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Published: April 24th 2016
Our boats were at the dock this morning, ready for our first day on Inle Lake.
Day 22-Monday-February 1 Buckle-up…this will be a wild day!
We awoke this morning with our room not any warmer. Doug called the front desk and asked about the heater problem. He was told the units in each bungalow were only air conditioning and not heaters…oh well. So, as it does get warm here in the daytime, we’ll turn our units off when we return from our excursions in the afternoon to preserve some of the warmth before sunset when it starts to get cool. Then they won’t be constantly blowing cold air into the room.
After rising, Doug looked outside and saw a couple hot-air balloons in the distant sky. Following breakfast, we met the group at 8:30 down at the pier adjacent to the Sunset Bar and we split up into our original yellow and green groups as we were on the ship, ours headed by Ye Min. We boarded our long boats with 4 to a boat, plus our boats-man. Our boat was number 4.These boats are 45 feet long and driven by an onboard motor and long propeller shaft that can be lifted in and out of the water depending on the depth and vegetation. Doug got
The boat dock is just below and along side of the bar.
the front seat for our outing. We shared our boat with Rick and his wife, Jeanine. We headed out through the hotel area bay and canals toward the lake.
The native people, the Inthars, create large islands of weeds and water hyacinth supported by long wooden trellises where they grow fruit, vegetables and flowers. The lake's nutrient rich water makes these gardens incredibly fertile. We passed by them in Kaylar Village where they were growing a variety of vegetables including a lot of tomatoes, peas, chilies and flowers. The plants grow in bog-like rows that are staked-up with bamboo and have mini canals that run parallel so they can tend and harvest with the use of a small boat. We saw several men tending to the crops. We will see later that there are men in other parts of the lake that pull a green vegetation out of the water, pile it up in their boat and sell it to the plantation owner as fertilizer. Along the way we saw small huts on stakes where the people who tend the plantation/gardens live temporarily.
After a bit, we entered the main body of the lake and saw a number
Floating garden beds
These are floating beds that grow all of their vegetables, fruits and flowers. Bamboo is stacked upright that they use with the wooden trellises.
of fishermen. These men would be on the bow of their smaller fishing boats slapping the water with a long oar. Our first stop was at Nga Phe Chaung Monastery, an old wooden monastery built on stilts over the lake in the 1850's. Aside from its collection of Buddhas at the monastery, its monks have taught a few of the many cats living with them to jump through hoops. Nga Phe Chaug is the biggest and oldest monastery on Inle Lake. We then made our way through a couple small villages and boated through several canals and floating gardens. We proceeded to a large building where the Full Moon Restaurant was located. Our first encounter is where we saw the Padaung long-neck women, then a demonstration of Shan paper making, and umbrella maker.
Padaung (Yan Pa Doung) is a Shan term for the Kayan Lahwi (the group in which women wear the brass neck coils).The Kayan are a sub-group of Red Karen (Karenni people). According to U Aung Roe (1993:21ss) Kayan number about 40,000 in Shan State. There were several of them and they were more than eager to have our photos taken with them. We are also able
Ye Min waves
Ye Min's boat takes the lead and he waves as they pass.
to have the woman with the most rings take our picture displaying The Monterey Herald. Ye Min and the lady gave us a brief demonstration on how the rings are put in place and that they have to sleep in a certain position. Once the coils are in place they are seldom taken off, as coiling and uncoiling is a lengthy procedure. When they are taken off, it is usually to replace the coils with longer ones. She told Ye Min that they do this because it is a part of their culture.
After this, we walked over to the area where they make Shan paper. Very interesting to see how their emulsion (paper dough) is put in a bath of liquid. Then a screen is submerged into the liquid, causing a filmy paste and distributed equally on the screen. After it sets for a moment it is lifted out of the liquid and is peeled off from the corners and edges to have this pretty opaque paper about 3’x3’. Sometimes they make it with flower petals embedded. They do one sheet at a time.
In another area we watched them make beautiful and colorful umbrellas, mostly made
This man is rowing his boat through a canal with his leg wrapped around the oar as we head toward the main body of the lake. He has a number of what appears to be traps stacked on his boat that he may set for shrimp or small fish.
with layers of Shan paper, put onto a frame and decorated. The man creates the nicely carved handle on a foot propelled lathe for the lady to finish the umbrella.
After that we got into our boats and went a short ways to the silversmith workshop. We watched as they melted the metal into 98% pure silver which they used to make their jewelry products. We were successful in making a couple small purchases.
Back into the boats and off to the Inle Treasure Lotus, Silk and Cotton Hand Weaving workshop. There are two types of silk; the thick weave with designs and the thin ones in plain color. The silk woven designs from Inlay are the thinner ones.This was also amazing as we saw a young lady create the strand of lotus from cutting the stem in about 3-4 inch segments and carefully pulling it apart to expose the fibers inside and stretching it to lay on a board together with other fibers. She continued this process until she had enough fibers to roll them together and create the lotus strand. To weave enough for a monk's robe, it requires the fibers from 120,000 stems of the
This small house on stilts is likely used by a floating bed worker. There is bamboo stacked underneath.
dark pink lotus. Now, scarves are also woven from dried lotus. They are quite expensive because of the time and labor it takes to create the material. We then watched as ladies worked their looms and wandered around the salesroom…no purchases here.
We then boated over to the Eyeful Lake Restaurant for lunch. Annette ordered the Spicy Thai Fish, a wonderful ‘whole fish’ with lots of spices and plenty of garlic. It was FABULOUS! Doug had Thai noodle dish with chicken…like Pad Thai. He got to taste Annette’s fish and wished he’d ordered it instead. Outside the restaurant after lunch, Ye Min gave us a brief demonstration of how the fishermen’s conical nets worked and showed us several sizes. After that we walked around and watched a group of at least 10 women that were making tons of cheroots, those small cigars that we saw in Yangon and in Mincun. No sale here either.
After this we got back into the boats and went to Se-khong Village where there is a blacksmith workshop which produces knives and farming tools, sold at different 5-day markets around the Inlay region. A woman sits up on a pedestal and stokes the
On the lake
From Doug's front seat on our boat, we look out over the bow and see the lake.
hot fire while one guy holds a red hot piece of crude steel shaped like a knife with tongs and 2 or 3 guys pound away on it with sledge hammers while laying on an anvil until they have created a semi-sharp Bowie style or long knife. When finished, in about 5 minutes, another guy puts it in a primitive style vice and uses another tool to sharpen it. It’s later finished with a handle.
And finally, our last stop of the day was at the boat building shop. These boats, which are the primary means of transportation around the lake, are made here. They are made of teak wood and measure 45 feet long. There is also a smaller boat that is used by the area fishermen and households for their transportation. The big boats are fitted with the on-board engine and extended propeller shaft. As they are handmade, it takes a number of weeks to create a new boat as the lacquer between the joints has to cure to make the craft as water tight as possible.
On the way back to the hotel, we saw a number of fishermen on the lake and people gathering
Doug takes a photo of us in the boat, including Annette, Rick, Jeanine, and our boatman as we speed along the lake.
the underwater vegetation to be put in their boat and sell to the plantation owners for fertilizer. Ye Min said they would fill up their small boats 5-6 times in a day and deliver it. He said that this process also assists in helping thin the lake of vegetation overgrowth.
Upon our arrival at the hotel dock about 5:00, we tipped our boat guy and went to our room and turned the air conditioning unit off before dark. About 7:00 we went up to the restaurant for dinner and called it a night.
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