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el2995 Inle - A travel report by USC
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Inle,  Burma - flag Burma
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el2995's travel reports

Inle Lake, Shan State, Burma

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Inle travelogue picture
Inle Lake is located in Burma’s Western Shan State, on what is often referred to as the Shan Plateau. Inle Lake is roughly 13.8 miles long by 6.9 miles wide and is situated about 2600 feet above sea level, with an average depth of about 5 feet and a maximum depth of only 10 feet. The lake is the home to the Inthu people, many of whom live off the lake by farming “floating gardens” made up of aquatic vegetation, composted foliage and soil which is staked to the lake bottom with bamboo poles and can actually be transported across the lake; it is famous for its leg-rowing fisherman, who stand upright at the stern of their boats and paddle with one leg wrapped around the oar, and do their fishing with conical fish traps that are thrust into the water and held down with one foot while the netting is freed from the conical frame with a pole. From Rangoon, Inle Lake can be reached by flying into the town of Heho and then driving one hour Southeast into the town of Nyaung Shwe.

Favourite spots:
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The lake is also known for its floating markets, its artisans, and its cottage factories that produce hand-woven silk and fabric, Shan bags, jewelry, hand-formed metalwork and cheroot (Burmese traditional cigars). Touring of the lake can only be accomplished by long boats outfitted with Chinese outboards whose propeller shafts extend at shallow angles behind the boat and leave white rooster tails in their wake, and produce an almost hypnotic growl whose absence, when the driver momentarily cuts the motor as a courtesy to an approaching fisherman or to drift the boat for a vibration-free photograph, makes the lake seem all the more peaceful. The lake is idyllic, with thatched huts perched on stilts above the water across thick mats of floating hyacinths and floating gardens segregated by bamboo fencing with their images mirrored in the still water. Each of the planned stops on the lake tour reveals another a facet of Inthu culture.

What's really great:
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The highlight of the trip to Inle Lake was at Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, which contains images of the Buddha that have had so much gold leaf rubbed on them that they almost look like gilded eggs. The balcony at the back of the pagoda overlooks a large courtyard, which was filled with school children that would cheer whenever they were photographed by some European tourists standing at the railing above. When my turn at the railing came up, I asked the kids to look up and smile for the picture in Burmese, which caused them to squeal loudly and gather even closer. I then asked them to wait for a second and went down to the courtyard, where I was quickly surrounded by an expanding group of cheering kids that flocked around me to pose for pictures, shake my hand or simply get a closer look at this “apyu gaung” (caucasian guy) that could speak Burmese.

Inle travelogue picture
On the lake, the hand-woven silk factory, the blacksmith shop, the Cheroot (Burmese cigar) factory, the silversmith shop, Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda. An enjoyable encounter was had at a shop featuring local Shan and Inthu girls who were weaving the traditional Shan bags that are carried by both men and women in Burma. One particular weaver had long black hair tied back in a ponytail, a think tellow mask of thanaka, and an infectious smile. As she labored to the rythmic and hypnotic clacking of her loom, she began to softly sing a traditional Inthu folk song in a high sweet voice that shifted to an embarassed giggle as I complimented her in Burmese.

Inle travelogue picture
We stayed at Hotel November in Nyaung Shwe. The restaurant offers a good assortment of Burmese and Chinese dishes. A Shan cultural show is performed live on an outdoor stage. There is a monastery down the street from the hotel, and in the evening you can hear the chants of young Buddhist nuns drifting through the air. There are several Shan fabric shops, a few antique shops and an artist's studio on the main road that runs in front of the hotel, in addition to some restaurants and a small grocery.

Other recommendations:
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A variety of shops can be found along the main road that runs in front of Hotel November. Give a pedal-cab ride a try. One of the highpoints of a boat tour on the lake is the ride back to Nyaungshwe at sunset. The saving grace of visiting the lake on a cloudy day was seeing the sky painted in brilliant shades of red and orange as the sun slipped beneath the mountains in the distance while the last of the fishermen made their way back to the shore, and the interiors of the thatched huts that we passed soon became illuminated by the flicker of candles and cooking hearths as night fell. And, of course, there's always the natural beauty of Inle Lake...

Published on Monday July 1th, 2002

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Sun, Dec 14 2003 - 02:55 PM rating by marianne

A pleasure to read and I love your pictures. Burma is acountry high on my wishlist.

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