"A lake is a landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature. It is Earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature." -Henry David Thoreau
Over two months ago I shared the embarkation of a special personal journey. As I've continued on this journey of new lands, smells and tastes, I have had a few moments of realization. Many, many things have absolutely blown my mind, we've encountered kindness, rudeness, but overall a painless yet enriched travel period. One of the things I came to realize is that I can't stand organized travel. So when we landed in Nyaung Shwe -- like all of the other tourists who land in this small town -- hiring a guide to venture on a long boat into the misty morning or the orange-skied afternoons at Inle Lake was a high priority.
We did it, well better said, we survived. We skipped the village of the "long-necked women," raced past the silk shop, avoided the overly crowded floating markets and blew off the blacksmith workshop tour, as well as the jumping cats routine, but discovered that no matter how horrific your tour guide is, or how many other moments you find yourself boat to boat with other travelers, or even witnessing how incredibly staged the one-legged rower at the front entrance of the lake can be -- that Inle Lake, Burma is one of the wonders of this world, a beautiful sanctuary that deserves to live on for many generations to come. I just have the wish that things -- as many things are developing rapidly to appease consumer demand and new-found entrance into the country --develop as they should, at a slower pace and without the use of diesel motors.
7:30am a cold, blanketed, misty morning on Inle Lake. We rode through the small canal towards the wide mouth of the lake.
Fisherman on Inle Lake, Myanmar
An Intha man maneuvers his row boat on the waters of Inle Lake carefully using one leg, allowing him to steer through the heavily hyacinth weeded zones while spotting fish bubbles from above.
Houses on stilts, Inle Lake, Myanmar
Looking towards the mountains. Inle Lake. Vegetation is everywhere. Inle Lake is also home to floating gardens, which supply nearly the entire country with fresh year-round tomatoes.
One of the lake's many markets - the '5 day market' in particular brings ethnic minority groups to sell goods and trade.
The next three photographs I share not only because I find them very interesting and poignant, but because there was something strange about the ambiance when they were taken. We have a hunch that these families are paid by a "higher power" --likely the government or municipality-- to stand wading, waiting in their "typical fishing" boats, solely for the sake of tourism. When we arrived it was exciting, new and magical --the image we had seen on tourism posters and propaganda was exactly that-- however, as our motor boat lurked past these harmless fisherman and their families, their faces told a different story. Nearly four hours later, the same boats were wading in the same water, adjacent to the mouth of the canal headed towards Nyaung Shwe. During the previous portion of our time on the lake we didn't see a similar situation; all fisherman seemed to fish alone, and the large net visible below was not customary to the practicing fisherman. I don't know the truth, but I can only assume that somewhere along the balance between maintaining a traditional way of life and coercive attempts at bringing in tourism money, someone got left out in the fog.
Silhouette on Inle Lake, Myanmar
Villagers and tourists coincide unexpectedly for a ceremony at the temple. Inle Lake, Myanmar.
Stupas. Inle Lake, Myanmar
We breathed a few sighs of relief as we were finally surrounded by a situation that seemed impromptu.
Vendors at the 5 day market.
A silk factory. Inle Lake, Burma.
Silk machines, violescent scarves and the lotus stem fabric only sold throughout Inle Lake.