Myanmar – Inle LakeBack to Story

A look at village life on the Lake

Inle Lake provides an insight into life lived on and around one of Myanmar’s fresh water inland lakes at 22 kilometres long and 11 wide. The attraction here is to see a different way of life and some of the traditional villages which are actually built out over the lake. There are also floating gardens where vegetables are cropped and obviously fishing is an important industry.

Shwe Yaungwe Monastery

This small 19th Century monastery is on the road that you travel in from the Heho Airport before you get to Inle Lake. It is another example of the traditional teak monastery buildings and is painted a rich red colour. It is small by comparison to some of the other monasteries but has a lot of charm and friendliness. Well used to having visitors around you are free to wander around and observe the life of the monastery. During this visit the novice monks were going through their morning wash and shaving each others heads. The master rang the school bell and eventually the boys moved off to classes. Similar to any group of young boys some were distracted by a new toy one of the boys had.

There is a small temple off to the side of the complex that is well worth checking out. Murals along the corridors are unique and very colourful. The walls have small alcoves containing images of Buddha and the light provides a feeling of serenity.

Shwe Indein Pagoda

This is an area behind the local village of Indein. The Pagoda is perched on the hill behind the village and well worth the climb which is not difficult. The real treasure lies in exploring the ruins below. There are hundreds of ancient stupas along the hillside in various states of repair. The bush had completely over grown these old stupas until recently when they are slowly being restored. Unfortunately many of the treasures have been pilfered but it is a great spot for exploring if you have the time. On the way back take a walk through the bamboo forrest which is a cool retreat from the heat and humidity.

Village life

Village life seems to have changed very little over time. Fishing is still an important part of many peoples lives. In this area fishing was traditionally done with a basket net shaped like a cone. If you are lucky enough to see this form of fishing still being practiced it is very impressive. Unfortunately though many have replaced the nets with lines as they can catch more with less effort. The local people are well known for a style of rowing where they use their feet to row and keep their hands free to use the nets. The fish are taken back to their houses which are built over the lake and stored under the house in nets which make a cage in the water.  When the ‘5 Day Markets’ are running the catch is taken there to sell.

The ‘5 Day Markets’ are well worth the effort of tracking down and going to visit. The markets are held for 5 days of the week and the location changes every day to allow access for all the villagers. People travel in from villages in the hills to sell their vegetables and buy fish and other supplies before heading back. The markets are a social opportunity for all the locals and provide an excellent opportunity to see them in their traditional dress as everyone dresses up to come into town.

Travel around the lake is usually by boat and many of the houses are built on stilts over the water. Families to not have a car to get around but a boat and live mainly on the water itself. Crops are also grown in floating gardens which are serviced by boat.

Traditional crafts are also still alive and well in the villages with many being sold to locals and tourists alike. Weaving is a big industry and cotton scarves and clothes woven and made in the area can be purchased in some of the local stores. The most coveted of clothes is made from the lotus leaf. Local blacksmiths also work with metal and you can see their work.

Shwe Yaungwe Monastery, Traditional Fishing, 5 day market

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