Travel Date 26th November 2012.
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Most of the sites visited by tourists are on the southern shores of Inle Lake. There are several villages and hotels in the south but they tend to be more up-market, often set on stilts over the water and needing a boat to access the local facilities. The main tourist accommodation town is Nyaung Shwe, on an inlet to the north-east of the lake.
As the lake is about 20km long and up to 10km wide, depending on whether it is the wet or dry season, it takes about an hour each way in a long boat from Nyaung Shwe to the markets, pagodas and villages at the southern end. I liked Nyaung Shwe and enjoyed the boat trips both ways. In hindsight I am pleased I stayed in town instead of down south.
The next post will be about the markets, villages, pagodas and monasteries on the southern lake. This post is only about getting there and back, to keep the number of pictures reasonable.
The lake is the primary transport route for those living on and around it. There were two main forms of boat. These are examples of the long, slim, powered boats used to transport tourists, locals and goods long distances on the lake.
To arrange the boat trip I wandered into half a dozen of the small tourist offices that line the main street of Nyaung Shwe. There are variations on the price depending on the tour stops, how many craft workshops are included (more is cheaper, because each gives a commission to the operator) and how many passengers. This lady from Austria was looking for another passenger to defray the cost; eventually a man from Belgium joined us. They both spoke English. It was pleasant to have others to chat to during the day.
As we headed south early in the morning the weather looked a bit ominous, with low clouds and some rain in the surrounding hills.
By the time we reached the southern shore the weather had cleared to a fine, warm day. Later I was grateful I had been liberal with the sunblock that morning as one of my companions turned a nice shade of lobster.
The fishermen and others who harvest the lake's resources use shorter, narrower boats propelled by poles or oars using their legs for extra power. They are also used for local transport near the villages.
Most of the lake is only a couple of meters deep for most of the year. As well as villages on stilts there are other buildings on stilts in the most unlikely places. This appeared to be some sort of administrative building; deserted on the day but in good order.
There were several shrines like this in the middle of the lake. Later, as we headed for home in the twilight, I noticed that neither the boats nor these shrines appeared to have lighting. Presumably the boatmen know their lake and their routes very well.
Not all the men on the lake were fishing; there were several groups of lake-weed gatherers. It is laborious work, using a long pole to push under the weeds growing on the bottom, lifting the wet mass into the boat, then quickly baling to prevent the draining water from capsizing the boat.
Later we saw the dried weed being sold in the market.
After a long day we headed for home at dusk as a beautiful sunset slowly appeared to the west.
The walk from the jetty back to the Amazing Hotel seemed to have become longer as I walked home. A Myanmar beer went down very well on arrival.