But I gave in to an entreaty to visit the Jumping Cats Monastery; I would be drummed out of the Cat Lovers Society if it got out that I had knocked this back. The Nga Hpe Kyaung Monastery is entirely made of teak and inside it was dark, wonderfully cool and inhabited, not only by a lot of cats, but some impressive ancient statues on ornate mosaic plinths. The cats that used to perform the jumping tricks have grown old now and are way past jumping. I know exactly how they feel. The monk who trained the cats died last year and there has been no one to teach new cats. But a lot of old pensioner cats lie about on a big straw mat and you can get down on the floor and play with them or use the small tea sets placed at intervals on the mat to have a cat tea party. The cats looked like the Blue Burmese breed but were much smaller. You would be too if, a natural carnivore, you were made to be a vegetarian. No meat can enter a Buddhist monastery.
After lunch at an over-the-water restaurant, I was taken to see the five hundred metre long teak footbridge that connects one village to the shore. When the water level drops in the dry season the people of this village are unable to use boats to go to the mainland so they built a marvellous bridge.
Every now and then we came upon a fisherman out on the lake using the style of rowing that is unique to Inle standing in the back of the boat with a leg twined about an oar. This method evolved so that the rower could see over the weed that clogs the lake’s shallow water. Mats of these weeds are used as a base for the floating gardens of the lake. We chugged slowly through them, passing along small lanes between rows of tomatoes and capsicum where egrets and ducks flew up as we disturbed them At four o’clock we returned to Nyaungshwe and I gave Kyaw ten thousand kyats, which judging by his smile must have been okay as a tip.
The date I needed be back in Yangon for my exit from Burma was approaching. I planned to catch the train to Thazi in Shwengang, the village on the main road near the turn off to Nyaungshwe. From Thazi, a whistle-stop on the Mandalay to Yangon train line, I could get a night train to Yangon. I had checked with the internet train guru, The Man in Seat 61, and had been assured that there were sleeper carriages on these trains.
The tuk tuk I had arranged to collect me arrived early the next morning and took me to the station. On the way I called into the Golden Kite restaurant. I had eaten dinner there the previous night and left my brolly hanging on the back of my chair. I am beginning to think I need a minder.