When visiting Myanmar’s largest lake one will find a ring of quiet villages, a floating pagoda, and few foreigners. Working elephants have been traditionally used by the Burmese for logging and some were still around the lake. Upon learning this, seeing one of the gentle giants quickly became my sole goal for this destination.



Getting There

From the highway pop-up town Hopin, hitchhike or take a 90-minute, $3.50 pickup taxi to lakeside village Lon Ton.


In Hopin, Hopin Star was on the main road for $8 a night.

On the lake, foreigners seemed to be only accepted at Indaw Mahar Guest House, $7.50. Beware of massive swaths of insects across the walls at night. Free coffee, no wifi or breakfast. Also I had them change my bed sheets when I looked down at my elbow and saw rat droppings. Fun times.


Indaw Mahar


See and Do

Day 16

I should’ve been boarding a homeward plane in Malaysia. Instead, I was tailgating and sunflower seed crunching my way to the Shwe Myitzu Pagoda, which wasn’t particularly significant beyond the fact that the walkway would be submerged at the start of raining season next month, and it would appear to be floating.


Ladies, I’m just letting you know ahead of time that you won’t even be allowed to step onto the main platform.

A man handed Ash a booklet of poems and stories describing crocodiles and Buddhas relevant to Indawgyi.



No elephants to be seen.

There were only seven of us at the guest house, so we all were quickly acquainted. Before family-style dinner, Emily took us on her “quick run,” also known as me saying I couldn’t participate because no sneakers and her magically whipping out a second pair she happened to have on her and then an hour of inhaling insects until we felt like we should turn around when we reached the cow up ahead and going back and checking the distance only to find it was SIX POINT SIX WHOLE MILES.

Also, back to the red zone theme, did you know foreigners in Myanmar have a curfew to be back in certain towns?


Day 17

Cure for someone who used to read a lot and then stopped for years and would like to start again: travel a country with shit wifi.

No one really had plans and everyone just kind of decided to do a boat ride and small hike, $11 a person.

Somehow three very different girls from America were in the group.

Allie dropped out of not only her sorority, but also her university, to au pair in Australia. She found love, and was traveling with her boyfriend for half a year through Southeast Asia and India.

Emily has already been mentioned and if you couldn’t tell, she was badass. A lot of people travel Burma, Thailand, and Laos, but how many work extensively with refugees and bother to learn all three local languages?




Day 18

Another hitchhiking day from Hopin back to Nabar to catch the train to Mandalay, $5 and around 12 hours.

But not before a number of strange confrontations involving animals. First, as we were packing to leave the lake, an elephant lumbered by the front gate. Success!

A girl on a scooter dropped an apple and as I lamented to Ash about the fallen fruit, he pointed out that it was okay because it was probably for the monkey hanging around her neck.



And after finding out that I had gotten quite good at weaseling my way inside various vehicles out of desperation, and as I was napping in the make-shift bed of the giant moving truck, Ash winced and announced that we had just run over a dog.


As of August 2017, Ashley is sailing from Ireland to the African continent—check out his blog!


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