Lake Inle

Inle lake is undoubtedly the most popular tourist destination in Myanmar. It is still low-profile enough to be a pleasant somewhat sleepy destination, but given the current rate of development it is ought to become a full-on tourist resort very soon. Seeing this development got me thinking of the lake people, who have been doing hard work of fishing and farming for hundreds of years, until about 20 years ago, when the tourist boom kicked in. Suddenly rich white people began pouring in and paying silly money just to see what is granted for the local population. The perspective of selling products and services to tourists instead of farming the land seven days a week is too lucrative to pass, especially when the pay is much better. It must be strange times for the local population.
Anyhow the setting of the lake is feng shui like: water and mountains. Nyangshwe, a town next to the lake, is laid back and pleasant enough to warrant spending a couple of days there. Add floating green islands found on the lake and tribe villages around the lake and you got a winner combination. The ugly side of this mix is rapid commercialisation of the area. We took a boat ride that was supposed to introduce us to the highlights of the lake, but in reality it was hopping from one shop to another. The best part about the trip was an early morning ride to the lake, being chased by gulls and watching posing fishermen, but it went quickly downhill after that. It is not all doom and gloom though. If you avoid the boat ride or negotiate a better deal skipping the shops, it is bound to be an amazing experience.

Boats waiting for customers in the wee hours  of the chilly morning in Nyangshwe.

Boats waiting for customers in the wee hours of a chill morning in Nyangshwe.

Boats are the major form of transportation around Inle.

Boats are the major form of transportation around Inle.

And tourism quickly becomes the main form of making income. Fortunately there are no big white ships full of packaged tour groups yet.

And tourism quickly becomes the main form of making income. Fortunately there are no big white ships full of packaged tour groups yet.

A typical village on the lake. Everything is built on the water, channels act like roads and boats replace cars.

A typical village on the lake. Everything is built on the water, channels act like roads and boats replace cars.

Cool as a cucumber fisherman in the tranquil morning light.

Cool as a cucumber fisherman in the tranquil morning light.

The lake is home to numerous floating islands, pieces of vegetation growing on the water that create an illusion of a hard land.

The lake is home to numerous floating islands, pieces of vegetation growing on the water that create an illusion of a hard land.

Not everybody can afford a diesel motor, so manual rowing (whether using hand or foot technique) is still a norm.

Not everybody can afford a diesel motor, so manual rowing (whether using hand or foot technique) is still a norm.

Fishermen were more than happy to pose for an iconic Inle Lake shot.

Fishermen were more than happy to pose for an iconic Inle Lake shot.

Unlike in the previous shot, foot rowing is an actual rowing technique used in practice and only for showing off

Unlike in the previous shot, foot rowing is an actual rowing technique used in practice and only for showing off

One of the most memorable things about Inle was gulls chasing boats either in hope to get some food or just for sheer fun.

One of the most memorable things about Inle was gulls chasing boats either in hope to get some food or just for sheer fun.

I took this picture without second thoughts and only later realised that the woman was most likely taking a bath. Taking pictures of people showering / taking a bath is considered very rude in Myanmar. Oops.

I took this picture without second thoughts and only later realised that the woman was most likely taking a bath. Taking pictures of people showering / taking a bath is considered very rude in Myanmar. Oops.

One of the surprising things about Nyangshwe was this pagoda just outside the town. Whether it was the beautiful evening light or the tranquil state of mind, it was easily the most awesome pagoda I have encountered in Myanmar.

One of the surprising things about Nyangshwe was this pagoda just outside the town. Whether it was the beautiful evening light or the tranquil state of mind, it was easily the most awesome pagoda I have encountered in Myanmar.

The floating market of Nyang Win. Everybody naturally arrives by boat.

The floating market of Nyang Win. Everybody naturally arrives by boat.

A popular day trip is to cycle to Mine Thauk village, take a boat across the lake to Khaung Dine and continue by bicycle back to Nyangshwe.

A popular day trip is to cycle to Mine Thauk village, take a boat across the lake to Khaung Daing and continue by bicycle back to Nyangshwe.

Children playing volleyball in Khaung Daing

Children playing volleyball in Khaung Daing

There is a winery, Red Mountain Estate, in the Inle area. We went around 11 in the morning and it was full of smiling and laughing white people. Winery, a socially acceptable way to get drunk anytime during the day.

There is a winery, Red Mountain Estate, in the Inle area. We went around 11 in the morning and it was full of smiling and laughing white people. Winery, a socially acceptable way for middle-aged white people to get drunk anytime during the day.

A long-neck woman from Kanyin state demonstrating her weaving skills in one of the shops.

A long-neck woman from Kanyin state demonstrating her weaving skills in one of the shops. The state is closed to visitors, so this was one of the rare chances to see a long neck woman.

A silversmith at work (most likely for entertainment purposes)

A silversmith at work (most likely for entertainment purposes)

A woman working a silk loom. I have had mixed feelings about all these demonstrations. On one hand, they are pure tourist entertainment. On the other hand these demonstrations actually provide a good overview of how things are produced.

A woman working a silk loom. I have had mixed feelings about all these demonstrations. On one hand, they are pure tourist entertainment. On the other hand these demonstrations actually provide a good overview of how things are produced.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.