Inle Lake, A Watery Shangrila

After trekking from Kalaw, we were rewarded with our arrival in Inle Lake.  Brian and I expected Inle to be a wide open waterway with homes surrounding in.  Instead we discovered Venice if you picked it up, plopped it into a watery Asian fairytale.  (And Venice is storybook-worthy itself, so imagine just how otherworldly Inle feels!)  Inle is home to the famous fishermen who use triangular nets and paddle with their feet instead of their hands.  Instead of sowing seeds in the sedentary earth, Inle dwellers farm floating gardens, rafts of soil and peat that grow crops abundantly.  Artisans spin yarn by hand from lotus flowers, instead of the expected cotton or flax.  Floating markets travel from place to place on the lake.  Stupas grace the shoreline, as people in flat-bottom canoes paddle by silently.  Each new sight felt like a discovery on Inle Lake.

For our one full day on Inle Lake, we hired a guide to tour us around in his flat-bottomed canoe, the primary mode of transportation on the lake.  Armed with hats and umbrellas to fend off the sun, we set out to discover the lake.

We visited the Floating Gardens and bounced on them for good measure…..

The long poles keep the gardens from floating away!

Brian and Chuck looking snazzy, while floating on the floating gardens.

Much to my excitement, we visited many artisan workshops…

Spinning lotus fibers straight from the stalk. Crazy!

Weaving lotus threads.

Bobbins filled with silk.

A rainbow of naturally dyed lotus scarves.

Women making cheroots (long thin green cigars).

Cheroot supplies.

We went to the local market where I succumbed to buying baskets…which my loving husband Brian helped me haul home on the plane, for which I will be forever grateful.  (It was actually hilarious.  I was worried that security would take the baskets away due to their cumbersome shape and size, but whenever I went through a line of security, both in India and Burma, my baskets were met with laughter and pantomime.  The security guards loved that I was bringing home rice winnowing baskets…basically like bringing home a Cuisinart as a souvenir from America.  The baskets made it through security.)

So pretty and wayyy inexpensive.

We watched the fishermen haul in their catch, a graceful art of balance and persistence.  How they manage to handle their nets, paddle the boat with their legs, teeter on the gunnel, and not fall splashing into the water, I have no idea…

The day's catch.

So impressed.

The lake glowed at sunset.

We watched the world go by from our boat.

Beautiful and peaceful.

Houses on stilts, the vernacular architecture. A flat-bottom canoe, the local mode of transportation.

Hats and a boat.

At the end of the day, we returned to our lovely hotel and our own personal traditional abode, perched over the water.  In the morning when we woke, light reflected off the lake below and into our hut where it shimmered on the bamboo walls.

Our hotel.

Our hotel.

3 thoughts on “Inle Lake, A Watery Shangrila

  1. Amazing, this is like one extended honeymoon. (-: So rich that you can explore this together.
    I LOVED these pictures and the descriptions.
    Magical.

  2. Another incredible memory. The photographs call forth the whisper of “return.” Thanks for this and the memories of our time together in these enchanted places. C

  3. Amazing. The baskets are great, but what about those lotus scarves? They looked beautiful. I do hope to see Bri in that hat this summer!

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