Inle Lake, Myanmar

Category : Myanmar
Date : May 31, 2016

Inle Lake (Burmese: အင်းလေးကန်) is a freshwater lake located in the Nyaungshwe Township of Taunggyi District of Shan State, part of Shan Hills in Myanmar (Burma). It is the second largest lake in Myanmar with an estimated surface area of 116 km, and one of the highest at an elevation of 880 m. During the dry season, the average water depth is 2.1 m, with the deepest point being 3.7 m, but during the rainy season this can increase by 1.5 m.

The people of Inle Lake (called Intha), some 70,000 of them, live in four cities bordering the lake, in numerous small villages along the lake’s shores, and on the lake itself. The entire lake area is in Nyaung Shwe township. The population consists predominantly of Intha, with a mix of other Shan, Taungyo, Pa-O (Taungthu), Danu, Kayah, Danaw and Bamar ethnicities. Most are devout Buddhists, and live in simple houses of wood and woven bamboo on stilts; they are largely self-sufficient farmers.

Most transportation on the lake is traditionally by small boats, or by somewhat larger boats fitted with single cylinder inboard diesel engines. Local fishermen are known for practicing a distinctive rowing style which involves standing at the stern on one leg and wrapping the other leg around the oar. This unique style evolved for the reason that the lake is covered by reeds and floating plants making it difficult to see above them while sitting. Standing provides the rower with a view beyond the reeds. However, the leg rowing style is only practiced by the men. Women row in the customary style, using the oar with their hands, sitting cross legged at the stern.

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Time to board a boat

Myanmar_2014_JusMedic-1068Inle lake fisherman with a unique rowing technique
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Floating gardens

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Electricity on the water ? Why not!

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The Inle lake area is renowned for its weaving industry. The Shan-bags, used daily by many Burmese as a tote-bag, are produced in large quantities here. Silk-weaving is another very important industry, producing high-quality hand-woven silk fabrics of distinctive design called Inle longyi. A unique fabric from the lotus plant fibers is produced only at Inle lake and is used for weaving special robes for Buddha images called kya thingahn (lotus robe).

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Burmese cats

While most present-day Burmese have never heard of their own special cat breed, it took a French-trained local hotelier and a Hong Kong businessman to reintroduce the cats to Burma through its programme at the aptly named Princess Resort on Inle Lake in Shan state.

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Today there are dozens of Burmese cats to be found in the breeding centres at Inle Lake, and cat lovers can pay a visit to their very own village and island. Both the village and island are quite small, but they’re just fine for the cats and the whole being surrounded by water thing is just what these kitties need to prevent any great escapes or random tomcats paying a visit and ruining that bloodline.

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Lunch with locals

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It is time to visit a local family for launch

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Preparing lunch

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Bamboo forest along the shoreline of Inle Lake

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Beautifu temples and pagodas

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Day 2 of Inle Lake exploration

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Bamboo house in the making.

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Local market

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You can basically buy everything on the market

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Maybe it looks odd to you but the food is delicious

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Cigar makers

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Extraordinary scenery on the Inle Lake

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Producing gold and silver ware is a long tradition of Myanmar. Ywa-ma village which is located 12km away from Nyaung Shwe is well known for its gold and silver ware.

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Floating gardens on Inle Lake

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If, like me, you’re accustomed to gardening on dry land, Inle lake in Burma is a bit of an eye-opener. The lake itself is situated about 800m above sea level, bordered on either side by mountains which bring frequent rain, the lifeblood of the lake. The weather is cool, although not cold unless you’re on the water very early in the morning when blankets of mist hover over the smooth surface. Roughly 25% of the surface is covered by carefully tended floating gardens. The sight of the long rafts of vegetation bobbing up and down in the wake of the locals’ motorised narrowboats is quite disconcerting at first. The farmed strips are nominally protected by an outer barrier of reeds and water hyacinths, which in the villages are planted with colourful annuals such as Cleomeand Amaranthus. Farmers here on the lake are relatively wealthy, but due to concerns over silting up, pollution and the impact both could have on the crucial fish population, the villagers are not allowed to expand their “land” any further.

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