I need to backtrack a couple of days because I am behind in my journal. Our drive to Inlay Lake from Bagan revealed to me the differences in rainfall and consequently the ability of the people here to grow food. Once again for me I could see a continuing theme of survival – and just ‘getting on with it’.
Everywhere I looked people were doing their thing… working in the fields; working in the shops; carrying large loads on their head; steering cattle–carts; tending grazing roaming cattle or goats; riding motor-cycles to somewhere – but it seemed as if it was with a distinct purpose.
The number of motorcycles here is astonishing, and with the roads in poor condition I’m finding it far more stressful driving here than along the winding steep slopes in Bhutan…and even in the chaos of India. Granted I have some issues with motorbikes …. but honestly, this is really challenging driving with motorbikes and bullock carts and pushbikes and trucks; all trying to stay on the narrow piece of bitumen… and no-one moves off the broken edge on to the dirt. My job is to say either ‘Yes’ or “No” for Max to pass… and I am fully employed doing that!!!
We drove through the flat low-land land where everything looked hungry….the monks were skinny… the people looked frail….. …. the crops were stunted… the dogs were skinny… the cattle were bony… and the soil looked hungry. Everything seemed to struggle…but keep going on… keeping striving to survive.
There were so many things on this drive to the east…. People heating white powdery lime dug from the limestone hills; piles of chillies drying in the sun; clumps of bananas dangling in a single line at the front of a roadside stall; temples emerging from the bushes; the mountains where the country became lush and soil more fertile; trucks loaded with cabbages and cauliflowers…and where the highland air was cooler.
I have made a wonderful visual diary of the drive from Bagan to Inlay Lake and because I am playing catch up with my journal I have just mentioned the things I saw quickly; and you can pop to this link to journey with me and see them for yourself.
Inlay Lake was amazing. I was a little unsure of what to expect because of the tourism in the area; but Inlay Lake is a fully functioning, living community on the water….where the boats are not only used for transporting tourists but primarily in the everyday life of the local tribes and communities.
Our beautiful long boat had four wooden framed chairs with padding and a floral blanket….I think a lifejacket was under the blanket if I recall correctly….. and a bottle of water and face towel under the arm rest… and a blue and purple flowered umbrella on the side – just in case we needed protection form the wind or spray from another boat. Our boat didn’t have a ‘rooster tail’ like some of the other craft…. As we went a little more slowly that the others, which gave me a good opportunity to look at everything as we cruised past.
Our wonderful guide Tin, organized a fabulous day for us. This area was not only beautiful; but absolutely fascinating. Homes are on stilts. Gardens are floating. Men paddle using one leg whilst standing. Seagulls flew above the boats as they travelled the canals and waterways. It is a truly unique place whose foundations are fluid and aligned so closely with the elements of the weather.
The poise demonstrated by the fishermen who stand on one leg and with another maneuvering a large paddle; and operating a long gill net with both arms; is remarkable. Large cone shaped fish baskets silhouetted atop of dark long thin boats. I saw perhaps a hundred fishermen with nets and yet not one fish being caught. Life here although not dry and hungry like the lowlands; seemed here to not be any easier. The challenge to catch and grow enough food is still the same.
Boats constantly traversed the lake with locals carrying goods too and from their homes and gardens. The gardens are difficult to describe and best looked at in my photographs. Tomatoes; choko’s; watercress; cucumbers; all varieties of greens; bananas…. And so many more varieties of vegetables were all growing on what seemed to be elongated floating gardens where the lapping of the water was buffered by hyacinth and elephant ear type plants.
Local crafts have expanded to meet the tourist demand, but the industries are also providing products and services for the local communities. We visited a weaving centre, which was fascinating; and I learned how one of the three lotus plants is used to make a fibre that is used in garments. We visited a blacksmith and saw the men hammering the red heated steel being hammered into shape for a scythe used in the rice fields.
There is so much more to share about Inlay Lake ….but I’m tired and perhaps a trip to the gallery might be a good idea so you can see for yourself what a fascinating place it is.
I would love to write about today’s drive from Inlay Lake to Taungoo, but I need to pop to sleep because we have another early start tomorrow. The market was wonderful; one of the best I have been to here in Myanmar so…. and the drive revealed once again the tenacity and productivity of the people who live in Myanmar. You can see all of the wonderful things I saw today by popping to this gallery….. my visual diary instead of a verbal one today.
So until next time…