Vast and placid, the mirror-like clear Lake Inle is one of Myanmar’s tourism industry’s crown jewels. Although mostly known for its mesmerizing natural beauty, Inle is also a very culturally rich region and it contains a government recognized bird sanctuary. The Inle Wetland Bird Sanctuary lies on the area around the lake and it has been officially protected since 1985.
Did you know about the Lake Inle Wetland Bird Sanctuary?
Thus apart from a wide range of endemic snails and fishes, the lake and the surrounding marshes nurture quite a few species of birds and herons, warblers, cormorants, wild ducks, and egrets are most commonly spotted. Lake Inle has a charm that does not end with its bountiful nature and the groups of colourful ethnicities living on its periphery make the region all the more enthralling. Many vibrant hill tribes of Shan, Danu, Taung-YO, Bamar etc share the lake with the Inthas (Lake Dwellers) and their weekly markets (Five Days Markets) are a photographer’s dream.
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Lake Inle is the life center of the Shan state of Myanmar
Approximately 70,000 people live on and around the lake and the Inthas make up for the largest group. Descendants of the Mon people from south-east Asia, Inthas or Sons of the Lake are a bunch of hardworking creative folks who subsist nearly completely on Lake Inle. Fishermen, self-sufficient farmers, they cultivate rice and grow varieties of produce on floating gardens which crisscross the lake in heaving green patches. The floating garden beds are no mean feats and formation of each require extensive manual labor. The local farmers collect weeds from the bottom of the shallow lake, to bring them back in boats full only to weave them into floating beds for their gardens. Anchored by bamboo poles, these ingenious floating beds rise up and fall with the changing water level and the lake’s rich nutrients make them extremely fertile.
Lake Inle is a culture rich region, apart from being a stunning destination
Photogenically, these neon green gardens create a breathtaking view especially when the surrounding hills turn nearly blue from moisture-laden clouds and the still lake reflect both in a most dramatic manner. Here and there, peeping conical bamboo hats of the toiling farmers add to the charm and clusters of their stilted wooden huts always form the beautiful background. Nearly all of this along with a huge open sky make Lake Inle in Myanmar is one of the earth’s most photographed places and the local handicrafts are to die for. Exquisite handmade silver jewelry, delicate hand painted parasols, flower-embossed organic paper, lotus silk, organic cheroots, carvings etc are some of the products of the local home industry and woven Shan bags are must buys for shopping connoisseurs.
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The feet rowing fishing folks and other communities of Lake Inle
But what really sets Lake Inle apart from any other much-hyped tourist destination on earth, is its much-photographed feet rowing local fishermen. Famous for practicing a very distinct style of rowing, these boatmen stand on the stern on one leg while rowing the oar with the other. This practice has evolved due to the waist high reeds which cover the surface of the lake and these aquatic plants make visibility difficult while sitting. Since the nurturing Inle is like a vast community living area on the water, boats are major modes of transportation and every lake dweller knows how to row from their very childhood. The women and children row in the traditional way sitting cross-legged on the stern, while the men glide over water on boats operated by feet. Large engine mounted longtail boats are popularly used as public transport and they are usually full during mornings, evenings and market days.
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Lake Inle is like no place on earth
Such is the placid life on and around Lake Inle and the vast water body often seems to its visitors like a self-sufficient mini planet of its own. Complete with a very tradition steeped culture, enthralling natural beauty, amazing handicrafts, bustling bazaars and secret spots full of submerged stupas and quaint monasteries where monks train cats to jump through hoops, Lake Inle is indeed like no place on earth. So, presenting the enchanting beauty of Lake Inle in a 21 image set photo essay. Photographs speak louder than words and Inle’s beauty is impossible to describe in words.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE