“Inle Lake, 7:30am”

Inle Lake, Myanmar. November 2019. (12 photos)

This is Part 4 of my posts about Myanmar, and Part 6 of my posts about my near month-long visit to Myanmar, Thailand and Singapore in November 2019.

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.

“Local Intha”

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These days the old traditional ways of fishing have been replaced by more modern techniques, but there are still locals who demonstrate the old ways to interested people in passing boats.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.

“Balancing act”

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”

“Cheroot time”

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”


This is Part 4 of my posts about Myanmar, and Part 6 of my posts about my near month-long visit to Myanmar, Thailand and Singapore in November 2019.

Leica Etcetera, Photography Etcetera

Intha Fishermen of Inle Lake


64 thoughts on “Intha Fishermen of Inle Lake

    • Thank you, Lisa. It was interesting to watch them demonstrating the traditional techniques, and I was quite surprised when he did actually catch a fish. πŸ™‚ The fishing nets became a useful photographic tool. It was a lot of fun.

    • I remember you telling me that. I was grateful for those early morning clouds and even more so when they didn’t pour rain on me. I spent 2 days on a longboat motoring around Inle Lake. Rain would have been annoying but wouldn’t have stopped me. πŸ™‚

  1. You’ve captured that moment on Inle Lake beautifully. The fishermen have a graceful way of working, quite like dancing, and I find your pictures particularly artful to show the beauty of their daily life.

    Myanmar has a way to show daily lives on a very special and different perspective.

  2. Alexandra says:

    It’s like they are dancing gracefully and with so much dedication… πŸ™‚ beautiful captures, Lignum, great story telling as always, the compositions in your photos are insane…

  3. Your photos are always wonderful, but the through the net ones are really special and the first one of those two is just marvelous. What a fascinating post! Do they always use the same leg? If so, it must mean they have one leg much more muscular than the other. Loved this!


    • Thank you very much, Janet. The nets offer an interesting visual perspective. Mind you, it was very hard to be sitting in one boat and leaning over to stick my camera into the net on the other boat and get the photos. But I managed not to fall in so I’m happy. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      I’ve looked through my photos and realised each individual fisherman uses the same leg. I suppose they’re either left-legged or right-legged. One leg pushing the oar and one tense to maintain balance – I guess there would be a difference in muscle development.

    • Thanks, Jo. It wasn’t easy leaning over the edge of my boat to put my camera in their net to take a photo, all the while with both boats rocking. There was great potential for disaster. LOL. But hey, I’ll do whatever it takes to get the photo. πŸ™‚

  4. Looks halfway between ballet and a musical. I low how the colours are just perfect, how the fishermen’s β€œuniforms” are the only drop of colour against a background of greys. LD you’re an inspiration!

  5. Your photographs are spectacular. I’m not surprised that they did catch a fish, as I really got the impression when I was there that has become an act they simply put on for the tourists. I’m glad they indulged you. You clearly also had a patient boat driver. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks, I’m guessing they have certain demonstrations/acts they go through, as it is for the benefit of tourists. Despite that it was good to watch and photograph, much like everything in Myanmar was.

    • Thanks. I’ve seen photos taken of the fishermen in summer, and they wear the same pants with t-shirts. I don’t know if the jackets are traditional or not, but they make for good photos. πŸ™‚

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