Inle Lake is possibly one of Burma’s most anticipated sites, and all the hype is justified. Stunning open vistas, hazy morning mist and glassy horizons, fringed by luscious marshes and colourful floating gardens. Stilted villages and Buddhist temples rise above the water and fisherfolk scatter the surface. Inle is vast – 13.5 miles long and 7 miles wide – and is the second largest lake in Burma. It’s home to a wealth of life and activity; a hundred monasteries, a thousand pagodas, and more than 200 small villages and communities which are located on and around it.
Most of the inhabitants of the lake are the industrious Intha people, which literally means “sons of the lakes”, who are most notably distinguished by their unique technique of leg-rowing. This eccentric method of rowing with one leg evolved over time because the lake is often obscured by reeds and floating plants, which are difficult to see while sitting. It also means their hands are free to drop their tall conical nets over passing fish which they spot in the shallow lake. The Intha people produce much of Burma’s fruit and vegetables (particularly tomatoes) from their fertile floating gardens. Watching farmers paddling between the rows and tending to their crops is a peaceful scene to witness. The lake is surrounded by the lofty Shan Hills, which on calm days are reflected in the Lake's crystal clear waters. The hills are home to myriad tribes; Shan, Pa’O, Taung Yo, Danu, Kayah and Danaw.
Of course, the best way to explore is by boat. For a fascinating insight into daily life visit the various cottage industries such as silk weaving and cheroot rolling, watch blacksmiths and silversmiths at work and see the colourful floating market that moves between the area’s villages on a five-day rota.
Crystalline waters, lush green hills, deep blue skies and a calming and serene lake inhabited by a warm and welcoming people are the perfect ingredients for an idyllic destination. The gentle and melodic way of life on the lake cannot only relax you, whether you are bobbing along in a dug-out canoe visiting one of the numerous floating gardens or markets, observing the fishermen with their unique fishing style or simply unwinding on the veranda of your hotel enjoying a timeless scene illuminated by a mesmeric sunset. It promises to be an unforgettably peaceful retreat from the hectic pace of modern day life.
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When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.Susan Heller