China's Tribal HeartlandsExplore China's stunningly diverse regions of Upper Yunnan and Guizhou.
Its boring when travellers reminisce about how it used to be. Well now that I have seen the best and worst of how it used to be at magical Inle Lake I know what they are talking about. By all means lets have democracy in Myanmar but can we please also have some of the sanctions back too. I can be specific about the sanctions that I’d like to see imposed on the travel industry of which I am a small cog in a very big wheel. First up I’d like to see groups of more that 20 persons banned. Myanmar just isn’t a suitable place for mass tourism. The season is short and the infrastructure required for mass tourism is damaging the environment and overtaxing the country’s ability to manage it. I’m keen to see group size limited so that everyone who comes to the Golden Land of Myanmar will get a good experience while the nation gets a better outcome. Secondly I’d like to see sanctions imposed against multi-national hotel corporates who invest in inappropriate and grandiose property developments in places where there is no proper arrangement to provide potable water or waste-water treatment. Thirdly I’d like to see the big Euro mass tourism wholesalers sanctioned for cynically treating Myanmar as just another S E Asia curiosity at the expense of the peoples’ culture and their ethnic heritage.
Boo Hoo you may be thinking. The authorities in Myanmar should get their own act together, do proper planning and set some well considered policies into place. Sorry to say it, but that kind of thinking is a decade away from implementation. Right now its a case of show me your money and tell me how much of it may end up in my bank account. Poor old serene Inle Lake has become the honeypot in the Myanmar tourism larder and the old guard are taking it to the bank in a big and not very environmentally sensitive way. My case in point is the ghastly visual ‘clash’ between the traditional designs of Inle’s ‘floating’ hotels and the contemporary European modernist styles that are popping up on the hills and shore line of the Lake. In addition Euro package tour groups of 60+ lurch around the craft village circuit as if on a ride in an amusement park wondering just what it was we came all this way to see and why didn’t they tell me that this place is only accessible by longtail boat. I’m convinced that only bad things can come of this conflict between industry pressure and the social and natural environment at Inle.
Happily our small band of travellers have been soaking up the Inle experience and enjoying every minute of it. Mind you we have a bit of an inside running on the crowd of first timers in that we know the place well and we know how to avoid the worst of the madding crowd. It was nice to return after a couple of years absense but it was a surprise to find eight aircraft on the apron at Heho airport and it was a not so pleasant surprise to find the once restful little town of Naung Shwe , kicking off point for the longtail boats to lnle, creaking under the weight of over development. Down the lake at the lovely Serenity Resort ‘floating’ hotel the lagoon and lotus pads were quivering under the onslaught of nail guns and concrete mixers churning away on the new Novotel that is going up right next door. Sacrebleur! That the lovely Serenity should have its serene bubble burst by such a moderist nonsense is too much for my sensitivities. I say off with their heads. As it happens our ecologically appropriate small group of travellers will soon be leaving the still lovely Inle for the head hunting hills of Nagaland. Perhaps we can encourage some of those boys to revert to their bad old ways and sign up on the Novotel project.