I got up early as I’d been told by a local there was a floating market 10 minutes walk from the hotel. It transpired it consisted of 3 or 4 boats but was extremely interesting as they offered me tomatoes to taste and the usual green tea, I love this place!
After a stupendous hotel buffet breakfast we eventually got to the long tailed boat station. This took around 30 minutes rather then the necessary 10 because we passed around 5 sets of feral puppies, all of which needed cuddling!
Inle is a picturesque lake is situated in the hilly Shan State in the eastern part of Myanmar. With an elevation of 900 meters above sea-level, it is one of the main tourist attractions in Myanmar. The lake, 22 km long and 10 km wide, has a population of some 150,000, many of whom live on stilted villages surrounded by floating islands of vegetation. Inle Lake, “natural and unpolluted”, tourist promotion speak, is famous for its scenic beauty and the unique leg-rowing ballet of the Inthas (of Mon descent), the native lake-dwellers. I’ll stop my usual sarcastic bullshit because I fell in love with the place!
We sped along Inle lake leaving the stilt fishermen in our wake and after around 75 minutes reached the 5 day market, so named because it happens every 5 days. This was my first real disappointment as it was two markets; the real one where folk bargain for firewood and greens and the second created just for us tourists. It was full of monstrous crap. Originally every 5 days hill tribe clans came down from the mountains to buy and sell goods and produce . The market place is alive with activity and the hill tribe people wear their colorful, uniquely woven national costumes decorated with artistically designed jewellery but I still suspect it was a form of staged authenticity fuelled by the recent increase in tourist numbers, nevertheless it was colourful.
We only had 40 minutes so I did a speed trek up the hill to the spectacular Indein Temple complex with it’s of legion stupa’s. I managed to trek down through the local village avoiding the remnants of the market before we left on the next stage of our long tailed boat trip.
Next we sought out the village weavers go Inn Paw Khon who creat beautiful silk and cotton on traditional looms. After a gourmet lunch of lake fish and lemongrass we visited the blacksmith and the cheroot rollers of Nam Pan Village who earn 40p per 100 units.
The next stop was Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda the most famous and important religious site on the lake. Founded over 800 years old ago, the pagoda houses five sacred Buddha statues . The shape and appearance of the Buddha’s statues are unique and shimmer from layers of gold leaf given by devotees. They look bugger all like Buddha and resemble 5 enlarged and distorted testicles but they have a religious significance to some and so be it! They do eat pigs balls in Myanmar so there you go!
The last craft we experienced was the silversmith before meeting the Giraffe ladies. Long necks are deemed beautiful so they add brass rings that compress their spines, elongating the neck. It’s seemingly becoming less than popular amongst the youngsters but they are pressurised by parents/grandparents to comply and maintain the tradition. Why? they’re “tourism slaves” who continue the tradition in order to make money, no fantasy reason believe me! The Padaung is one of the eight ethnic Karen communities (in Myanmar, the Karen are known as Kayah) living in the Kayah state in southwest Myanmar. In fact, the name Padaung is a derogatory term (sounding similar to “toilet post”), and they prefer to be known as the Kayan people. Due to ethnic conflict with the govenment of Myanmar, many Padaung people seek refuge in Thailand, living with uncertain legal status along the border area.
Returning to base late afternoon we passed through the floating gardens before embracing the artistic ballet of the stilt fishermen one of many highlights of this fantastic trip. Before reaching our pontoon we were “chased” by the seagulls that follow the long tailed boats swooping to catch tasty fish snacks that are thrown into the air.
Our evening was spent absorbing Mohito’s at the ridiculous price of 3 for $3 before 9. Eleven of course is a magic number on this trip, not eleven Mohito’s but eleven PM our bedtime. Tomorrow is a free day I’m doing a cycling safari!