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Rain

I passed the remainder of yesterday essentially doing nothing, not even reading (I am trying to make Murakami's book, my last one, last as long as possible -- it's really good and has me thoroughly in its grip). So instead, I roamed the streets and observed people, tried talking to one or the other, but unfortunately did not get very far. What makes it all a little different is that the Burmese always say "ja" and shake their head, whether they've understood or not; effectively, this means paying attention that e.g. the motorcycle driver is going the right direction and aborting the trip as soon as you sense a misunderstanding (despite the convincing and assertive "ja").

Following breakfast (Bamar-style Mohinga, a noodle soup with seafood and unidentifiable cracker-thingies I'll just call corn flakes for now, vegetables or whatever else the cook decided to put in -- I've developed a strong liking to this dish in the morning), I took a taxi to the airport to board my flight to Heho, from where I would continue to Inle Lake. I still travel on a budget, so you may be surprised that I am hopping around the country with planes, but the $22 I had to pay for this trip (incl. taxes) and the 10 hours I saved compared to the $8 bus ride were well worth it to me. After all, I only had a few days in this country and tried to maximise the exposure I experienced. One thing is for sure: I will come back. Pwin Oo Lwin was nice, but I did not manage to go further east; A day in Mandalay is surely not enough. Bagan didn't do much for me, so I don't think I'll return there, but Inle, as well as the countless regions I skipped, including the pictoresque and untouched beaches, really make me want to plan my next trip now already.

Arriving in Inle, it was raining, and the rains intensified towards noon. I am here to stay for two days, and the weather is unlikely to change, so after confirming that I could not take the next flight a day earlier, I bit the bullet, put on my rain jacket and sandals, rented a bike, and went off to visit the cultural museum, also known as the "Museum of Shan Chiefs" -- which was kind of disappointing. Set in a beautiful house (the sight of which was worth most of the $2 entrance fee), the items on display were scarce and almost exclusively labeled in Burmese. None of the folks working there seemed to be inclined to show me around, so after 20 minutes I left into the pouring rain, stopped by at a kitchen for a Burmese-style beef curry with jack fruit soup, and eventually returned to my hotel.

I am staying at the Aquarius Inn, a cute place with simple and clean rooms, a cozy porch, and a little garden out front. The staff, a girl maybe a little younger than me, is very attentive and speaks good English, studies geography at university, and took a particular liking to making me feel good for the two hours I decided to flip pages in Murakami's book on the front, bringing me tea, fruits, and little snacks on a continuous basis, always with a huge smile on her face, and eager to help organising whatever I would want to do during my stay in Inle.

But with the rain coming down non-stop, I am somewhat puzzled as to what I should do. The compulsory thing here is at least a day on a boat out on the lake, visiting floating villages, as well as the peculiar rowing style the people from this area developed -- using one arm and one foot instead of two arms --, hoping from floating market to floating market, and enjoying the scenery of the Shan hills surrounding the river. The Lonely Planet describes the places as a mirage. But with clouds and fod and water from above, it loses all its charm, and that's not because I fear getting wet. Not that I am bored or afraid of being bored, I'll just have to make sure to find some alternative programme, which could include spending the morning watching the market, reading, and talking to some fellow travellers who are in a similar situation as myself, but readily indulge in elaborate discussions on scientific topics, it seems.

This much as an update. Internet access here is even more difficult than in Bagan, so all the other thoughts I meant to push out to this blog have to wait until Yangon, Bangkok, or Zurich. Thanks for reading along.

PS: I don't think I'll travel with Lonely Planet again, it's just too inaccurate, and I disagree with their approach to research (e.g. not reconfirming facts researched a year before printing before the book goes to print), and happened upon too many errors this time around. Plus, I have sent them elaborate updates on four previous trips and have never heard a single word from them, no acknowledgement, thanks, nothing. Maybe I am spoiled by Open Source development. I have been recommended the Rough Guides, so I'll give those a shot for the trip to Debconf in Mexico.