Inle Lake, Myanmar

The most iconic image of Inle Lake, a large freshwater lake in the middle of Myanmar, is of its fishermen.

They are known for their conical fish trapping device and their unique way of rowing – one hand on the top of the oar and one leg wrapped around the bottom. Then, with a swivel of the hip, the boat magically moves forward.

You have to be see for yourself to appreciate it 🙂

Inle Lake, Myanmar

Quintessential Inle Lake

The fishermen of Inle have developed this unique way of rowing standing up so they could see over the tall reeds growing in proliferation around the lake.

The best way to see the lake is by renting one of the many motor-powered long boats. Along with visits to handicraft workshops, most of them were just kind of ‘meh’, we also visited the village where the market happened to be that day.

The traditional market around Inle is run on a 5-day rotation basis as it visits a different village around the lake each day. Even though it’s getting more popular with tourists, it was still largely traditional.

I always love going to the local markets. It’s a good place to see the local produce (lots of fish), try the local food (mushy tofu, anyone?), the local snack (delicious sambusas), and observe people of different tribes coming in to do their weekly shopping.

Around Inle, the most distintive looking of these tribes is the Pa-O, with its women wearing orange towels wrapped around their heads.

A tribal woman at the Inle Lake marketplace

Incidentally, the market also provided a good opportunity to see what Burmese kids were allowed to play with.

These 3 kids were playing nearby the market with leftover veggies. “How cute,” I thought, “They’re pretend cooking.” Until I realised they using naked razors as their “toy” knives.

Kids playing with razor blades at the rotating market at Inle Lake

What was most interesting was seeing these villages that exist inbetween the two worlds: land and water. Inle Lake is a marshy lake with no definite “this is where the lake starts”. The land just slowly gets soggier and soggier as you try to get closer to it.

These villages are built on the parts of solid land that jut out into the lake and are interconnected by bridges and waterways. Visiting these villages, I realised how rowing standing up would be an advantage. You can easily get lost in this watery world.

Burmese temples

Riding on our boats through one narrow channel after another we passed beautiful traditional wooden houses on stilts, vegetable gardens magically floating over water tended lovingly by their owners perched over their boats, numerous temples and monasteries. I couldn’t help but be fascinated.

View of Inle Lake from a lakeside resort

Burmese going around their business on Inle Lake, Burma

Alternatively, you can also explore Check out Inle Lake by bike.

Inle Lake was truly a different world.

Where to stay in Nyaungshwe: We stayed in Teakwood Inn. Nice rooms, great breakfast, but at $25/night it’s a little pricey. DON’T let them arrange your boat tour – they overcharge like crazy.
A boat tour should cost around 25000 Kyats per boat.
Where to eat in Nyaungshwe: the market in the center of town for traditional food, Mimi’s Cafe for strawberry lassie (they also have good bikes to rent).