MYANMAR – Inle
Mystical, magical, and outrageously beautiful are but some of the words used to describe the azure Inle Lake nestled amidst the mist-shrouded Southern Shan plateau. The Inthar tribes who populate this dramatic area, have built their houses over the water on stilts, and have a most diverse economy.
They grow anything from tomatoes (the region’s main ‘cash crop’) to the flowers required to make their extraordinary meter thick floating islands, which are made by weaving dry grasses, hollow stem weeds and water hyacinth. The islands are then attached to the lakebed using bamboo poles.
Further crops found growing here are rice, sesame and a wide range of vegetables. Another staple of the local economy is the quite unique form of fishing. The fishermen propel their boats by rowing with one leg!
Further industries to be found among these extraordinary people are weaving (silk and lotus fibre) metal work to produce both farming and domestic utensils, silverwork, traditional Shan lacquer ware and the production of the local cigar (cheroot).
The area around Inle Lake is dotted with fabulous architectural and archaeological delights. Ancient Buddhist monasteries abound and the remarkable ruins of the villages of Sagar and Indian are not to be missed but the real jewel in the crown is the holiest of shrines in the Southern Shan State, the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda. With the regular colorful and noisy market selling anything from fresh produce to souvenirs you will never be bored here!
The best time to go: all year around but the best season is from October to July when it is not rainy.