Around Inle Lake

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October 15th 2013
Published: November 11th 2013
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sunset on the lakesunset on the lakesunset on the lake

Mum, Ohnmar & Yong float off into the sunset
We left Taungyi at about 3am so we could get to Inle Lake as early as possible. Our aim was to make it to the lake at sunrise so we could watch the start of the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival on the lake. Once a year villagers gather to tow four of the holiest Buddha images clockwise around the lake on a beautifully decorated barge. Shan leg rowers on traditional boats tow the barge and as they travel around the lake they stop at each village so people can pay homage to the Buddha images.

Our bus driver and boat drivers timed things perfectly and we arrived on the lake just in time to watch the leg-rowers arriving dressed in their traditional Shan costumes. All the boats joined together to tow the barge out onto the main part of the lake and the celebrations continued non-stop for the next 24 hours.

Handicrafts & Long Neck Chit Chat

After watching the leg rowers with the barge and dropping our luggage off we toured the lake stopping at a lot of Pagodas and also taking a look at some of the villages on the lake. We viewed local handicrafts included silk weaving, a blacksmith workshop, a silversmith, a boat builder and a group of Kayan-Padaung (Long Neck) women weaving traditional bags.

We purchased some silk-cotton blend longyis from the weavers, a handsome meat cleaver from the blacksmith which is inscribed with Burmese script, I got the silversmith to make me a ring with two elephants on it, we got some knick knacks from the boat builder and some really nice hand woven bags made by the long neck ladies.

I got talking to the long neck ladies and they told me “Our province is very distant from here and we are working at Inle to help support our families”. They ranged in age from 15 to 68 and had been living at Inle for a couple of years weaving bags and promoting their handicrafts. They told me the current shop they work with gives them a 60% cut of all sales, which they said was so much better than the deal they had at a previous shop that was only giving them 10%.

I asked the younger ones how they felt about having the number of rings they wore increased until they wore the same as the oldest woman with them. They said “We are happy enough, it is our tradition and we honour this for our parents. We still think it looks beautiful and it also helps us support our families because people are curious about us.” They then told me the shopkeeper’s bottom price for their bags, saying, “She will start at this price, but will go as low as this price. No matter how much you pay her she will give us a 60%!c(MISSING)ut of the bottom price” so with that info in mind I purchased some of their lovely bags.

Pagoda visiting, Chats with Elders and Monks

We had a big day of visits to Pagodas; this is one activity you get to do plenty of on a trip to Myanmar. Back in Sydney, Buddhist temples are few and far between, here it would be hard to look out across the horizon and not see a handful of Pagodas.

The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, famous for its five Buddha images which have some much gold leaf rubbed on them they are now hardly identifiable as Buddha statues. Nga Phe Chaung Monastery is known for its 250 year old wooden architecture. It is also known as the “Jumping Cat Monastery”.

At one of the temples we sat talking with the village elders who were responsible for the upkeep of the temple and also the organising of the festivities. They told us a lot about the history of the area and how lucky we were to be there on this particular day when the Buddha images were being towed on the lake. They gave Lorenza a nice booklet about the temple in English and suggested we should return again in the next few years and enjoy the festival with them again. When we said our farewells they said “We are happy to share our good fortune with you, please come back”.

We made some small donations to the individual monks and chatted to a few of them. They were interested in our travels and how we saw life in Myanmar compared to Australia. Most spoke a small amount of English and wanted to know how we had met our Burmese born travel companions. They were surprised and happy that we all attended the same meditation centre back in Sydney.

Boating around Inle

Out on the water,
Ohnmar & MumOhnmar & MumOhnmar & Mum

just after sunrise
tripping around the villages was really enjoyable. The boat drivers were experts at their jobs and slowed down when they saw you were trying to take some photos. They suggested some places to stop at and made sure we did not just see the tourist trinket stalls. They pointed out many things to us about daily life on the lake, including how the vegetable gardens are grown floating in the lake. We watched as villagers harvested their produce from small boats and the fisherman patiently going about their work.

The locals going about their lives were very friendly, greeting us with “Mingalaba” and big friendly smiles. They were only too happy to show us some of their local produce and we did our best with our few words of local language to engage with them. I got a lot more laughs and smiles about my longyi wearing. Our travel companion, Mal got a big laugh out of the locals when he broke on of the planks on our boat when he was boarding it not long after our lunch.

Going to sleep to the Dhamma

That night as we lay in bed in our small villa on the lake we could hear the distant chanting from the temples and snippets of Dhamma talks given by monks floating on the breeze. I could hear fragments of the Prayer of Loving Kindness being chanted in Pali. It was a very peaceful way to fall asleep.

Food around Inle

While touring the lake we enjoyed some really nice local food. The highlight being herb stuffed, grilled fish. We would love to replicate this dish back home but without the freshwater, Inle fish it would not taste the same. There was also an interesting chicken and peanut curry we tried which I think we could try and make at home.

Early wake up call

We woke early, well before sunrise and could hear music coming from the Shan boats out on the lake. They were rowing from village to village with flashing neon lights and traditional music blaring. They were on their way to the Pagoda the barge had been moored at overnight and were getting ready to tow it and the Buddha images further around the lake. It made for an interesting wake up call.

Our boat drivers collected us and we had an interesting
Festival RowersFestival RowersFestival Rowers

Shan rowers towing the Buddha barge
ride from our accommodation back to the main jetty in the dark. There were many fishermen already out working on the lake and we were amazed how our two boat drivers managed to find their way across the lake in the dark.

We had breakfast as we floated past the fisherman, kindly supplied by our hotel, a boiled egg, some cake and some kind of pancake washed down with some fruit juice. We would soon be on our way to Mandalay to meet with another group of travellers that were touring with Ohnmar’s sister Sandar.

Additional photos below
Photos: 27, Displayed: 27


Festival RowersFestival Rowers
Festival Rowers

Shan rowers towing the Buddha barge

items for sale
Inle foodInle food
Inle food

the herb stuffed fish was lovely

making my ring
bag weavingbag weaving
bag weaving

the bags made by these ladies are really beautiful I could not resist buying some

11th November 2013
sunset on the lake

Lovely, lovely photo
11th November 2013
sunset on the lake

Watery meanderings
The Buddha barge and the village visits around the lake sound like perfect ways to explore! Again, how lovely to be with your friends who can take you to places tourists often miss, and "Going to sleep to the Dhamma"--it couldn't get better than that! Peace.

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