When you have time on your hands and relaxation on your mind, seeking out offbeat nice places do not take much effort. Indein or Inthein village is one such find and though not drop dead gorgeous, it was an interesting place to visit. I was introduced to Indein by my boatman who with his smattering of English spun tempting yarns about its charms and the ride through reed-filled narrow, foliage-cloaked winding canals piqued my interest. Lush, green paddy fields bordered on both sides of the canals and farmers in conical hats toiled on them with their water buffaloes by their side. Local life meandered along the stream and a wild green smell accompanied me throughout the trip. Now and then, curious village belles in thanaka make up stared from atop rickety bamboo bridges and little novice monks mischievously played among the rushes. It was one of those experiences when the journey is as lovely as the destination and Indein charmed me even before I arrived there.
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Tracing King Ashoka’s remnants in the middle of rustic Indein
Complete with an idyllic village life, a quaint handicrafts market, friendly locals and crumbling pagodas, Indein was an afternoon well spent and the blue cloud covered hills added to the beauty. Rich red earth dirt tracks of the village lead to hidden creeks and I spent hours there simply exploring. Known for its cluster of half-ruined pagodas and a weekly market, Indein is a small village located on the western bank of Lake Inle and it is a little out of the regular tourist circuit. A longer (and more expensive) boat ride took me there and it was money and effort well spent. The village, which has two groups of ancient pagodas in a varied state of photogenic ruins was not overrun with tourists and even the more famous Shwe Indein Pagoda offered some quiet spots. Commissioned during the reign of the mighty king Narapatisithu, local tradition believes that the Shwe Indein Pagoda was built by none other than the great emperor Ashoka and although, no archaeological evidence supports this claim.
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Indein pagodas are partly ‘Angkor’ type with an equal amount of ‘Jungle Book’ appeal
I liked the Nyaung Ohak (first group) more than Shwe Indein and spent hours checking out its mystical sculptures and faded frescoes. Located immediately behind the local village near the boat landing pier, the site contained the Nyaung Ohak pagodas, which in Burmese had literally meant “group of banyan trees”. In reality, too, they resembled foliage more than pagodas and the crumbling structures were covered with wild trees. Nature reclaimed most of them, thus creating a mystical aura and in my eyes, they looked a bit like Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Although the scale of Nyaung Ohak is minuscule in comparison to Angkor, both have the same “Jungle Book” inspired wild forgotten look and ornate stucco carvings peeping from behind the jealous greenery. Shooting ambitiously into the blue sky, the ancient pagodas came in many shapes and sizes and figures of mythical animals, devas (celestial beings) and chinthe (mythical lions) covered their surfaces. Here and there, images of Buddha and beautiful celestial beauties peeped out though gnarly wild trees took over most of them.
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Shopping in Indein for parasols, and puppets
From Nyaung Ohak a covered stairway led to the Shwe Inn Thein Paya complex. The Shwe Inn Thein Paya hugged the face of the hill and it contained around 1054 weather-beaten stupas. Mostly built in the 17th and 18th centuries, the climb was worth the better-preserved stupas and awesome views of Lake Inle and the village. Unexpected showers, however, made me scramble downhill fast and I whiled away the rest of the afternoon shopping souvenirs from the hill people. The photogenic locals thronged about selling Shan bags, lyongis, and other beautiful woven items. They sat in their stalls inside the collonaded shopping area, with their babies, food, and friends and Indein, being relatively non-touristy, did not hassle for a sale. Those were thus very cosy moments, spent bargaining for Mandalay puppets and hand-painted parasols, as heavy rains lashed outside. The downpour stopped as quickly as it started leaving behind a cool misty noon, and a heavy sleepy stupor urged me to head back to my hotel. The grey skies promised more showers soon and I suffered a rain-soaked soaked ride through the vast Inle.
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A rain-soaked ride from Indein and the joy of slow travelling
There is a saying that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. During my entire rain-soaked ride back to Nyaung Shwe, I distracted myself by being contemplative. Despite being drenched to my bones, it was a pleasant thing to do, as I recollected everything that I had experienced at Indein. Much to my surprise, I found that despite not being a breathtaking collection of travel memories, Indein enchanted me for life with its offering of warm, happy moments filled with uncomplicated joys. Sometimes, in our fast-paced action-filled routine, we forget how delightful it is to spot an unusual small flower or watch the curtain making lovely shadows against the sun-washed wall. Excitement can often be such a burden that it steals us off our capacity to relax, unwind and just give into the uncomplicated goodness, that is all around us, only if we wish to see. Indein thankfully gifted me with one such slow afternoon, when the feeling of sunshine on my shoulders was enough to make me smile. And then there were the tinkling chimes of water buffalo bells and the clickety-clack of crocheting needles of red gummed grandmothers rocking on their footstools. How can you not fall in love with a day like that?
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Indein Travel Tip
Indein is located about 8 kilometres West of the SoukilometresInle Lake. It is most easily reached by boat on an atmospheric narrow canal to the west of Ywama, although this is usually not accessible during the dry season, as the water is too shallow. Since Indein is some distance from the main circuit of Inle Lake, expect the boat tour to be longer and more expensive (by around 2000 Kyat). Tickets can be booked at travel agent or hotel. Alternatively, head for the pier and negotiate a price. Make sure to agree on the places to stop and the duration of the trip. Opening hours of the Nyaung Ohak and Shwe Inn Thein pagoda sites are 8 am to 6 pm. There is a 300 Kyat camera fee and a 300 Kyat video camera fee. Part of the five-day inshore circuit, the market at Inthein is one of the biggest and liveliest in the area.
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