“Inle Lake, 7:30am”
Inle Lake, Myanmar. November 2019. (12 photos)
Inle Lake is a freshwater lake cradled by the hills of Shan State, Myanmar. It is the second largest lake in Myanmar and sits at an elevation of 880m. During the dry season, the average water depth is 2.1m, but during the rainy season this can increase by 1.5m. The lake is a world of floating gardens and villages built on stilts. Floating land created from dried and hardened weeds and floating hyacinth secure the floating huts and bamboo villages to one fixed spot. Traditional silversmithing and weaving thrives in this area. It is one of Myanmar’s most iconic locations.
The Intha people (meaning “children of the lake”) are members of a Tibeto-Burman ethnic group living around/on Inle Lake.
Most transportation on the lake is traditionally by small boats, or by longer flat-bottomed boats fitted with ‘long-tail’ motors that are necessary because of the usual shallowness of the lake. The local Intha fishermen are well known for practicing a distinctive rowing style.
Standing at the stern of their boat in a flamingo-like pose on one leg, they wrap their other leg around an oar and push in a circular direction to move their boat.
“Up close and personal”
This unique rowing style evolved because 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 for submerged obstacles. At the same time they can keep watch for the bubbles from shoals of fish. Rowing this way also frees their hands and allows them to handle the fishing nets, which can be quite bulky and heavy when catching large fish. However, the leg rowing style is only practiced by the Intha men.
“At the end of the rainbow”
He was kind enough to catch a fish in the traditional way as I watched on. The rainbow was a bonus.
“Through the net”
These days the old traditional ways of fishing have been replaced by more modern techniques, but there are still locals who demonstrate the old ways to interested people in passing boats. They have certain demonstrations and poses they go through. Fortunately they were obliging in letting me get the photos I wanted.
Images of the Intha fishermen of Inle Lake have graced numerous postcards and photo pages, including the cover of the 2017 Myanmar Lonely Planet guidebook. The leg-rowing tradition is an important part of the Intha heritage.
Here are a few more of the more than 600 photos I took over a couple of different days, although I have since culled/deleted about 200 of those photos.
“Rays of light”
There are cheroot producing home industries in villages along the lake.
“Parley on the Inle”
“Intha fishermen of Inle Lake”
“Intha fisherman of Inle Lake”