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Inle Lake

MYANMAR | Saturday, 6 September 2014 | Views [405]

Attack of the long tails, Inle Lake

Attack of the long tails, Inle Lake

THE BOATMAN WAS WAITING AT 6:15 when we finisihed breakfast.  We followed him for a kilometer from the hotel through town to his mooring.  Nyanung Shwe is hopping in the early morning.  People gassing up their motorbikes, shopowners getting ready for the day and just folks doing morning ablutions canal-side.  We even saw a woman spooning rice into the alms bowls of a line of young Buddhist monks.


    Morning alms

A floatilla of 25-foot canoes trailing rooster-tails of spray veered away at the last second, their wakes rocking our own boat as we threaded the canal from Nyaung Shwe to the lake.  Everyone around Lake Inle — fishermen, merchants, families heading to the markets . . . and paleface tourists — travels by boat, narrow “long-tail” canoes powered by thunderous tractor engines.  



While other boats sped by in a storm of spray, we dawdled along through narrow canals clogged with the ubiquitous water hyacinth searching for birds.  The girl at Amazing (as our hotel is known locally) found a boatman who has had experience with strange western requests.  He was patient with us, stopping (sort of) whenever we held up a hand.  This is, after all, the Inle Wetland Bird Sanctuary, even if word hasn’t yet reached the birds.


    Leg rowers

Once on the lake we made haste along with the rest of the fleet.  Cargo craft loaded with potatoes, petrol and all manner of goods threatened to swamp in the chop while fishermen perched precariously with one leg around a paddle.   These “leg-rowers,” unique to Burma, are able to control their boats while freeing their hands to work the nets.


    Inthein market day

Our destination was the market at Inthein, a village on the canals east of Inle Lake.  The location of the rural market changes every five days or so, giving all the rural folks a chance to sell their goods.  Each tribe wears a different pattered turban so those in the know can tell who’s who.  


   Peaceful day on the water

Despite the dearth of birds we had a nice morning.  Although Inle Lake is part of Myanmar’s major tourist route, there are so few tourists and the lake is so big that you still feel special.  Photo ops are everywhere and traveling by boat is relaxing, once you get used to the noise.  And it’s hard to beat the price; six hours for 15,000 kyat — about $15.


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