Myanmar – Inle Lake

March 8, 2020

In western Shan State, you will find picturesque Inle Lake, famous for its floating villages and gardens and the unique way of life of the local Intha people, with their living communities based entirely on the water.

The lake, which measures 22 km long by 10 km wide, and sits in a valley between two mountain ranges. Being here feels like you are in a different place than the rest of Myanmar:  villages and towns across the lake, wooden houses are built on stilts and fishermen steer their one-man boats with a characteristic rowing style, wrapping one leg around their oar.

Inle fishermen

The Burmese fishermen at Inle lake have mastered an unusual technique when it comes to paddling their boats. Carefully balancing on one leg, wrapping their second leg around the oar to guide the vessel through the freshwater lake.The technique leaves the fishermens’ hands free to handle the huge conical nets used to trap the carp and spear it.

The Burmese fisherman are wearing traditional wide trousers, shirts and conical hats, the fishermen have become an iconic sight at the lake.

Another must see in Inle Lake is the women whose neck were extended with a gold ring.

This is the local ethnic of Kayan or Pandaung long neck tribe, the oldest tribe in Myanmar. When the girl is in young age, she starts to wear bronze necklaces round her neck and rings on her leg. She starts to wear six to ten rings when she is five to ten years and then put on more rings a year for later years. The necklaces was worn overlap, making the girl’s neck longer and longer. There are many different interpretations of this strange custom. One of the interpretation is that they avoid being bitten in the neck by beasts. Some say  that such wearing is making woman less beauty in the eyes of other tribes, preventing women from becoming victims.

The girl once wearing the necklace will seldom take it off, because they become something very familiar to them, an integral part of their body. And another reason is that the neck skin inside has not ruddy complexion as before, but becomes pale because of being concealed for too long. Additionally, according the custom of the Kayan tribe, only women that betray their husband must take the necklace off as a penalty.

Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery

Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery is on the way to Heho Airport. Situated approximately 2.4 kilometers north of Nyaung Shwe, Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery is a beautiful red-painted teak building dated back to the 19th century.One of the outstanding features that you can easily notice at the monastery is its extraordinarily large oval windows (with the size of doors) which form part of the Ordination Hall (or Thein in Burmese). This is an iconic track that you can barely find in other monasteries in Myanmar. The hems of the windows are decorated with simple but artistic reliefs and carvings.

Travel in Myanmar is well organised, so you can go to Inle Lake by domestic flight to Heho airport. Don’t miss the chance to explore Inle when you are in Myanmar.