K20,000/$20 for the boat (seats 5) for the day (without Inn Dein it would be cheaper, but that add on is worth it). The boats seem to follow a similar route, with the workshops and restaurants varying by driver.
Left at 7:00, when the sun was behind the mountains, my thermometer showed 16C and I could see my breath.
Actually there was mist and smoke and clouds for the first hour, where other boats appeared suddenly out of nowhere in an otherworldly scene, and the sun wouldn’t really comes out for another hour (this doesn’t happen every day).
The boats have 5 chairs set single file, each with a cushion and a life jacket as the seat back cushion. I also received a blanket to use, which I used despite wearing long pants, socks, a T-shirt, light sweater, jungle shirt, hat and buff around my neck. The lake water is cold, and so is the air above it.
It takes a good 20 minutes down the river from town to even reach the open lake, which has a very wide “shoreline” of floating vegetation.
In a nutshell I saw:
1. Slow drive past local fishermen, famous for their leg rowing technique, who hammed it up for me with poses holding their large conical firm nets
2. Ywama (pronounced je-wama) – which no longer has a floating market for which it was famous (it was too crowded, so no it’s on land). It also has teal houses, which reminded me of the old west.
Today happened to be its turn for the rotating 5 day market, so it was busier than usual.
There were tribeswomen there with elongated necks (with the metal rings).
3. Inn Dein – 15 minutes up a river from Ywama, it has interesting ruined stupas on the edge of town, and a pagoda up the hill (easy walk up a covered trinket-stand lined walkway) which has some views and over a 1000 stupas. Yes a thousand. I could UK need them to be sure they weren’t exaggerating
4. Silversmith shop. Brief English tour, not a must see.
5. Phaung Daw Oo Paya – island pagoda that is the holiest site on Shan state.
It has 5 little buddha statues that are now golden blobs as people keep adding a teeny bit of gold leaf (conveniently for sale) one person at a time.
6. Nan Pan – a winding drive through a fishing village on stilts. Not too many people around, the fishermen being out on the water, the kids in school, the women?
7. Lunch stop… In my case at Royal Palace, one of many restos on stilts, with slightly inflated tourist prices.
I enjoyed a nicely seasoned grilled whole fish Shan style (turned out to be tilapia) K4,500 + rice K500 + mixed fruit shake K1,500, and then I needed a can of Myanmar beer K1,500 – total K8,000/$8.
8. In Phaw Khone – weaving and loom workshop. Little explanatory tour was informative, the looms are interesting (klackity klack) but new to me was lotus plant fibre, more expensive than silk (a little coarser though).
9. Blacksmith workshop – mildly interesting, this one seemed to specialize in swords (no explanations)
I skipped the tobacco workshop…
10. Floating Gardens – there must be several square km of gardens set on dirt atop floating vegetation. The drive through is interesting, though colorful it was not – mostly green. Green tomatoes (the most common one, rows upon rows of staked tomatoes), green beans, green squash…
11. Nga Hpe Kyaung – island monastery with a huge wooden hall and old Buddha images from various forms of Buddhism), though it no longer has jumping cats (the monk who trained them to jump through hoops passed away last year).
By mid afternoon I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt (zip pants to the rescue!)
Returned a little before 16:00
Will repost next week with more photos!