Monday, October 21, 2013

Inle Lake: Unique Burma can be found here

Burma, as a country is pretty unique and interesting as it has been locked from the outside world for a long time, but if you wish to sample something that is exponentially unique in this beautiful country, then head to Inle Lake in the Shan state. This lake and the people living off it have their own unique traditions.

Iconic Inle Moment from Burma
It is here that you will discover Hyrdoponic farming, a very special type of fishing, some of Burma’s most unique tribes, a textile industry made from lotus stem threads, Burma’s Cheroot industry, a floating life and some very interesting cluster of temples. Sounds surprising right? How can one place and that too a lake have so much? This is precisely the reason why Inle Lake rivals Bagan for the top tourist attraction in Myanmar.

A hut in the floating gardens of Inle Lake, Myanmar
A lot of tourists only spend a day at Inle Lake, but I would recommend that they spend at least 3 days if not more. There is so much to do and see here and you will never get bored. To reach here, one can either take a bus from Bagan, Mandalay or Yangon or fly to the airport close by. The entry fee for tourists at Inle Lake is USD 10. This is valid for one week from the day of entering.

A Fisherman on Inle Lake, Burma
Inle Lake Cruise

For 2 days you can different cruises across Inle Lake and neighbouring Sankar Lake. Here is a list of all those things that you can do and see in those 2 days.

Parking fee collector on one of the markets of Inle Lake, Myanmar
Floating Market

A lot of products get sold in the markets around Inle Lake. Outside people come to buy products grown/made locally, while the locals come to buy outside products. It is here that one can see a lot of local action, eat a lot of local food and drinks and take tons of interesting photographs.

Near the floating gardens of Inle Lake, Burma
Floating Gardens

Inle Lake grows all its vegetables on water. This type of farming is called hydroponic farming. They grow eggplant, tomatoes and other greens here. I have personally stood on one of these floating gardens and the feeling is no special as you sink because of your weight, but the ground protects you from sinking any further.

Old Burmese Woman weving longyi from lotus stem threads in Inle Lake, Burma
Lotus Stem Textile Industry

The people of Inle make their longyis, scarfs and other clothes from threads they weave out of lotus stems. The process is painful and requires a lot of skill, but the women of Inle Lake have perfected this skill. They also design their own natural vegetable based dyes.

Burmese Cheroots look like Bullet Shells at Inle Lake, Burma
Cheroot Industry, Blacksmiths and Silversmiths

The people of Inle are into making iron products, silverware and Burma’s favorite cheroots. All of them are skillfully manufactured here.

Long Necked Karen Women of Inle Lake, Burma
Tribal People

The famous long necked Karen and a whole bunch of other tribal people live in and around Inle Lake. A cruise gives you the opportunity to get close to them.

The Shwe Inn Dein Pagoda Complex as seen from a neighbouring hill
Shwe Indein and other temples

The most famous temple in Inle Lake is Shwe Indein, a cluster of beautiful golden pagodas. One can see this and other temples during their cruise.

Inle Fisherman Silhouette at Sunset from Inle Lake, Burma
Sensational Sunsets over Inle Lake

Sunrises are not quite popular in Inle, due to the tall mountains on the eastern side, but its sunsets can create some spectacular visions.

Group of Inle Fishermen during sunset
The unique Inle Fishing Style

Finally, the most important reason to do this Inle cruise are to see its fishermen who fish with their legs and paddles and then use a spear to trap the fish in the thick undergrowth along with their conical fishing net.

Colourful Headgear of the tribal people of Inle Lake, Burma
Taunggi Market and the Tribals

Taunggi is the largest town located in this belt and its scenic mountain setting, its colourful markets and its tribal culture make it very interesting for the tourists. Situated at about 1 hour from Nyaung Shwe, this place can become a great day trip.

Floating restaurant on Inle Lake, Burma
Trek from Inle to Kalaw

For those who seek adventure, one can do the 2-3 day from Inle to Kalaw over mountains and through forests. This is generally ideal for those people looking to spend a week in and around Inle.

Wooden Inle Fisherman Boats sold as souvenirs
In addition to the above sites, one can discover the markets of Nyaung Shwe and enjoy rich Shan culture through its tasty foods and interesting traditions. Inle Lake is very special and unique. Discover it and know for yourself!

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