Connect the dots

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

In(Le) Lac

You can escape the oppressive heat and head to the hills of Pyin Oo Lwin with Myanmar celebrities, or better yet, spend a few days near the cool waters of Inle Lake. Not only will you get a mix of a postcard perfect setting of mountains rising above the lake and bucolic rice fields, but you'll also get a snapshot of the variety of ethnic minorities that inhabit the Shan mountains, a taste of village life along and on the lake, colorful markets, and stupa ruins. 

At Shwe Inthein, there are literally thousands of stupas in various states of ruin. There's even a restoration project going on with some questionable practices. Cementing over the bricks???!!! You can even get your name on one if you donate. Hurry before they completely make these "perfect" in smooth concrete and gold paint. 

To keep a hand free for the conical nets and standing to see over the vegetation, fishermen have a unique one-leg rowing technique. A young boy knows early on exactly how it's done. 

Depending on the water levels around the lake, the colors vary from a milk chocolatey brown to a mirror black.   

Cottage industries such as weaving, silver and gold smithing, and netting can be seen all over the lake. Particularly interesting was the lotus weaving. Instead of cotton or silk, thread is made out of the stem of the lotus. Buttery soft and with 8,000 lotus stems needed for a small scarf, a lovely souvenir of this fabric starts at $75. If you're feeling generous or need make some serious merit, buy a robe for a monk for $2000. 

Luxe monk's robe
Back on land, you can take a bike ride to the tasty (who would have guessed?) Red Mountain Winery and teak monasteries with monks that are happy to pour some tea and practice some of their English with you. When you're biked out, take the boat back!

Nyaung Shwe is where most travelers hang their backpacks. You can arrange boat trips, rent bicycles, get some homemade pasta and do some early morning shopping at the lively market. Spend a half an hour of your evening at the small but excellent Aung Puppet Show. It's a one man operation with a cup of tea included in your donation.  

Cool weather and picture perfect scenery, Inle was a needed (and not to be missed) visit!

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