Inle Lake is a large fresh water lake in the Shan Province of Myanmar. The lake is quite shallow, only 1.5 meters deep in the dry season and 3.5 meters in the rainy season. Even during the dry season there are a ton of boats on the lake. Locals use the lake not only for transport and for fishing, but they build these floating farms and grow dozens of types of produce. We also saw locals harvesting nutrient rich soil from the bottom of the lake to use in the floating farms or on land as well.
We hopped in the boat, piloted by a local and our guide who had been with us since Yangon. The shallow boats work perfectly in Inle Lake. These boats are powered by small two stroke outboard engine with the propeller on the far end of a very long pole. These engine cough out silver/purple haze and a loud chugging sound.
I don’t swim – I can’t swim. Whenever I get into a boat, I’m always a bit nervous. We were only a few inches above the surface of the water and I was fearful some of our less graceful travel companions may capsize the boat. I didn’t realize the lake was so shallow at this point. The boats are actually quite stable, so you should have no fear when you take one.
Our first stop during our cruise around the lake was for lunch and next to the restaurant was a Burmese Cat Sanctuary. #PoorMissLilly, my 15 year old cat is part Burmese, so of course, I had to stop in and see these kitties. They were all so affectionate and well behaved.
We continued on over the two days we spent on the lake visiting various temples, some of which were being restored by both foreign and domestic benefactors. We visited a small shop where one could watch weavers create beautiful scarves, table clothes or other textiles.
We visited a temple where worshipers would buy gold leafing and add it to some of the Buddha statues at the alter. After years of this practice, there were no features of the Buddha visible, they just looked like rough golden blobs.
We visited a market that sold everything from freshly caught fish, to vegetables brought down from the high country, to tourist gifts.
We eventually visited one of the floating farms and learned more about how they were built – basically using the dead, hallow reeds from plants, that float on water, which are covered in dirt and fertile mud, plants are grown, harvested and the cycle continues.
We stopped to watch the sunset on the lake one evening. A fisherman, who obviously performs for tourists regularly, put on a show for us. He demonstrated the techniques he and his colleagues use to catch fish and he also showed us his excellent balance. The beauty of the sunset was really a highlight of this day. The fisherman are quite talented – and have a much better sense of balance than I do!
Like in Bagan, the area around Inle Lake was being burned – both for agricultural benefits and just burning trash. The smell was both sickening and sweet. The haze added a bit of beauty to the landscape, but knowing that some of the smoke was poison (burning plastic), I felt sad and disgusted.
Our trip in and around Inle Lake was a nice way to close out our time in Myanmar. It was beautiful, relaxing and a must see. Have you been to Inle Lake? What was the highlight of your trip? Did you check out the cats?