Myanmar is to many an enigma. It is also one of the last frontiers in Southeast Asia I have had the pleasure to visit. Myanmar is everything and more for me. Venturing off the beaten path in Myanmar takes on a whole new meaning. And I tell you why.
When you reach the Inle Lake, you will be guided to boats normally and make your way around the lake in a wooden fisherman’s boat. You see the floating gardens, the traditional leg-rowing fishermen, visit some villages and if you are really (un)lucky, you see the monastery of the jumping cats. For me, that is all nice and fun, but I need to be active. So I grab myself a mountainbike and get AROUND the lake, rather than be ON the lake.
What stands out around the Inle Lake is the lush vegetation. Even in the dry period there is still an abundance of green. Green vegetation, blue waters and a backdrop of mountains make for great pictures. The only issue you will encounter, is that it is hard to bring along all your video and photo equipment. Where do you put it? If you are creative, you will find a way. It is worth bringing it along.
The paddy fields along the way were endless and make up for great pictures. I don’t speak the language unfortunately but my guide does of course. He helped me out talking to the farmers and villagers along the way. What strikes me is that no one seems to have a care in the world. People smile, are relaxed, and go around doing their thing. The world around them could implode, and they wouldn’t be affected, which has been literally the case as of late… Cycling into monasteries is great as well, You will always find a friendly face asking you what you’re doing. Why would you cycle around if you have money for a car? Just smile back and answer that it is my way of relaxation. The young monks invite me for a game of football. I just wonder how they can not break their ankles on this pothole filled field. There is a goal on the field, but the target seems to be around 15 meters next to it. That is where all the balls end up. It is funny to watch.
I end up at a wooden pagoda, surrounded by waterlilies. There is a village nearby and a young couple is hanging around the pond celebrating school is out and their love for each other. It is simply a scene you cannot get out of your mind. It is so peaceful. It is more than what I imagined of Myanmar. All I think about on my way back home is: these smiles need so much more understanding and respect from us outsiders. We don’t know half of what is going on here, yet we keep telling them what is better. What if this simplicity is the best they enjoy? Maybe we should listen to them for a change, simplify our complicated way of life and replace our computers and gadgets with paddy fields and waterlily ponds.
View the amazing gallery of the Mystique of Myanmar.