"Pristine Southeast Asian life" Inle Lake by Ramonq
Inle Lake Travel Guide: 191 reviews and 549 photos
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If you feel that you're saturated from visiting pagodas, stupas, chedis and monasteries in Myanmar, duck over to Inle Lake and discover a lifestyle that's still idyllic and pristine. Not that Inle Lake doesn't have Buddhist religious structures (remember you're in Myanmar), it's just that in the pleasantly cooler Inle Lake, they take second billing. The main star is the beautiful lake and the floating villages that dot the marshlands around it. Inle Lake is a large freshwater lake that's 22 kms long and 11 kms wide and it's 875 m above sea level. It's abundant in freshwater fish and you'll be able to spot a fisherman rowing a canoe using his leg while his hands are occupied with catching fish in the traditional Intha method.
Most of the people who dwell along the shores of Inle Lake are Intha people even though the lake is in the Shan State of Myanmar. There are also the PaO hillstribe people and of course, there are Shans and Bamars living around the lake. The Intha people are an industrious lot and they live harmoniously with nature taking advantage of the apparently abundant lake and fertile lands. Many of the floating villages are refreshingly self-sustaining communities where life is rustic and simple. This is a great place to chill out and enjoy the simple things in life. Watching the low-tech rural lives of the Intha people is like being in a living museum. My blood pressure dropped when I stayed in Inle Lake for about a week.
To explore Inle Lake you need to hire a motorised boat from the main town of Nyaungshwe, where most of the travellers stay. Nyaungshwe is connected to Inle Lake by a long man-made canal that's flanked by bird reserves and farmlands. Once you reach the lake, one will observe how calm the waters are. You're then pleasantly transported to the other end of the lake where the floating villages and gardens are located. Occasionally the boat men will drop you on the shore and you can explore villages that are a step back in time. Once such village is Indein which has an interesting PaO market and an eeriely abandoned Buddhist complex that reminds you of a cross between a mini-Angkor Wat and mini-Bagan.
The floating villages on the other hand, are built on stilts that wade on the clear lake water. There are silk weaving shops, blacksmiths, cheroot cigar shops, floating markets, and even hotels and restaurants on the lake, mainly on display for local and foreign tourist consumption. I felt like I've walked into a movie scene of "Waterworld". You can also visit some old wooden monateries and the most famous one is the Nga Phe Kyaung, which is very spacious and full of wonderful wooden ornamentation. The monastery is also known for its "jumping cats" that have been patiently trained by the monks to go through hoops! There's a lot of diversions to keep you occupied in Inle Lake. You can cycle through villages around the lake or trek up the surrounding mountains. Or just bum around Nyaungshwe drinking draft beer in a beerstation or dining on fish reshly caught off the lake.
Tales of how the Intha people got to this lake varies. The Intha people were supposed to have migrated from Dawei region in southern Myanmar. One tale say that in the 1300's a couple of Intha brothers from Dawei worked in the monastery in Nyaungshwe and so impressed with their work ethic that the brothers were asked to bring in more of their people. Another tale was that the Inthas moved into the lake region to get away from the warring Thai and Burmese kingdoms. It appears the Intha people have found their paradise and they're proud to show what they have achieved.
The rural life is slowly being replaced by smale-scale cottage industries as seen from the silk and cheroot manufacturing industries. I suppose even in remote rural places like Inle Lake, the unrelenting world will eventually knock on its doors and change the Intha life forever. The small influx of tourists that visit this part of the world are already affecting their lifestyles. Young ones have started wearing trousers instead of longyis and they'd rather smoke Marlboro than cheroots. Karaoke bars have appeared and a few houses sport satellite dishes. Times are definitely a-changing even in the idyllic Inle Lake.
- Pros:The lovely Intha floating villages
- Cons:poor transportation to get there
- In a nutshell:A virtual living museum
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