I’ll get straight to the point – if you plan your own boat tour, you’re going to enjoy the whole experience so much more. If you don’t, you’ll be herded around – one of hundreds of other tourist boats – to all the same sights. You’ll see the same people over and over again. You’ll constantly be pressured into buying souvenirs. You’ll end the day exhausted wondering what you truly did that day, aside from part with some of that hard earned holiday cash you had saved up.
Unless that’s your kind of thing…
But if it isn’t, I’ll go into just why I wish I’d planned out my stops before I jumped on the boat.
Having arrived after trekking the day before, my current travel buddy Mark and I woke early. A lucky thing since our quick bit of research over breakfast told us these boat tours are usually full day affairs.
By 8am, we were tackling the long walk down towards the river – a hard ask after nearly 60km of trekking. We were eventually persuaded to stop by a man selling a tour. After getting him to settle on a price of 15,000 kyats, we ventured on to his “brothers” boat and set out.
How Each Stop went from Interesting… To “Let’s Get out of Here”…
With little idea of what we’d be seeing, we just let our driver (who didn’t speak any English) do all the work. And that’s precisely where things went wrong.
It certainly wasn’t his fault – he wasn’t to know how I’m much more interested in seeing the local life. Heck, the tour would have been pretty perfect, if it wasn’t for the fact that tourism has well and truly penetrated this lake and every single stop became a hard sell on whatever they were making.
With each stop, somebody always immediately greeted us (often with tea). We were ushered into the building, where they (sometimes unintelligibly) showed us through the processes of making X product. That was generally the good part – hearing how things are made, understanding what it costs, how much effort goes into it etc etc – that’s all fascinating stuff for me. Life is different here and I love understanding it all.
Then came the bad part.
Whomever had been running us through the processes continued to lurk by as we were moved into the “shop”. If even the slightest interest was shown, this person would grab the item, tell us all about it and ask if we wanted “to try it on”. I constantly felt this pressure that I should be spending my money, and had to quickly leave to escape from it.
Basically, the hard sell that was occurring at almost every stop somewhat ruined the experience for me.
What Would I do Differently Now?
Unfortunately, I didn’t do my research, and I have little interest in hearing about what I missed out on now (no need to torture myself), so I can’t give you all the answers on what is good to see.
If I were going to be doing the boat tour again, what I would do now is some planning.
I’d set out the stops I’d want to make.
Are there some industries you’re interested in seeing? Stop at those. Perhaps you’re keen to see the long-necked women? That would definitely be on my list. You may not be interested in seeing any more pagodas, so you could skip Phaung Daw Oo Paya. Or you just might want to get away from it all and spend a little more to head further south into Moebye Lake.
Get a list together, and ensure your boat driver knows where you want to go. Save yourself the hassle of stopping at all the little shops dotted around the lake where you’ll find yourself buying up all sorts of souvenirs.
If you’ve got time, head out for a sunset trip too. That was definitely my highlight! Be warned though – those amazingly talented fisherman who are posing for you may just come over for a little donation after…
Read More at: Myanmar Travel
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