Inle Lake, selected as one of the 5 best new destinations in Asia by the prestigious global magazine Conde Nast Traveller, is high on the list for those booking Myanmar nature tours and culture tours.
Inle Lake is peaceful and quiet, situated between green grassy hills in the Shan State of central Myanmar. The lake brings a natural coolness to the area, and amazing views of pristine blue water and blazing sunsets. Life on the lake is peaceful and friendly, and local culture only adds to the attraction of the lake’s natural beauty.
A natural freshwater lake, this is the second largest body of water in Myanmar, stretching over more than 100 square km at over 800 meters above sea level. The practices and characteristics of the Intha people who live around Inle Lake make it ideal for culture tours. For many visitors to Myanmar, this is one of their first destinations.
Travelling through Myanmar’s highlands in hot summer weather, you first see flamboyant trees, and as you drop into the basin around Inle Lake, you’ll notice that is it distinctly cooler than much of the surrounding area.
Exploring Inle Lake, many visitors are surprised by the local Intha people’s gardens of fruits and vegetables floating on the surface of water. The floating gardens are created by knitting the buoyant roots of water hyacinth together, adding a layer of seaweed, and topping it off with a layer of mud. People use bamboos poles to hold the gardens in place so they do not drift out into the lake. Although the garden is floating on the water, the vegetables are always in straight lines. Enough space is left between the gardens so the people can take a boat through to tend and harvest the vegetables. The rich soil around the lake supplies the nutrients for vegetables and fruits to grow. No chemical compounds or pesticides are used, so the vegetables and fruits are small, but they have a naturally sweet taste.
Surrounding the lake are several traditional trade villages focusing on weaving, metal-working or tobacco rolling. At the weaving villages, you may be surprised by the raw material used. Instead of using only cotton or silk, locals painstakingly create threads from the lotus plant. Meticulous work and great patience is required to extract silky strands from lotus stalks, spin them into stronger thread, and then weave it into colourful cloth. This type of lotus weaving produces one of the most unique cloth materials in the world.
Local people say that 8,000 lotus stalks are required to knit a piece of cloth 0.6 by 2 meters. Each step is done by hand, so the final product is quite valuable. However, many travellers are willing to buy small cloths made from lotus as souvenirs for their friends and relatives.
The Intha are also known for their unusual style of leg-rowing. This technique has the boatman standing on the stern while propelling the boat, allowing him to see over the reeds which can grow high above the water surface. This iconic image from Inle Lake, of a man wearing traditional longyi (a long dress) and standing on the boat both spreading the fishing net and rowing, has left a beautiful impression on many visitors here.
Visiting Inle Lake, tourists can not only view the lake itself and find out about the Intha culture and specialized trade villages, but also join floating markets and learn about other local peoples such as the Shan, Pa-O, Taung-Yo and Kayah.
Get in touch with Haivenu Tours for more information about what awaits you on your culture tour to Myanmar and Inle Lake!