Georgie's returned from her trip to Burma - here's her final despatch and thoughts regarding incentive options.
Having departed Mandalay in the early morning we were amazed to see that we had a convoy travelling with us to the airport. This was the morning of ‘The Lady’s’ arrival at the airport and we were part of the welcoming party, without realising it! Cars were covered in red stickers and flags, headlights flashed and horns peeped, and people wore the traditional ‘Orange ‘tunic of the National League for Democracy (NLD). We truly felt as if we were part of history in the making.
We rather hoped that our flight would be delayed, but no such luck! We flew throughout with Air Bagan, and the aircraft were modern, the staff friendly and very smart, and on each occasion the flight left on time or slightly earlier! It has to be said that some of our own airlines could learn from this!
Hey Ho - off to He Ho
On arrival into He Ho, which was the airport closest to Inle lake, we had about an hour transfer during which we visited a small ‘house’ where they made paper out of mulberry tree leaves in the traditional way. Then on to a local jewellery maker who, uses silver mined from the North of the country. North Burma is extremely rich in minerals, including diamonds, rubies, sapphires and jade, as well as gold, teak and oil. This is an area where tourists are not currently allowed to visit, and the gems are exported to China and Thailand.
Arriving at Inle we boarded a small ‘dragon’ style boat which was to be our means of transport for the next two days, and one which took us to our hotel, The Inle Lake Resort, built on stilts. The lake, 25 km long and 10 km at its widest, is just magical and amazing. With the morning mist rising from the water, the local fishermen in their small boats, bamboo fishing rods and wicker baskets, gently propel their way across the lake with one leg attached to an oar. I could have watched them forever! However, there was so much more to explore - I visited the floating gardens built up from strips of water hyacinth and mud, which is anchored to the bottom of the lake with bamboo poles. Crops such as tomatoes, Morning Glory, a wonderful version of a cross between spinach and young sprouting broccoli, and garlic are grown in these gardens all across the lake.
The Lake is completely self-sufficient, with the villages built on stilts and a wide network of little waterways connecting the houses to each other. The only means of transport is by foot, or by boat. There is a large market on 5 mornings a week, which rotates around the different villages. Here the local farmers bring their wares to trade - so fish, chicken and pork, as well as the vegetables are readily available.
There are no cattle or sheep in Burma. The meat is not available, unless you stay in the top hotels, where it is imported from Australia. Other industrious activity on the lake is jewellery making, cheroot making, blacksmithing and silk weaving, all of which take place in small rooms above the water. The products made are for local consumption, although I expect this to change dramatically if the country continues to open up to visitors.
Even here there are monasteries and nunneries, as in Burma every boy has to attend a monastery for at least 7 days, but many stay for life as they receive free education, accommodation and meals.
R&R on the Beach at Ngapali
Ngapali is a short plane ride to the luxurious Sandoway Resort, situated on the most beautiful stretch of white sands, fringed with palm trees and completely unspoilt. It is a working beach, so it's normal to see oxen pulling carts, and the locals walking down transporting their vegetables or even timber on their heads. Their deportment is amazing!
The beach is fringed with little bars selling freshly BBQ’d lobster, crabs, barracuda, snapper and king prawns, all for about £3.00. A G&T will set you back about £3.50 - the bottle said Bombay Sapphire! Local Red Mountain Sauvignon Blanc is about £8.00 a bottle. I could stay forever!
So, nearly at the end of the most amazing trip of my life. I went with great expectations, but these were far exceeded in reality. I have already mentioned the wonderful Burmese people, but alongside the 70% or so Burmese there are also several different ethnic groups who in the past came to Burma from India, China and Thailand. Hence the name Myanmar is more reflective of the country’s inhabitants than Burma, as this only relates to the Burmese.
Would I go again? Like a shot. Is it safe? Absolutely. Will it be developed? Yes, how could it not be. When to go? As soon as you can!
I would definitely recommend this wonderful country for small (20 people max) high end incentive travel groups, as they will get an experience that they will talk about forever.
See more from Georgie's Trip
We've a Pinterest board full of pics of life inside Myanmar
Read Part 1 - A View of Burma from Inside Myanmar
and Part 2 - A Despatch from Burma