Our Destination Specialist Claire returns to Myanmar for a moving rediscovery of her old favourites, and finds plenty of fresh sights along the way.
'A dawn departure from our Inle Lake hotel meant that we were once again given the chance to enjoy both the reflective, oil-like light on the lake waters, and the many fishermen who dot the calm.
Our longtail boat captain slowed to allow us to take photographs of a fisherman about to throw his conical net into the lake, and the smile we exchanged as we passed by was as calm as the waters and as friendly as everyone else we had encountered.
After a couple of hours, with another full memory card of stilt houses and lake scene photographs (and a litre or two of water) we arrived at the picturesque Tarkong Paya – a complex of hundreds of stupas that looks similar to In Dien, but without the crowds. Wandering amongst the Buddha statues, spires and tranquil lakeside setting was a true delight, and the small birds that now call some of the spires home added to the beauty.
Back on the boat we crossed the lake to the village of Samkar (Sagar) and enjoyed a visit to the small monastery located behind the crumbling stupas on this side of the lake. A short walk through the dusty village and we arrived at ‘Little Lodge’, a small wooden hotel with a welcoming roof terrace overlooking the lake. We enjoyed a tasty lunch, and wished we had added on an extra night to stay in the modest, cute little bungalow in the small hotel gardens.
We then continued on by boat to Phekon - a town located at the most Southern end of Inle Lake. We disembarked and continued by road for around an hour to the town of Loikaw and checked in to the welcoming boutique style Loikaw Lodge in time for sunset and a glass of Myanmar Aythaya red wine!
The lodge projected a home from home feel and the simple, clean rooms were dotted with stunning photographs of the brightly coloured tribal dress of the region. Loikaw is located in Kayah State - the smallest State in Myanmar, but with the highest ethnic diversity. Only recently opened up to tourism and far enough from the more popular destinations within the country, which prevents any kind of crowd, the entire region is an authentic off-the-beaten-track dream.
We spent a few days visiting the (relatively) nearby villages and communities which are home to Padaung and Kayah tribes with traditional dress and ancient crafts, and had some wonderful interactions with some fascinating people.
Taking the time to find out about local ways of life and sharing giggles and stories (via our knowledgeable guide's interpretation) meant that the entire experience will forever be etched in our hearts. The journeys to and from these remote villages from Loikaw is not for the faint hearted. The dusty bumpy roads certainly worked the suspension of our vehicle! But each bounce, bump and excitable local we waved at along the dirt paths made for one of the most unique and immersive adventures of my travels thus far. I want to shout about the amazing time I had in Kayah state, but if I keep to a whisper, it may mean that the innocence and beauty of this remote region will stay as untouched as it currently is for a little while longer…'