Inle Lake, Myanmar
Located in the Shan Hills the lake, which measures 22km long by 10km wide, and sits in a valley between two mountain ranges, feels like a different world to the rest of Myanmar.
In villages and towns across the lake, wooden houses are built high on stilts and fishermen steer their one-man boats with a unique rowing style, wrapping one leg around their oar. Rows of floating gardens produce delicious vegetables and beautiful flowers. Along with fishing and farming, traditional handicrafts are an important part of the local economy, especially silk weaving. As with all of Myanmar, religion plays a massive part in local life, and numerous pagodas and monasteries can be found on the lake and its shores.
The local population of c.70,000 live in four cities bordering the lake, in numerous small villages along the lake's shores, and on the lake itself. The population consists predominantly of the Intha ethnic group. Most are devout Buddhists, and live in simple houses of wood and woven bamboo on stilts; they are largely self-sufficient farmers.
Inthein (Indein) lies on the western bank of the lake and can be reached by pleasant boat ride along the winding canals. It is a cluster of over five hundred ruined shrines dating back to the 17th Century. The pagodas are in the typical Shan style and include beautifully carved mythical and celestial beings. The area also offers fantastic views across the lake in the east and countryside to the west.
Local fishermen are known for practicing a distinctive rowing style which involves standing at the stern on one leg and wrapping the other leg around the oar. This unique style evolved for the reason that the lake is covered by reeds and floating plants, making it difficult to see above them while sitting. Standing provides the rower with a view beyond the reeds. However, the leg rowing style is only practiced by the men. Women row in the customary style, using the oar with their hands, sitting cross legged at the stern.