Inle Lake

From Bagan we headed to Inle lake.  More specifically we stayed in the town of Nyuangshwe which is north of the lake. The town was small and seemed to be more catered toward tourists than the other places we visited in Myanmar, but still seemed to be a functioning port town where farmers from nearby towns and villages brought their goods to be shipped off around the country.
Our first full day in town we headed out on the lake for a full day tour of the surrounding villages, fishermen and tourist stops, some of which were better than others. Our first stop was to see the fishermen.  While there were a group of fishermen willing to pose for tourists, others were actually on the lake fishing. The coolest thing about the fishermen was that they used their leg to paddle. It was hard to get a good action picture showing how it was done, however if you can imagine paddling in a canoe but with one’s leg that’s more or less what it looked like.  In fact it looked a lot like a j stroke but with a leg wrapped around the paddle. We even got to watch this up close as the motor on our boat broke down and our driver switched to manual power until someone came along to help him fix the motor. The other unique part of the fishing technique was that they used a large cage to drop on top of the fish, which they then speared from above. While some were still using these large cages we saw others with nets. I’m not sure if they were fishing for different types of fish or if one way is more effective. 
As we passed the largest part of Inle lake we started to go by villages of houses on stilts where people live and commute via boat. It was cool to see them going about their daily lives all via boat, we marveled at their balance to build a house from a boat or do all the daily things we do without having to worry about balancing from a boat.
After leaving the more remote lake villages we hit the super touristy part of our trip where we stopped by lots of artisan shops. Our favorite part of this was when we went to the weaving factory where women were weaving textiles out of lotus plants. They would break the lotus stem in half and pull it apart and these fibers would be pulled out. They would then roll it and spin it into a thread that they would then use to make textiles. The amount of work going into the fabric was amazing. I had no idea that you could make fabric out of a lotus plant.
In addition to the weaving factory we went to a cigar rolling plant, a potter, a boat maker, a silversmith, a monastery where they train cats to jump through hoops (but they were not jumping when we were there) and a souvenir shop that had women with long necks weaving. The cigar rolling store was set up to show tourists how cigars are rolled, which was a bit different than in other places as they use a different type of leaf to wrap it in which is not tobacco. The other stops were fine to stop at, but nothing amazing. The souvenir shop with long-necked women weaving in the back of the shop was our least favorite stop as it felt a little bit like a freak show. We had read in the lonely planet that the custom of extending a woman’s neck had been done in the past to prevent a woman being stolen from a tribe by a rival tribe. It is no longer done socially, however woman do it in order to make a better living and have a chance at a better life. We were unsure how to address this issue as we did not want to promote the mutilation for monetary gain, but at the same time it didn’t strike me as that different than actresses using plastic surgery to improve their chances at fame in hollywood. While traveling, we at times encounter issues like this that I never have a clear answer or solution to. We decided to buy one of their weavings but we did not take any of their pictures (suggestion from Lonely Planet). Not sure if this was the right thing to do.
The trip on the lake was fun and Caitlin didn’t start really feeling super sick until that evening so we were able to get through it just in time.
Caitlin at the start of the day.

Fisherman paddling with his leg.

Wasn’t sure why they were slapping the water, I thought maybe it was to go in reverse without entangling their fishing line or maybe it was for scaring the fish into their nets.

Another fisherman paddling, I took a lot of pictures trying to capture the paddling.

Fisherman laying out their nets.

After our boat broke down.

Heading through one of the villages.

Taking crops somewhere.

We weren’t sure what the cages were catching, they looked almost like lobster traps.

Cruising through town.

One of the buddhist temples in town.

A buddhist temple we walked up to. One day a week they have a market here for all the surrounding villages. Apparently the markets have turned into a bit of a tourist focused thing rather than just to sell goods.

A woman throwing off the hump on a hand powered wheel.
Random pretty corn that I saw.

Woman dying thread.

Not all paddling was done with the foot.

Fabric dying in the back of the house.

A woman extracting the lotus threads.
This woman would then spin the thread.
Another woman spinning, Notice anything about her machine?

Another image to see if you figured out how she is ‘going green’.
A different woman working one of the looms.

Not sure what type of celebration passed us but this was the first boat.
This was the second boat with this guy dancing and music blasting.
One of the girls rolling cigars.
Another fisherman, he was in front of the floating gardens. Made me think about the ones in Mexico.

Another fisherman.

Sitting watching the sun set.


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