Our first full day in Inle Lake began with a young French couple approaching us over breakfast to see if we wanted to share a boat for the day. Happy to find some serendipity we agreed and set off on a really incredible day full of beauty.
|Isaac and driver in the floating gardens (Kerry Laws)|
The fisherman of the lake have a truly unique method for rowing that involves balancing standing on one leg with the other leg wrapped around an oar to steer and propel the boat. This leaves their hands free to manage the nets and traps they use. It's all very picturesque and it's hard not to get at least few frame worthy shots. We were on the lake all day so we got some in full sunlight and also at sunset.
We passed through floating gardens and stopped at a number of floating villages throughout the day. The first floating shop we stopped at specialized in the weaving of lotus fibers into scarves and such. I had never heard or seen of anything like it before. The process is a little ridiculous. The scarf I ended up picking up was made from 8,000 lotus plants and took 20 days to make! And that is just a smallish scarf.
|Gathering fibers from the lotus plant (Kerry Laws)|
|Floating village (Kerry Laws)|
A quick aside: It's worth noting that the people we ran into in town and on the water were supremely warm and welcoming. Even the folks selling something were never all that pushy or aggressive which is something one tends to expect in places like this. It was very much welcome and surprising. Anyway, back to the boating...
Our next stop took us to a floating blacksmith, (no I had never thought that might exist either). They were hammering away on hot iron as you might expect and sold lots of things like gongs, knives, bells, etc.
After seeing a few more craftsman's shops like silversmiths and cigar makers, we went to Nga Hpe Kyaung, also known as jumping cat monastery. Sadly, none of the many adorable cats wanted to be held and the monks were too preoccupied to show us any tricks.
We also took a little river jaunt to Shwe Inn Thein Paya which has 1,054 mostly ruined stupas from the 17th and 18th centuries. It is also notable as the only place we found in Burma with very aggressive selling and outright begging. It was hard to get a picture to capture the enormity of the place.
After we got back to home base in Nyaung Shwe, we went out to dinner with our new pals Anna and Arnaud (the French couple), and got to hear more about his work at the French embassy in Bangladesh and her upcoming world travels. It was a really great way to end the day.