Every child born in a family living on Inle Lake first learns to walk and then how to ride a boat. Every temple on the lake has it’s own boat parking spots, and every family has a boat. People live on the lake, travel to visit others and to go shopping by boats, fish in the lake and even grow their tomatoes in the middle of the lake water!
Lake Inle is 116 km2 116 and it is the second largest lake in Myanmar. It is in danger because of population increase, tourism and agriculture development. Welcome for a boat trip on the lake!
During my visit to Inle Lake, we took a very popular boat tour (more than 50% of people traveling by boats on Inle are tourists). The boat tour took us to many handicraft demonstration workshops and shops, and we learnt a bit about the local culture.
We started off in Nyaungshwe town and had to go on a very dirty canal for about 20 minutes until we arrived to the lake.
Passing by fishermen and people who were collecting mud on their boats, I was impressed how balanced they are, and we arrived to the tomato gardens.
Our boatman took us to the silver workshop and we saw how silver is made, and how the jewelry is made of silver.
Then we moved on to the market to see some trinkets and local handicrafts – beautiful wooden buddha statues, puppets, rings and earrings, and other things.
We made a lunch break at a restaurant on the water, ate some fried rice and Burmese tea leaf salad (really recommended), and it was at the toilet where I saw that all the water from the sink went directly back into the lake. When you are there, avoid using soap as you will be adding to the pollution.
Later we went to the weaving workshop where women were making thread and weaving three kinds of fabrics – silk, cotton and lotus thread. Now the last one is absolutely amazing – it is made of tiny delicate threads found in the lotus stem. It is very hard work to make lotus thread and the cost is high, one scarf costs about 200 USD.
We moved on to the boat making and woodwork shop, where the lady explained her brothers make boats by themselves. A 15 meter long boat like ours used by tourist takes 4 people and about 1 month to make, and costs about 2300 USD. Longer boats are used for transportation and cargo.
Cheroot workshop where local women made cigars from tobacco and herbs – all cigars are handmade and each woman makes about 200 – 500 a day.
The last but not least destination was Dein In – a place with many pagodas and stupas in the southern end of the lake. To get there we had to pass a canal with different levels of water and it was as if our boat was entering through little bamboo gates. Many pagodas were ruined and not taken care of, and someone even drew on buddha’s cheeks, which shocked me (living in Thailand for over two years I have learnt to respect buddha).
We ended the trip swimming in the lake. The wind was strong and the boat was carried away quickly. Jumping into the water and climbing up, I had a feeling the boat would turn upside down, but it did not.
If you have one day to visit the lake, come in the morning and leave in the evening, and you will have a great time!