Letters from Myanmar – Nyaungshwe and Inle Lake

You can hear the sound of the engine as you get settled in and all comfy in your wooden chair on the boat that is about to take you on a journey through Inle Lake. The sun is burning and all you can see around on both sides is water and hills. As you exit the canal leading to Inle Lake there is a particular smell of wet soil and grass and the fishermen boats are starting to pop out here and there.

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Fishermen have a special way of rowing in Inle Lake, standing on the edge of the boat and using one leg to row while using the hand to throw the net and balancing the body in the same time.

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This is said to allow more visibility to the boatmen over the vegetation in Inle Lake and is used only by men; ladies row in the classical way by sitting on the edge of the boat. The fishing experience is also unique, two fishermen each in their own boat would lay the net and then start beating the water with sticks to scare the fish away into the net.

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As you move further into the heart of the lake boats with people gathering vegetation from the lake appear and the unique floating gardens. Layers of vegetation are pilled one on top of the other until they create a compact layer on which the people plant mostly tomatoes. The plantation on floating gardens is so spread that it covers a significant part of the country’s demand of tomatoes.

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Villagers rely on crops for their day to day leaving. Sometimes an entire floating garden may be transferred from a village to a different village by slowly moving the entire floating layer of vegetation with boats.

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And one by one the houses on poles appear. There are around 70,000 people leaving on Inle Lake in houses mainly having one big room to accommodate everyone.

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People move around using small boats by rowing or for longer distances by using motor boats.

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Some houses have electricity from the nearby electrical power lines or use solar panels. Small shops care for the basic needs of the people leaving here whilst for more products a trip to the on ground houses and villages would be required.

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One of the pole houses is particularly flooded in front with boats and people waiting in the boats. It is afternoon and the villagers are waiting for their kids to finish school. There are classes in different rooms depending on the year of the children. Windows are widely open and you can see the kids dressed with white shirts and green skirts already getting agitated. Classes would usually be spread over the course of a day with classes in the morning followed by a lunch break and classes in the afternoon. Education is free and for primary classes kids are provided with one uniform and the necessary books.

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Industries on the lake are also varied.

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You can find weavers (including bamboo thread weavers), cigarettes and cigars producers, pottery makers.

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For cigarettes and cigar producers workers would usually be paid depending on what they are able to produce in one day.

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Where we ate

There are plenty of options for eating or just having coffee like Aqua Lilies, The French Touch, Min Min’s, Mr. Chef, Ever Green…We however fell in love with Zizi and her small restaurant and we came back two nights in a row for the amazing food and company. Zizi has moved to Nyaungshwe together with her mother and started a business all alone in a domain she had no clue about four months ago. She cooks Myanmar food and a little bit of European food all made by herself like she says in a “home style”. Food is cooked from the heart; there is no menu (yet), no rules apply. You just have to trust the hands of Zizi, give her a few pointers on your preferences (spicy, not spicy, vegan, non-vegan) and she will just create a special experience for you.

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In a developing country, more opened to the foreign eye than ever, with a sense of freedom circling around and the people becoming more and more courageous to speak out loud every day, in a business environment dominate by men, Zizi leads with her heart and passion, she is a road opener, leading by example and with a strong will to prove that she can make it in the existing environment and empower other women in her community to follow their dreams.

All of Zizi you can find on her Facebook page here or on Trip Advisor. Do visit her when you are in Myanmar, she is the kind of person that makes her home feel like your home and there’s just no such other equal feeling when travelling in a foreign land than the feeling you have when meeting a homey heart.

Where we stayed

We stayed at Royal Inlay Hotel located close to the boat boarding area and walking distance from the main road and the shops and restaurants area. The hotel serves breakfast on the rooftop with a selection of American breakfast and Burmese style breakfast. The canal going to Inle Lake can be seen from the rooftop. Rooms are spacious and clean, staff is nice. They have somewhat of a SPA (more of a massage room) but you can get a massage in other part of Nyaungshwe also for cheaper prices and probably better quality. WI FI works fine.

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Click here for some Tips & Tricks of Inle Lake

Click here for our Top 10 experiences in Inle Lake

For more photos of Inle Lake just click here for our Facebook page.

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