“This is Burma and it will be quite unlike any land you know about.”
wrote Rudyard Kipling after visiting the country in 1889, and the statement holds as much weight today as it did back then. Until very recently, the country remained effectively cut off from much of the world, and from tourism in general, preserving a rich cultural heritage of over 100 ethnic groups in a way rarely witnessed in todays modern, globalized world. Inle Lake alone is home to 6 different tribal groups, the Shan, Pa-O, Taung Yo, Danu, Kayah, and Danaw, and you can encounter elements of each of these cultures during a day trip exploring the waterways in this breathtaking location. A travelling market appears at 5 different locations around the lake on a rotating schedule, and small workshops dot the shores, islands, and canal-ways offering glimpses of artisans hard at work on the traditional arts and other handicrafts. Watch as they roll cigars, weave textiles, make traditional umbrellas, create jewelry, craft intricate lacquerware, and more. Floating markets are a common site as people from the different tribes congregate to trade their wares. All of this activity seems wholly authentic, and even the nearby town of Nyuang Shwe feels hardly touched by tourism at all, although this is bound to change, and quickly, now that the government of Myanmar has made large swaths of the country available to be freely traveled (only a few short years ago you needed special government permission to go almost everywhere in the country.)
(click photo to see a larger size slideshow)
Multitudes of boats are available for hire, just head down to the canal in Nyuang Shwe and you will no doubt be approached by someone eager to offer their services asking “Hello, boat trip?” For about $20 you can hire a boat that fits 4-6 people, and you’ll have the option to customize your time on the lake, whether you’d like to spend more time shopping at markets or you’d rather explore the various pagodas and temples. If you’re heading out early in the morning bring a jacket as the misty mornings get chilly on the water, and the sun takes a while to burn off the clouds that cling to the mountains lining the lake. Don’t forget sunscreen either, your camera to capture your own photos of this beautiful Earth, and some money to do a little shopping!
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