Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Leg Rowing on Inle Lake

Greetings All,
We spent two days touring the fascinating sites around Inle Lake.  Our first stop was Pindaya Cave.  On the way we passed by colorful villagers on their way to market in some strange-looking contraptions.

Pa-Oh Women on the way to the Market

We stopped to visit some Danu women who were harvesting wheat by hand!  They cut the wheat with a hand sickle and tie it into small bunches to be collected later for threshing.

Danu Women Harvesting Wheat 

They work 7 hours a day with a 1-hour lunch break and make $1.30 per day.  It will take them 3 days to harvest the wheat in this field and another 2 days to thresh the wheat.

At the entrance to Pindaya Cave is a statue of a giant spider and of a man shooting an arrow at it.

Killing the Giant Spider

According to legend, 7 sisters flew (they were humans with wings) to bathe at Lake Botoloke.  A giant spider captured them and trapped them in the cave.  A handsome prince rescued them and fell in love with the youngest sister.

Inside Pindaya Cave are 8078 and counting Buddha images!  They are made from bronze, wood, marble and jade.  They date from around 1134 to the present. 

Buddha Images in Pindaya Cave

The next morning we took a boat ride on Inle Lake where the fishermen practice a unique rowing method.  They row their boats with their legs keeping their hands free to fish with nets or wicker traps.

Leg Rowing on Inle Lake

We arrived at the Nam Hu Village where the 5-day rotating market was taking place.  The market rotates through the major villages around the lake every 5 days.  The Intha in their conical bamboo hats and the Pa-Oh Ladies with their colorful headscarf's were busy selling vegetables, fruit, flowers, spices, rice, household goods, secondhand clothes and fish.

Pa-Oh Ladies Selling Beans

Many of the vegetables sold here are actually grown on the lake on floating gardens.  The locals use water hyacinth to create a floating mat onto which they pile aquatic weeds from the lake and soil to create a garden.  The garden is held into place with bamboo poles.

Floating Garden

The next day we were to visit the Shwe Inn Dain Pagoda.  On the way we stopped at some shops to meet some Padaung Ladies.  They are known for wearing brass coils around their necks which gives them the appearance of having very long necks.

Padaung Lady

They start wearing the coils around the age of 5 and as they get older the coil is replaced by a longer one and more turns are added.  The woman above is 63 years old and she is wearing 24 coils.  The neck isn't actually being stretched but the weight of the coils pushes down on the collar bone and compresses the rib cage.  We were told that this practice started to protect the women living in the forest from tigers.  Now, the young women do not want to wear the brass coils (understandably so).  They consider them ugly and fear if they wear them they will not get a husband.  The practice is being kept alive to some extent by tourism.  This Paduang lady actually lives in another village 2 days away.  She was hired by the local shop as a tourist draw.

We continued on to Indein Village which had the 5-day rotating market for that day.  Two Pa-Oh ladies were wearing their traditional dress.

Pa-Oh Ladies

We climbed a hill to the Shwe Inn Tain Pagoda.  Recently restored stupas were glistening in the morning sunshine.

Shwe Inn Tain  Pagoda

The next day it was time to head back to Yangon.  On the way to the Heho Airport we stopped at the Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery made of teak wood and with unusual oval windows.  The novice monks were learning their Buddhist teachings.  We didn't help by distracting them by taking loads of photos.

Monks at Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery

Inle Lake is a fascinating place with leg rowing fisherman, colorful markets, floating gardens and friendly ethnic people.  Once again we thank Myo Win Tun for sharing this magical place with us.

We hope all is well back home.
Peggy and Marc

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