Wednesday 16 October 2013

Inle Lake


Tourist trap - already?!?  I really didn’t expect that the LP trail had paved its way through Burma so brazenly quite yet.... After all, the land border crossings and travel restrictions just opened up 8 weeks ago!  But indeed, there’s already more banana pancakes and over-priced guesthouses here than you can shake a stick at.  Never mind that the meagre electrical grid that barely keeps the tiny fishing village of Nungshue lit can't possibly supply enough power for all of the new aircon and luxuries - so the voltage swings around between 100v and 210v or so all day.  (good thing laptops and phone chargers can handle it!)  Moreover, there's plenty of "traditional one-leg-rowing fishermen" hanging out at the entrance to the lake with their photogenic conical nets on deck and leg stuck out wrapped around an oar posing for photos - for a suggested donation - that don't even bother to fish.

BUT - to be fair, it's an interesting place.  The floating gardens of lake Inle are really neat.  Basically these guys farm tomatoes and other fruits and veggies on little floating pads of vegetation that slide up and down poles as the water rises and falls.  Hydroponics extrordinaire.  Entire villages are set up on stilts over the shallow lake, complete with bamboo gates that swing open between gaps of floating hedges marking out farms on the lake's surface.  Weird but kind of cool! And, there are indeed real fishermen out there on the lake too - slapping the surface with long oars to scare the prey into nets.  They're not as pretty as the bougus "traditional" cone-net guys, but at least they're not all just poseurs!

Ty hated the place before he stepped foot out of the bus- it really wasn’ t that bad, although it is a place that the Lonely Planet has created and the prices reflect that! We stayed in a lovely little guesthouse which was very comfortable. On the second day we headed for the jetty and found a boat guy to take us on a private tour of the lake for a few hours. The engine was spluttery and noisy but once we got going and sailed through onto the lake it felt quite peaceful. The floating gardens and traditional houses (with their own front gates) were fascinating. 

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