Monday, February 23: At around noon, we head to the Eyeful Lake Restaurant for lunch.
I have some lovely views of the activity on the lake from the open air restaurant.
The restaurant is quite lovely, but I have to say that what I ordered wasn’t anything special. I had sea bass with cashew nuts; the fish was very strong-smelling and overcooked.
I did however enjoy the crunchy appetizer with its dipping sauce.
I enjoy watching the activity on the lake. The locals seem to always be harvesting grass or weeds. At first I didn’t know why they were doing this, whether they were just weeding their floating gardens or putting the weeds to some use. Later, I find that farmers gather up lake-bottom weeds from the deeper parts of the lake, bring them back in boats and make them into floating beds in their garden areas, anchored by bamboo poles. These gardens rise and fall with changes in the water level, and so are resistant to flooding. The constant availability of nutrient-laden water results in these gardens being incredibly fertile (Wikipedia: Inle Lake).
Finally, we take off from the Eyeful Lake Restaurant and head somewhere else. It’s fun on this voyage because I never really know where I’m going; I just put myself into the boatman’s hands. Wherever he drops me ends up being a delightful experience.
We take the wide channel north to Tha Lay, where we make a stop at Phaung Daw Oo Paya, the holiest religious site in southern Shan State.
Phaung Daw Oo Paya is a huge tiered pagoda.
The center shrine in the main hall of Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda houses five small golden Buddha images. The Buddha images have been covered with so many gold leaves that it is impossible to see their original structure (Inle Lake Tourism: Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda). Only men are allowed to apply the gold leaves.
We take off from the pagoda and head into the town of Heyar Yawrma, passing long tail boats loaded with cargo.
At Heyar Yawrma, which is one of the more developed towns for tourism on the lake, we stop at a silver shop, where I can’t resist buying a silver necklace!
Then we go into a weaving shop run by the Kayan (Padaung) Tribe. The Padaung are best known for its women who wear brass rings around their necks, arms and legs. They are often known as the long-neck women of Myanmar. The brass coils are first applied when the girls are about five years old, and as the girl grows older, longer coils are added. The weight of the brass pushes down the collar-bone and compresses the rib cage, making their necks appear very long (Asia Explorers: Padaung People). There are many legends associated with this practice, one being that it made the women ugly so they wouldn’t fall prey to human trafficking. One other legend is that a tribe leader had a dream where a tiger attacked children born on a Wednesday and broke their necks; as his daughter was born on a Wednesday, he started this practice.
Girls start to wear the necklaces at age five. The more laces are worn, the longer their necks are. A female adult may have up to 35 necklaces; they can’t take them off or their neck will be easily broken. The Padaung consider the longer neck they have, the more elegant they are. Unlike any women in the world, the Padaung long neck women are happy with their special “fashion” (Exotic Voyages: Long Neck Tribe in Inle Lake).
I can’t imagine living day-to-day wearing these brass necklaces without a break, or not being able to take them off at night while sleeping. I would think the women would be miserable, much like the Chinese women who had their feet bound.
I can’t help but take a picture of this tourist trying on one of the hats in the shop.
We leave the town of Heyar Yawrma and head back into the open lake. Here I see more locals and tourists and fishermen buzzing around the lake.
The iconic image found at Inle Lake is that of the local fishermen with their conical nets and their distinctive rowing style; this involves standing at the stern on one leg and wrapping the other leg around the oar. This unique style evolved for the reason that the lake is covered by reeds and floating plants making it difficult to see above them while sitting. Standing provides the rower with a view beyond the reeds. However, the leg rowing style is only practiced by the men (Wikipedia: Inle Lake).
We return to Nyaungshwe at around 3:00. I’ve been out and about the lake since before dawn. I return to my room, where I take a nap. Later, I rent a bicycle for $1 and go to Lin Htett Myanmar Food, which has been recommended. I have vegetable curry with accompaniments. I think the serving is meant for a crowd; I can eat only a small portion of the meal.
Stuffed, I then go to the Aung Puppet Show at 7:00. We are locked into a small space to watch the show, and I can’t help but feel a little claustrophobic. The puppets do several song and dance routines for about a half-hour.
I’m pretty exhausted after the puppet show, so I go back to my room to call it a night. Tomorrow, I’ll ride my bicycle around town to check out the Mingala Market and take another boat to Inthein.