Hop on our train once again as we meet the local kids, watch a game of real football and get caught in a fisherman cage. All of it, in and around Inle Lake, Myanmar.
Sorry, who are you again?
The little ones looked a bit confused when they saw our group. Caps and Hello Kitty t-shirts matched with traditional Myanmar clothing – what a mix!
Their faces were invariably covered in thanaka. Made from the bark of Thanaka trees, this refreshing yellow paste provides protection against sunburn, amongst other things.
Because I am happy
Some were playing tough with us, surely posing for our camera and pretending they were bad boys, only to run quickly a few seconds later to check the result in the LCD.
But soon those looks gave way to games and the biggest smiles I have seen in a long time.
The beautiful game
Imagine a football game with no referee, no boots, no diving, no fouls for that matter and to be honest, no goals and an ever changing number of players. Chaos. Beautiful chaos.
This is probably closer to how football was intended to be, when the modern rules were drawn up in London, back in 1863. Here, even young monks were interested in the twists and turns of the match.
And finally, the Lake
After walking freely for three days, being whisked across Inle Lake in a boat felt a bit like cheating. Don’t get me wrong, the lake is beautiful, but the best was behind us.
The waters here are shallow, and they lend themselves especially well to cage fishing. Skilled fishermen hunt carps by dropping their cages underwater and then using their spears to kill them.
But not everything is real in the lake. A few minutes later, our boat was the one being trapped in the cage: some of the locals have turned their attention away from the fish an embraced the tourist market instead by performing for the many boats, like ours, that roam around the lake. Fair play.
A great experience
For a handful of pounds we got two guides to walk with us for three days, answering all our questions about the local life and pointing out curiosities along the way.
We also got shelter at night and basic but delicious food every day.
Included in the package was a true local experience. Yes, there were other foreigners, but we did not see a single souvenir shop. The sunshine was a bonus.
And we met a group of lovely and inspiring people.** Traveling opens up your eyes to the world**, not just because of the countries you visited but also the people you meet along the way.
If there is ever such a list of activities that provide excellent value for money, the trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake will be at the very top.
We go on and off the beaten track during our last week in Myanmar: unexpected, unplanned and hot, very hot.