Thursday, 9 March 2017

A long ride up Inle Lake

A perk of getting up before 6 am, the chance to see the sun rise!  Up early and on the bikes to get the ride in before it became too hot.

We went out and up the lake in the morning mist, catching the early fishermen

and those on their way to work in the cane fields.

The laundry had already been done and hung out to dry

whilst the field work was done.  Chrysanthemums for the temple being delicately pinched out and bullocks harnesses to a plough preparing the field for the new sugar cane crop.  It's all hard labour under the sun.

And the man in charge of keeping us in order this fortnight is Alex, our Burmese cycling leader. He knows the route like the back of his hand, so when we pull up for a re fueling stop everything is ready for us, water, rehydration, local fruits, peanut brittle and biscuits to smack on.  

Often there time for a quick photo shoot if there's a handy stupa by the side of the road.  I just hope this is meaningful Burmese and nothing rude....

There's lots of gold on the stupa, but often it's the mundane I find just, if not more, fascinating.  This humble broom isn't just bound together with string but an intricately woven pattern.  It's a piece of art itself, but I wonder how many stop to look?

No, this isn't a local snack but in actuality it's the biggest cause of mouth cancer in Myanmar - betel nut and tobacco wrapped up to chew. 

There are many quirky and facinating sides to this country. I thought the little stands I saw dotted around were selling drinks or oils.  But no, this is a petrol-convinience.  Motorbike or work truck need topping up. Grab the funnel and glut some more fuel in?  Not a fire extinguisher or sand bucket in sight.

The locals also like to see what photographs we're taking, especially if it's of them!

Our destination is Inthein on the western banks of Inle Lake.  We runs the gauntlet of tourist stalls to lunch first of all.

Although I have to admit I was seriously tempted by the colourful baskets...

and the scarves ( note to self: do you really need more scarves?)

Now, the puppets look interesting too...

But we're walking in, past a family having lunch

a lady collecting firewood

and a monk catching his breath, we have a place to go.

But there's time to capture the local vernacular,

be morbidly amazed by some traditional mountain tribe ceramonial head dress ( don't worry, they're pig's teeth)

and admire some wood carving.

But once again it's the baskets that capture my eye.  I've not succumbed yet.

But this is what we'd really come to see, Inthein - an intricate pagoda complex which has hundreds of Shan style stupas clustered together on the hillside.  

On the lower slopes years of decline have allowed the forest to start reclaiming the site, so it felt as though we'd stepped into an Indiana Jones film.  Scroll on down to take a tour with me...

Half way up we slipped our shoes off to enter the pagoda, 

there was the expected silver

and fairy lights.  But even in this day and age some are still not allowed.

Still the walls inside were amazing, being entirely mirrored with intricate tessalating designs.

The monks selection of brooms were picturesque too I their own special way

and so were the shutters too.

But round the corner and up some steps this sight awaited...

Isn't it amazing? It was almost too much to take in.

We made our way back down to the river, where daily. Horses were being down.  These two girls are busy laundering the restaurant napkins from lunch tome.  See their face paint? It's the traditional bark paste they use to keep their skin cool and protect it from the sun.

More washing to be done,

or just larking around enjoying yourself while mum does the laundry.

We boarded some traditional boats to go out into the lake area and back down to our hotel.

We floated down stream, past more laundry being done,

loads being carried

And just simply watching life go by.

The people have lived and worked on the lake for many generations.  Their houses are built on stilts

and their transport is still a long shallow boat ( the lake really isn't that deep)

They have even produced floating allotments by using the abundant water hyacinth as a subbase and layering fertile soil on top.

A lot of menfolk also work the hundreds of tourist boats, ferrying the likes of me across the lake.

But the most famous feature of this lake are the leg- rowing fishermen.  They stand holding their nets and caste them in the lake whilst standing holding the long paddle in one ha switch their leg wrapped around the paddle lower down.  This unique style evolved as the lake is covered by reeds and floating plants which make it difficult to see above them whilst sitting.

Once we reach dry land once again I snap a quick pic of the door grill, much to the amusement of the locals!

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