So it was with some relief we got on our small and somewhat old plane for the 80 minute flight to Heho. In all honesty the service on the flight was great and it was only really scary as we came into land and turned 270 degrees on a wingtip and then flew through a cutting in a hill, yes like a road cutting but for planes, and dropped down onto the runway.
We met our guide and driver at He Ho and set out for the hour’s drive to Nyaung Shwe on Inle Lake. We’re in the Shan State and drove down a mountain onto the Shan Plain. The plain is bursting with farms – cereals, sugar cane, bananas, and many other crops I didn’t recognise. As a consequence of all the farming it seems prosperous compared to Yangon; not rich, but certainly comfortable.
The roads have many horse carts on them, although our guide explained these are being quickly replaced by cheap motorcycles from China, and we certainly saw a lot of them too.
We’re staying to the North of the lake and today is market day in Nyaung Shwe so it’s bustling with farmers come in to buy and sell supplies. The town is built around a canal that leads down to the lake and is plied by longboats noisily pushed along by single cylinder engines, also from China. In spite of the smoke from the burning sugar cane and the exhaust from the engines, the air feels wonderfully clear compared to Yangon.
After a lovely lunch involving lots of local vegetables, we were introduced to our bikes and had a ride around the town. Although we’re now in a distinctly different part of Myanmar, one which continues to struggle for independence, there’s little sign of the differences where we are. It’s a bustling town with locals carrying things about, monks wandering the streets, and whole families driving about balanced on their single motorbike.
One of the major local crops is tomato, so they are absolutely everywhere together with the fabulous wooden boxes they are packed in. We stopped in at a tomato warehouse which had piles of the fruit in various stages of ripening.
Dinner, was lovely, although we struggled with another big meal after the lunch. Our guide had noticed it was my Birthday and arranged a cake and present for me, which was lovely.