After biking through tiny villages and picturesque rice fields of Inle Lake, we returned to our inn and spa, a newly developed hotel with delightful staff. Our overnight bus from Bagan had dropped us at the hotel two mornings ago. Despite our 5am arrival, the staff had greeted us with warm smiles and served us a rooftop breakfast so we could watch the sunrise. One of the workers even helped us with our SIM card so we could call our moms on Mother’s Day.
Inle Lake had a good feeling to it.
We rented bikes that day — for 98 cents each — and toured side streets, farm roads, and up a mountain to a winery. The other cities we visited in Myanmar were quite hot (even for the locals), and Inle Lake was a welcomed few degrees cooler.
But as we returned to our hotel on this particular afternoon, our once-relaxing “home” became eerily bizarre. A glass door in the lobby was smashed, and two of the inn workers were hurriedly packing their belongings.
We walked directly to our room and as Joe unlocked the door, I saw the hotel owner, Mr. A, bash in the remaining glass of the door. He quickly turned to me with a drunken, toothy grin and offered a thumbs up.
Mr. A hoped to express everything was A-OK.
While trying to rest and relax in our room, we heard bouts of angry shouting interspersed with nervous laughter from a female worker. The noise continued for over an hour.
We left for an early dinner, allowing us to get out of the ruckus and savor a salty pancake from our favorite dining spot: Min Min’s.
A surprise welcomed us at Min Min’s. A vibrant Canadian couple, Mat and Jen, whom we met traveling in another town, were also enjoying Min Min’s cuisine that night. Finding fun travelers to exchange stories and laughs is refreshing, especially when you’re on the road for so long.
When we arrived back at our hotel, the situation with Mr. A had only heightened. Half of the hotel’s front door was now missing and a wooden board was nailed in its place. The shouting matches continued and very few staff members were seen.
“It’s OK. It’s just a small family matter,” Mr. A promised us as we scurried to our room.
The inn wasn’t very large, so it was easy for us to hear the continued yelling in Burmese.
“Do you think any other guests are still here?” I asked Joe. It was hard to believe that anyone would be staying through this disruption.
“I’m so curious about the other guests,” I continued, as I peered out of our window. If other guests had fled the property, it would support us doing the same. Timidly, we stepped out of our room to talk with Mr. A to gain understanding, and assurance for our safety.
With a cigarette in mouth and a bottle of liquor nearby,
Mr. A – who by now I had dubbed, “Mr. Angrypants” – sat us down at an outdoor table where he hoped to explain what was transpiring in his hotel.
“You see, we didn’t have our hotel license until just yesterday. Remember? I told you about that.”
“And since the town where you get the license is 400 miles away, and I have a hurt shoulder, my granddaughter came with me.”
We nodded again.
“And my family, you know, accused me of… having relations with my granddaughter… accusations of… a sexual situation…”
We held our faces from blatant reaction.
Upon hearing Mr. A say “granddaughter,” a young lady popped her head around the corner and yelled, “Your GRANDDAUGHTER?” as if to say, “I’m just your GRANDDAUGHTER now?” Just that morning, she cooked our eggs and served us tea. Now she was the “granddaughter” in question.
Mr. A continued unfazed, “People are just jealous of my success, so they make up these things.”
Mr. Angrypants proceeded to tell us how he fired the entire staff for incompetence. One of his examples involved us. Our soap dishes were empty earlier that day and Joe had kindly asked for more soap, just as we had done at other hotels.
“These are our guests from America!” he had scolded the staff.
Joe and I looked at each other. We weren’t picky about our soap — or anything else really for that matter. We were backpackers who showered every few days and selected accommodations based on free breakfast and air conditioning.
“Well, we are concerned that the hotel no longer has a front door…”
Joe butted in, redirecting back to the reason for the conversation. I knew Joe was testing my ability to remain “serious.” The missing front door had me giggling in our room. How could a hotel operate without a front door and act as if everything was normal?
Joe also asked Mr. A his plan for operating a hotel without any staff. Angrypants provided no details and said to “trust him” and that everything would be “taken care of.”
“We’re going to take a walk. We’ll let you know if we’ll be staying the night,” Joe stated.
Based on Mr. A’s behavior, we both figured we might not be refunded for our remaining two nights nor the upcoming boat trip we had booked through Angrypants earlier that day. That was lesson #1: Never give your money to an angry drunk man.
We decided to put ourselves in a safe situation, no matter the potential financial loss.
“The Canadians said their place was really nice,” I recalled from dinner.
We walked half a mile down the unlit street toward Inle Star Hotel. They had a room available at a decent rate, and the office closed at midnight — we had about 90 minutes to pack up and come check in.
We returned back to our original hotel where we informed Mr. A that we’d be leaving. He deeply apologized and awkwardly rubbed Joe’s belly.
We asked for a refund, but Mr. A refused to give us anything for our hotel nights. He’d only give us half our money back for the previously booked boat tour.
A husband of one of the workers showed up and privately shared with us that Mr. A had hit his wife twice across the face. Not only was Mr. A scolding and firing staff, he was beating them too.
It didn’t matter how much money we might lose — it was best to leave.
We forged on to Inle Star, without receiving any reimbursement. Mr. A couldn’t be found at the time we left.
We decompressed the next morning over breakfast at Inle Star’s rooftop, which overlooked the village’s main boat canal.
Our Canadian friends were shocked to see us at their hotel. “Hey, what’re you guys doing here?” they asked. We shared with them that the missing front door, the owner’s propensity toward violence, and no remaining staff, had prompted us to leave.
With a little encouragement and planning, Joe convinced me to go back and bargain with Mr. Angrypants. Maybe emotions had calmed down and we’d be able to get at least some of our money back.
When we arrived, Mr. A was still drunk and had been up all night. He started talking about the family allegations and the reasons why the granddaughter attended the overnight license trip. And this time, he added more details.
“She took off her clothes… but I didn’t do anything,” he stated incredulously.
He even shared previous accusations about him and female guests.
What did any of this have to do with getting our money back?
“People are just jealous of me,” he said. Suddenly a phrase I had used in the past looked ugly and prideful on someone else.
Eventually, with patience and kindness, Mr. A reimbursed us for the entire boat trip and one night’s stay. The cash we had given for the boat trip became perfect leverage for receiving any reimbursement.
There was lesson #2: Maybe you should give your money to an angry drunk man.
While we heard more of Mr. A’s stories than we wanted, we were reimbursed more than we expected. Feeling relieved and fortunate, we found a cheap boat trip to take us around Inle Lake for the afternoon.
Gorgeous and largely untouched,
Inle Lake is home to a vegetable garden, wooden stilt houses, weaving shops, and the Long Neck Tribe of women who lengthen their necks with brass rings.
It was refreshing to be on the open water and see different aspects of Myanmar living. Joe even picked up a ring at a silversmith’s shop to replace the other “fake” wedding ring he had lost while playing volleyball with novice monks a few days back.
We stopped at Min Min’s for dinner and joined up with our Canadian friends for a free movie. We shared the result of our hotel saga — and that we had received full reimbursement, due to a claim Joe submitted to Agoda, the online booking company.
We had been caught in the crossfires of a Burmese family-hotel drama.
It seemed a humorous, yet perfect ending when Agoda sent me this email:
“Would you recommend this property to friends?”
Thanks for visiting and reading! 🙂