Apart from Buddha the people in Myanmar also believe and honor the Nats, ancient spirits that have been roaming around in Myanmar before Buddha was even born. Some Nats are kind hearted while others are evil. Last night we unfortunately met some very evil Nats. Before we even got to bed loud screams filled Nyaung Shwe; Irene and Mariëtte were victim of a brutal cockroach invasion in their room. Nobody could deny that room D3 was taken over by cockroaches the size of large eggs. The local special forces from the Remember Inn hotel quickly came to the rescue after the deafening screams of the two little ladies. At the time Pim and Luc thought it was one big joke and a secret scream for attention. The plague could not be tamed so the duo got a new room (once again without air conditioner) which resulted in another sleep deprived night. Pim and Luc were enjoying their air conditioned filled night until the sun was rising and the evil spirited Nats felt like paying them a little visit too. Not one, but both mobile alarm clocks were sabotaged and did not go off. Luckily for them there was also a little kind hearted Nat who felt sorry for them and woke up Pim at the exact time when the group was supposed to leave the hotel. Seven stressful minutes later the entire group, including the ill prepared little boys, were on their way to the Nyaung Shwe docks to board the jetty that would carry everyone over the famous Inle Lake.

After the group carefully boarded the fleet of jetties the armada set sail to the IHHVTC; the Inle Heritage Hospitality Vocational Training Center. On this more than an hour long trip over this scenic lake, surrounded by breathtaking mountain ranges, we encountered many of the iconic Intha fisherman (and woman). It was interesting to see how the outside world has influenced the young generation of the Inthas; who instead of the traditional clothing for example wear a F.C. Barcelona shirt or a Samsung shirt. Another thing that stood out on the lake are the many floating gardens, which mostly consist of tomato plants.

Upon arrival at the IHHVTC we were warmly welcomed by the local Birmese students who showed us around the entire compound, which consisted of a hotel, a restaurant, an aquarium with species which can no longer survive in the lake, classrooms and a Birmese cat island, which purpose is to reintroduce the Birmese cat to Myanmar. After this we were treated by traditional snacks, coffee and tea. Once our bellies were filled we went back to the jetties along with Birmese students. Very soon after starting our short trip to the Golden Island Cottages hotel the jetty drivers forgot where we were supposed to be heading, so the fleet stranded in the middle of the lake for about 5 minutes. When we finally arrived at the Golden Island Cottages we were musically welcomed by the hotel staff after which the owner gave a presentation about the hotel. The owner, along with the rest of the staff, belong to the Pa-O ethnic group, and the profits of the hotel go to the local Pa-O tribes. The hotel itself is very beautiful and is located in the middle of the lake and is only accessible by jetty.

The next hotel we visited with our jetties was the Novotel, a luxury resort with room prices starting at 200 dollars per night during the low season. The Singaporean manager of the hotel gave us a short presentation and wanted us to become a member of his hotel loyalty program. After the presentation they showed us their cheapest hotel room, which already looked really fancy, as well as their most luxurious suite, which included a hot tub and a personal pool and has given Luc inspiration about how to redesign his room back in the Netherlands.

The next jetty trip was back to the IHHVTC, during which we once again enjoyed the wind blowing against our sun cream and Thanaka smothered faces, with Thanaka being the local sun cream in Myanmar which the Birmese also consider to look very pretty. At the IHHVTC we had a traditional local lunch based on ‘grandmother’s recipe, prepared by some of the students that accompanied us during the day. One of those students was Cho Cho who sadly couldn’t explain what is was that she cooked because Harald interrupted the friendly atmosphere with a ‘little talk’. Like usual it lasted twice as long as he probably intended. His metaphorical talk was about the heart (wellbeing), head (knowledge), hands (skills) and stomach (security). We had to apply these concepts to the two hotels and the IHHVTC together with the Birmese students. Surprisingly they had trouble applying them to the IHHVTC where they already spent up to 9 months. The visit ended with a final group photo as well as countless individual photos and exchanging contact details with one another.

The one hour long trip back to Nyaung Shwe was troubled by the same angry Nats that troubled us in the morning and the evening before. The Nats decided it would be a good idea to replace the sunny weather with a wild storm. The clear blue sky slowly turned into a pink and purple sky with lightning surrounding the lake area. One particularly evil spirit then appeared and broke the engine of one of the jetties. Afraid of the lightning storm they decided to find shelter at a hut in the middle of the lake, together with a lot of other stranded locals. Luckily Joris, Axel, Lieke and Saskia survived.

Our own group made it safely to Nyaung Shwe where the rain really started to poor down. We ran to the nearest slightly decent restaurant while still wearing flip flops and not being able to see everything as it was already getting quite dark. The same good Nat that woke up Pim in the morning, now also blessed us with a nice dinner and a happy hour, and let’s just say that the cocktails and beer flowed and the day ended on a great note. Tata!

Authors: Luc, Irene, Mariëtte & Pim