Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Myanmar (Burma) Inle Lake

The web is a vast enclcylopedia, so here's an excerpt from www.visit-mekong.com I'll follow that with a couple of quick observations and our "monk" story.

At 875 metres above sea level, Inle Lake is still surrounded by high hills that help to keep the waters calm and the lake area misty. The huge and beautiful lake does not only contain a marvelous microcosm of aquatic life, but is also surrounded by a harmonious blend of national races. 22 km long and 11 km wide, Inle Lake is home to 70,000 Bamar, Danaw, Danu, Intha, Kayah, Pa-O, Shan, and Taung-yo peoples, among others - roughly half of the areas population.

Of these groups, one of the largest is the non-indigenous Intha, who live in 17 stilted villages around the lake. They are said to have migrated from Dawei, in southern Myanmar, in the late 1300s. Most are involved in fishing for the local carp and other freshwater fish that are abundant in the lake with cone shaped nets. The Inthas are renowned for rowing their flat-bottomed boats from the stern with one leg, so that they can watch for shoals of fish, and avoid the large clumps of water hyacinth and low-lying islands that are scattered about Inle.

Inle Lake also supports a thriving farming community that produces a wide range of vegetables and flowers, and rice is cultivated at the northern end of the lake on extremely fertile floating islands. The local men also produce silver and brassware, pottery and lacquerware, while the lake's womenfolk are highly skilled silk weavers. The area is the second largest producer of silk products in the country.

Many of the garments produced by the local women find themselves in use at the yearly Phaung Daw U and Waso festivals, which run concurrently in September and October. During the former, sacred statues from Phaung Daw U Paya are rowed around the lake to bless the local monasteries, and bring prosperity to the hard-working local communities of Inle Lake.

Okay...that's the book part. For us, staying at the Golden Isles cottage "resort" on stilts on the lake looked like the perfect way to spend some relaxing time watching the water drift by and taking day trips to the local villages and stilt towns.

What we weren't prepared for was the "Wailing Mosque" or so we thought. Having lived in Qatar for 2 years at around 5 p.m. from across the waters we heard a blood curdling wail, which sounded like the call to prayers in the Middle East. Well, we know we weren't there, so maybe this was some chant from one of the temples. It shortly ended. Or so we thought.

Then we heard it at 9 pm. Then at 1 a.m. . Okay...it'll end soon. NOT. Then at 3 a.m.

The next time talking to a fellow teacher, Rachel, we remarked. "Gee you think someone would have told us about the noise from the village across the lake. How can they call this a "resort'?

During the day we were far away and about, so no "call to mosque".

Ah, but that night. Yup. at 5 p.m. Then about 9pm...1 a.m. 3 a.m. I slept with my BOSE sound deadening headphones on AND THAT DIDN'T HELP.

So off Sue goes to find out what the noise is about. "Oh that. You are very lucky. You are here during a monk's novitiation. This only happens a few times a year."

Seems that the village calls everyone around for miles to come and share in the celebration. Only happens when school is out. Or when we're at the resort!

Even with that this was a place not to be missed. Besides the friendliness of the people, seeing a completely different way of life was eye opening. Life is life no matter where you go......the trappings may be different, but you can see the same emotions that make us who we are.

Double left click on an image to enlarge it in a separate window.


joy said...

I have such an itch to travel and your descriptive writing and outstanding photos are making me itchier for sure!
Please keep it up.

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sean said...

I thought I would also post a reply to your blog. Your blog reminds me of our family website. We are more months behind that you are. I really dig the photos. I sold my bike and bought a Mountain Bike. I still don't ride. If you have a phone number we will call you.

Isi and Chris are well. We are leaving this year and with a bit of luck we will be with you next year.


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