February 24, 2014
Early breakfast today as we say goodbye to Mandalay and get ready for the next stop in our journey through this country. Of course I have to have my 1 egg over easy as who knows when I'll be lucky enough to find someone to make it so perfect for me again on this trip! We have the hotel call a taxi for us. 12000k to the airport. Our flight is on AIR BAGAN W9-201 to HEHO, departing 8:40 am. Easy check in, no problems with weight on our check in luggage. We get our boarding passes, no assigned seats, and a sticker is affixed to us. Love this method!! It's a short flight. Upon arrival at the airport, we collect our bags and head outside to look for a taxi. No problem. Lots eager to ferry you to your hotel. We're told by one guy the fare is 25000k. We say ok as I didn't think to arrange for pick up from our hotel. Then we're handed over to another who will be our driver. There appears to be some sort of system here in place for taxis to town/the lake.
|Our Air Bagan plane|
|Scenery as we drive|
INLE LAKE Agricultural center of the country. Very fertile land. Rich in mines and minerals. Lake is situated in a valley flanked by green hill ranges on both sides. Life happens on the water. Locals commute in wooden long tail boats. Houses are built on stilts. Instead of growing food on land, people live off fishing and vegetables grown in floating gardens.
On our way to the PRINCESS GARDEN in the town of NYAUNGSHWE our driver asks if we want to stop at the SHWE YAN PYAY MONASTERY. Sure, why not. It's on the way and I think it was on my list of things I thought I'd like to see/visit. This monastery is unique with oval shaped windows. Carved gilded ceiling. Teak, painted red. Built in the early 19th century. Richly decorated with mosaics and golden ornaments. Most of the monks here are young-in training. We observe a class going on. Next to the monastery is a building with hundreds of little Buddha statues. There's a guy painting in here. I am lucky that just as we are leaving I turn for one last look and there's a young novice by one of the oval windows. I get a few pictures. We also pay our zone fees $10 per person.
|Unique oval windows|
Soon we arrive at the PRINCESS GARDEN. There's a welcome sign for us on the reception desk. How nice. We're early and our room isn't ready yet so we wait in the lounge area. This property comes highly rated on the travel forums. The grounds are filled with plants and flowers-very pretty. A huge pool with lots of sun loungers. There is the main building-reception, bar area, sitting area and upstairs the dining area. There are 8 bungalows and newly built units. The hotel's pamphlet describes itself as "a little hotel with a big heart". The owner of the hotel Ko Aung is a hands on owner. He is just so nice/friendly. I tell him I'd like to go to Sankar and Indein. He says there's a couple going tomorrow to Sankar and he will ask them if we can accompany them in their boat. We would split the cost. Sounds great. His wife is a bit more reserved but nice also. While we wait we're given fruit and drinks. We will receive impeccable service during our stay here. I'm glad we chose to stay in town instead of isolated on the lake. During the drive I notice several restaurants within walking distance from our hotel. The town is just the right size for walking and exploring. All too soon, we're told our bungalow is ready. #105. There is no A/C but a floor fan. Lack of A/C is not an issue as it gets cold during the night and early morning. We used the blankets even! We decide to check out the pool. The water is too cold for me but my husband is happy to swim many laps while I relax on one of the sun loungers. There are several others here but none in the pool. After an hour or so we decide to head into town to check it out.
|Reception sitting area|
|Another view of the pool|
|Breakfast is upstairs from reception in the main building|
|Entrance to hotel|
|View from our bungalow|
|Our bungalow-bedroom area|
|Mini fridge and floor fan|
|Another new hotel being built next to PG|
|Hotel pool in the morning|
On our walk we stop at the YADANA MAN AUNG PAGODA. Built in 1866 by King Thiri Dhamma Thawka. Shan traditional architecture. We are the only ones here.
We finally reach where the gate to the town is and the bank. It's here where we find many tuk tuks all lined up. I arrange for one to take us to the RED MOUNTAIN WINERY for something to eat and for the sunset. redmountain-estate.com No one is willing to bargain so if I want to go I have to pay. Cost 21000k. I think it's outrageous but there's no way I can bike it there. Maybe 20 yrs. ago but I digress. It's a long way over dusty, rough roads. Too bad the winery doesn't do tours like our wineries do back home. It's peaceful here. Plants have been imported from France and Spain. Began in 2002 with the first production of bottles of red and white wines in 2006. There is a restaurant-opened in 2011- with 2 separate seating areas. We choose a table outside looking out to the vines and the valley. We do a wine tasting of 4 wines. 2000k per person for all 4 wines. You get a very small glass to savor and sip. I make note of the one my husband and I liked the best as we will buy a bottle of it to take back to our bungalow. Cost of the Inle Valley White 7500k. It's a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc grapes. Harvested end of January/beginning February. A nice golden yellow fresh and zesty with flavors ranging from citrus to gooseberry. Medium bodied wine. Smell of tropical fruits. Then it's time to get something to eat. Coke, lime juice, chicken satay, and Thai chicken salad. Not bad. Bill 9500k. So the cost of our wine tasting, our bottle of wine, and dinner total was 21000k, same as cost for the tuk tuk!! The sunset was nice and after a few hrs. we return to our hotel. Ko tells us that everything is arranged for us to go to Sankar tomorrow. We are sitting on our bungalow porch, having a nice glass of wine. Not a bad way to end the day.
|Wine tasting-this is the bottle we buy later|
|Wine tasting-4 varieties|
|Thai chicken salad|
|Another seating area for the restaurant but inside|