July 15, 2012
After checking into Teakwood Guest House we slept for a few hours. (We paid $35 for a deluxe room with AC at Teakwood.) We did not want to miss breakfast, which ends at 9am, so we made sure to wake up and get ready by 8:30am. After breakfast we got a leisurely start to the day. We rented bicycles from the hotel for 3,000 Kyat per day for 2 bicycles.
Our first priority was to pedal over to the Commet Internet Cafe at the corner of the Main Road and Yone Gyi Road;, not far from our hotel and attempt to use the internet. We were able to book our next accommodation through Agoda, which will actually be located on Inle Lake! The town of Nyaungshwe, north of Inle Lake, is where many tourists stay, but it is still a bit of a distance from the lake. We really like the teak wood and decor at Teakwood, but our reason for being in Inle is to spend time on the lake.
Our first day here we just explored the East side of the lake on bicycles. The grandma here at Teakwood (it’s a family run business) gave us a map indicating some places we could bicycle to. She also tried to sell us a boat tour of the lake, multiple times, but we wanted to see what we could get outside of the hotel.
We headed out on our bicycles for the second time, stopping at a restaurant in town for lunch.
Then we attempted to follow the map to the Wine Factory (winery). The map just indicated to go down the main street and turn right at some point, but it did not indicate which road to turn right onto. It was only supposed to be 1km down the main road, and it felt like we had gone farther, so we turned right. As we wandered lost through some back roads a young boy on a motorbike asked where we were going and gave us directions to go straight and then turn left at the next bridge and then follow the road around. We finally hit a main paved road and followed it to the right. It was a nice and pleasant ride through sugar cane fields. Occasionally a motorbike, tractor, or bicycle would pass by, but it was rather peaceful. I did not mind riding down that road, even if we were lost. But after a while George decided we better go back to the main road and try to figure out where we were supposed to have turned.
We circled back into town and ended up at the market, not far from where we had eaten lunch. The lady at the restaurant we had eaten at spoke English well, so I decided to ask her for directions. She told us that we were supposed to turn right onto Maing Thauk road, which was actually further down the main road than we had gone before. This time we saw a sign for the winery when we reached the correct intersection. We turned right and after a short while we were back on the pleasant country road we had been riding on earlier. We had been going the correct way! Now it was 2pm, instead of 1pm, and we had added an extra 7km to our ride.
Not far past where we had turned back we found the Red Mountain Estate Vineyard and Winery.
There was a beautiful view of the red hills and part of Inle Lake from the winery’s restaurant. We both opted for the wine tasting of four wines, for 2,000 Kyat per person of Sauvignon Blanc, Rose, Shiraz, and Late Harvest. We also ordered some cheese for 2,000 Kyat, which is a bit pricey being that you can get a meal for that much. We enjoyed the wines while taking in the view. None of the wines were stellar enough to make us want to purchase a bottle. When we were almost ready to leave it started pouring rain, so we stayed a bit longer. Luckily, it did not rain for too long and we were on our way again around 3:30pm.
We made it to Maing Thauk Village and the turn off for the Forest Mountain Monastery around 4:30pm. As we started pushing our bikes up the dirt hill a tourist on a motorbike warned us that it was a long way to the monastery. By that point it had warmed up, despite the cloud cover and my legs and rear-end were hurting. We alternated pedalling and pushing our bikes, depending upon how steep the dirt road was.
It finally got really steep and we decided to risk leaving our bicycles along side the road and walking the rest of the way up. We reached the golden stupa around 5pm. There was a wonderful view of Inle Lake from the Forest Monastery and we also admired the Buddha inside the stupa. After a few photos it was time to head back, so we could get back into town before dark.
Luckily, our bicycles were still waiting for us where we left them. We made it back into Nyaung Shwe around 6:30pm and stopped off for dinner at a restaurant, Smiling Moon, which also offers tours and bus tickets. We asked for info about boat tours around the lake and ended up booking two tours. Tomorrow we will visit the regular touristy sights on Inle Lake and the next day we will venture farther south, to less touristy destinations.