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I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Inle Lake, Myanmar, Markets, Crafts and Villages

 Travel Date 26th November 2012.
Click on any picture to see a larger version.

After a prolonged absence from the blog it is time to start recording my travels again. The urge to write waxes and wanes. I am pleased to see so many readers dropping in to vicariously enjoy some of the places I have visited, but I have to be honest. I write these reports selfishly for my own future enjoyment. In less than fifteen years I will be 80. Who knows if I will be able to remember my travels then, let alone still be able to wander distant lands?

I have too many countries unwritten from past journeys: China, England, Ireland, Scotland, Belgium, Luxembourg (well, we were only there two hours so I won't write that one) the Netherlands, Germany, the USA, Canada, Mexico, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and Russia. I will make an effort to catch up over the next few months.

I hope my future self enjoys reading these travel logs as much as I enjoyed the journeys which led to them. I have noticed that is where I differ from many travellers. Whether I am on a 12-hour flight out of Australia, anticipating landing in exotic lands; or relaxing in a train quietly enjoying the passing scenery; or driving on the wrong side of the road in Europe or the USA, turning into an unmarked narrow lane to see where it goes; or slowly cruising down a mighty river or on a lake I enjoy the journey just as much as the destination.

After cruising the full length of the lake south from Nyaung Shwe we came to the market at Nam Pan for a leisurely hour. This is a shore-based market, unlike the floating market which was elsewhere that day. Although there were quite a few tourists there were no pushy vendors selling souvenirs or other trinkets. There were stalls selling those items, but the proprietors waited for the customers to come to them. A very refreshing change from many Asian markets. The market was primarily meeting a different need, acting as the local shops, supermarket, restaurant, tavern and meeting place for the locals who were kind enough to politely ignore the strangers wandering through their shopping centre. Reports from tourists later suggested that the floating market is more tourist-oriented.

Bullock or ox carts appeared to be the vehicles of choice for the farmers supplying the markets. There were horse-carts used as taxis in the small towns but I saw very few horses in the countryside. 

The fish were all fresh caught. With no refrigeration on a warm morning most were still alive, being regularly sprinkled with water to keep them fresh as long as possible. 

For tourists, there is a convenience problem, or more accurately a lack of conveniences. Eventually I wandered back to a stand of trees near the boat and found a queue of westerners waiting near the trees politely ignoring each other and pretending to be deaf as we waited our turn. Those trees should eventually grow as tall as mighty redwoods...

After leaving Nam Pan we cruised slowly through several villages on stilts. There are many dotted round the southern shores of the lake. I'm not sure why most are down there rather than further north. Possibly this section still survives when the northern parts of the shallow lake dry up.

Eventually we came to Inpawkhon village to see the fascinating but very labour-intensive process of lotus-weaving. A short section of root is half-cut and snapped. The sticky threads in the core are stretched and rolled, then the process is repeated for hours until sufficient yarn is produced for weaving.


They also produce silk from silkworm cocoons in the same small craft factory.

There were far more structures on the lake and creeks than on shore, with powered long-boats and shorter light punts being the primary means of transport. I can't recall seeing any motor vehicles during my visit to the lake.

School was on dry land, but only just.

This golden swan-duck is stored to become the superstructure of a barge progressing the Hanthi around the lake at festival time.

The three of us, temporary companions, had a pleasant lunch at a tourist restaurant opposite the Hpaung Daw U Pagoda. The small buddhas inside the pagoda had so many layers of gold leaf on them from worshippers that they had become unrecognisable blobs.

After seeing the pagoda after lunch we cruised up the creek to Indein. Our boatman apparently did not want to pay jetty fees, so we clambered up the bank a few hundred metres short of the village and wandered through a path to town.

By this time I was hot, thirsty, weary and 'pagodaed out'. While the others trekked off to see more pagodas I waited in the local café. Before my cold beer I tried the local coconut. First, I bought my coconut and gave it to the man with the machete, who accurately chopped it to allow a straw to be placed in the coconut milk without spillage. After drinking all the milk, which was surprisingly refreshing, I took it back to the machete man who sliced it in two and gave me a sharp spoon to scoop out the meat. There was quite a lot of milk but not much meat. 

This young man near the café was catching tiny fish, shorter than his little finger, with a short length of line on the end of his bamboo rod. I doubt they were for dinner, possibly bait for later use.

  Why use a boat when the cargo floats? Bamboo heading to its destination.

These floating gardens were at the southwestern corner of the Lake and covered a very large area. The floating vegetable beds are anchored in position by the stakes driven through them into the lake-bottom. 

The following day was spent wandering around the town, re-visiting the market and walking the small back streets. When I departed Nyaung Shwe I shared a limousine to Heho airport with a couple of back-packers, arranged through the same agency as the boat trip. The flight back to Yangon, and later back to Australia via Bangkok, was uneventful - for me. Exactly one month later this happened to the aircraft I flew out on as it approached Heho: 

Christmas miracle for Burma crash survivors

 I'm just lucky, I guess.

Cheers, Alan

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