Inle lake is located near Nyaungshwe and Taunggyi area in Shan State of Myanmar.
I spent a few days to decide if the long bus ride from Yangon to Inle lake was a good idea. Despite being one of the best attractions in Myanmar roads are quite bad, we’re talking over 13 hours of night bus.
Once there I quickly realized that the trip was worth it, the place is truly amazing, unique, and I’m not just thinking about the landscape but also of culture, people and traditional crafts.
Photo gallery: Inle lake and its life
The lifestyle, the freshness, the peace, the equilibrium between humans and the lake is unique. I spent all day on the boat looking how they grow vegetables in the middle of the lake, how blacksmiths works, how ladies use the bamboo loom to create nice scarves made of silk or lotus fiber.
The people of Inle lake is called Intha, we’re talking about 70,000 people living in four cities bordering the lake, in numerous small villages along the banks of the lake and the lake itself.
They live in houses of wood and woven bamboo on stilts and are largely self-sufficient farmers.
Most of the transport on the lake are small rowboats or boats with single-cylinder diesel engines.
The local fishermen of Inle lake are famous for using the rowing legs standing in the stern on one leg and wrapping the other leg around the oar. This style has evolved to the fact that the Inle lake is covered by reeds and floating plants making it difficult to see while sitting. The standing up position provides the boatman a view beyond the reeds.
The particular style of rowing is just for the men, women usually being seated rowing.
Besides fishing, the local people of Inle lake grows vegetables and fruits in large gardens that float over the surface of the lake. The floating beds are made completely by hand. The farmers collect the weeds from the deepest parts of the lake and build floating beds. These gardens rise and fall with changes in water level, therefore are resistant to flooding.
The crafts and trade are another important source of income for Intha. Typical products include sculptures, ornaments, textiles, and cigars.
Inle lake is also famous for its textile industry. The Shan bags, used daily by many Burmese, are produced in large quantities right here. A unique fabric made of plant fibers lotus is produced only at Inle lake and is used for weaving special robes for Buddha and beautiful scarves.
Over twenty species of snails and nine species of fish are found nowhere else in the world, but also in Myanmar former Burma, Inle lake, unfortunately, the Inle lake begins to suffer from the increasing population and rapid growth of agriculture and tourism.
The floating gardens tend to became solid and stronger with time. The development of floating gardens, largely developed along the western side of Myanmar former Burma, Inle lake, resulted in the gradual silting up of about 21 square miles of the lake.
The hygienic sanitary conditions around Inle lake are also a problem because of untreated sewage flowing into the lake. To ensure clean, fresh water, some villages have now closed wells and access to clean water.
I finally want to remember that the Inle lake is located in the core of Shan state, people very friendly and affable, who fights for several decades a bloody civil war against the military government of Myanmar. Political arrests and disappearances are common.