Although I really enjoyed my day out on Lake Inle, it was definitely time to leave. I was keen to make my way to the small town of Ywangan (also known as Yawangan and Ye-Ngan), which is half-way to Mandalay. Ywangan had been recommended to me by a Burmese tour guide in Kengtung. Apparently, it had an unusual small blue lake, and a very large cave.
Ywangan is not in the guidebooks and does not appear to be well visited; no-one I spoke to knew anything about it, despite it being less than 200km away. Travel companies in Nyaungshwe had no idea on how to get there, or even where it was. I had a break when yesterday’s boatman said he thought there may be minibus transport. The lovely staff at Joy Hotel called a bus company in Taunggyi, and they confirmed that minibuses run from Taunggyi to Ywangan via the Shwenyaung junction, which is 30 mins north of Nyaungshwe.
I left Nyaungshwe early and made it Shwenyaung at 07:40. The minivan leaves just opposite the bus station (outside a shop called ‘UK’). I was in luck, as one was waiting and I took the final seat. The price to Ywangan was K10,000, which seemed a little steep, but I had no way of knowing if it was correct or not. The journey took just over 3 hours.
Ywangan is a very little town and not a lot seemed to be happening. I walked up the main street to see if I could find a guesthouse. The only obvious one was $30 per night, which is more than I cared to spend. However, the staff there pointed me to a little place nearby with rooms for K7000. I’m not sure what it was called, but here is a photo and the location (21.162925, 096.440070).
I wanted to visit the blue lake and the cave. The owner of the guesthouse arranged a guide with a motorbike to the lake for me for K15,0000, but the cave was apparently difficult to get to. I hadn’t loaded the location of the cave onto my GPS so had no way of knowing where it was. I decided to settle on the lake and to find the cave ‘next time’.
Our first stop was a restaurant approximately halfway from Ywangan to the blue lake. The place was busy and my guide was obviously a regular. He bought some betel and coffee, and I got stuck into some great food with cups of tea. The owner spoke unusually good English and really made a fuss of me, so yet again i was well looked after. I asked her about the cave and she told me it was a long way away and the tracks there were very rough. Full to the brim and feeling very content I settled the bill, paying for my guide also, and set out on the road again. [NOTE: since returning home i have found out the Padalin Caves are amazing but are now closed to visitors to protect the rock formations and the ancient artworks within].
The beautiful small blue lake (a pool really – see first photo, below) is located in Taw Kyal Village, Ywar Ngan Township (20.97405, 096.52704). It is next to a bigger, ordinary lake, so if visit make sure you the right one. It appears that groundwater emerges and flows down a stream and into the lake, which is the reason the water is incredibly clear. The spot is very popular with locals, so you’ll be looking at the lake with lots of others, who are all smiling and happy to see you there with them. We couldn’t get too close the lake as this is a sacred lake and home to spirits, and a barbed wire fence keeps mortals from entering the water. However, it was a peaceful place to visit. My guide – who spoke not a word of English – then took me around the back roads to find the source water, which flows through a lovely and less-visited area (second photo, below).
Instead of returning to town my guide took to Main Ma Ye’ Tha-Khin-Ma Mountain (20.91718, 096.56354), which I had spotted earlier from the minibus as it travelled to Ywangan that morning. Again, locals are visiting and are very keen to talk to you, or at least flash you a big smile. A young man at the top told me that the site itself was very old, but renovations had taken place in recent years. Judging by the signs around the place, the renovations appear to have been funded by various corporate bodies. Main Ma Ye’ Tha-Khin-Ma Mountain is a great place to visit, although doesn’t compare to Thailand’s Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat Phrachomklao Rachanusorn. You are very likely to be the only foreign tourist and visiting the area is a great way to break up the journey to Mandalay.
The next morning i packed up early to travel to Mandalay. This would be tricky, as I did not know when minibuses departed. At 6am I walked to the main street in town, to the location where i had been dropped off the day before. I was only there a minute when a friendly couple took me back up the road to the roundabout and flagged down a minibus for me. The minibus cost K5,000 and took around 4 hours to get to Mandalay. The driver asked me to sit up in the front with him, and we ate breakfast together at a restaurant on the way. On arrival at Mandalay the driver located a motorbike taxi to take me to a hotel and, just before we set of, ran into a nearby shop and bought a bottle of water for me. The people of Myanmar are so wonderful 🙂