Inle Lake

The pull of Inle Lake – hard to leave!

Inle Lake was where we finished our hike, so we finished walking, stepped into our boat and motored our way across the freshwater lake.  The second largest in Myanmar with a surface area of around 116 square kms, we had a peaceful ride for around an hour.  It was our first glimpse of the traditional fisherman, who deftly manipulate a large conical bamboo basket, oars and fishing lines, while balanced on one foot on the bow of their boats.  Quite a feat with their feet!

Inle Lake

Inle Lake

Inle Lake

Fisherman, Inle Lake

After a couple of days hiking, and a night at the monastery offering very simple accommodation, we were a little grimy to say the least.  So pulling into the luxurious Sanctum Resort was just what we needed.  Set in spacious beautiful gardens on the shores of the lake, it was stunning.  I was definitely looking forward to a few days here.

Inle Lake

The Sanctum Inle Resort

Inle Lake

Sunset at the Sanctum Inle Resort

Inle Lake

No complaints about my room at the Sanctum Inle Resort

Every day we had a new boating adventure.  By boat is the main form of transport for locals and tourists alike.  The lake itself is home to numerous villages, many with their own specialties.  We visited artisan villages specialising in silver and gold smithing, silk-weaving, boat-building; others made rice crackers, tofu crackers, molasses or even cheroots!  There are huge floating gardens growing tomatoes hydroponically – giant floating football fields which was fascinating.

Inle Lake

Village life, Inle Lake

Inle Lake

Tending to the floating gardens

Inle Lake

Market day, Inle Lake

Inle Lake

Silk-weaving, Inle Lake

I loved it all so much that I didn’t really want to leave, and Inle Lake seemed to know this and tried to help me in my quest. At one point, I thought I would be overnighting on an open boat in the middle of Inle Lake, trapped by tiny floating islands.  One afternoon we were returning by boat using the same route that we had used in the morning.  However during the day hundreds of plants had floated in and covered the lake.  Soon the boat was surrounded by mangroves and unable to move in any direction.

Our boat driver, Lee, and our guide, Hein, tried to push us through the floating jungle and find a way through.  It was surreal – we were surrounded by what looked like plants and solid ground, but it was water and we were stuck.  After about 40 minutes of watching Lee and Hein working and pushing out the plants, we were finally headed back to our hotel – a cocktail by the pool was calling my name!

The next day Inle Lake had one final shot.  We pulled up in the boat to the outskirts of a village, I got out of the boat and walked across the grassy dirt mound towards the path.  Or so I thought.  Instead it seemed I’d found a particularly sticky quick-sand-like mud. Before I knew it I was stuck in the mud nearly to my thighs.  Lee and Hein looked alarmed, meanwhile (and to their relief), I couldn’t stop laughing.  They grabbed my arms and hauled me out, guiding me towards the real terra firma.  Lee valiantly plunged his arms into the dense sticky mud up to his shoulders to rescue my shoes, which had been sucked off my feet as they pulled me out.  I bet not every traveller gets such an overwhelming pull to stay at Inle Lake!

However sometimes it’s the things that don’t go completely to plan that make a lasting travel memory.  I’m not sure I’ll ever forget the image of being on a boat, effectively land-locked and surrounded by plants but unable to escape the water.  As for the mud – I like to hope that it was very special mud which does magical things for your skin.  Well, a girl can hope.

Inle Lake

Near Inle Lake

Inle Lake

Hein, our lovely guide, in traditional clothing from his local tribe, the Intha

Inle Lake

Traditional fisherman on Inle Lake

Inle Lake

Inle Lake

Inle Lake

Inle Lake traffic

Inle Lake

Traditional fisherman, Inle Lake

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