Thursday, January 28, 2010

Life on Inle Lake

Between a ridge of mountains, on the Eastern side of Myanmar, lies a long and shallow lake divided into two parts. Like all lakes in temperate climes, it is home to many people on its shores. Inle is unique in that it has communities living on the lake in stilt homes and artificial islands.

Another unusual characteristic of Inle is the lack of wind. You might see at least one sailboat on any other good-size lake, but not on Inle. To get around here you need an engine or a paddle. The Inle people have developed an unusual paddling technique. By standing and wrapping a leg around the paddle, they can get additional leverage denied to a seated rower. The standing position also enables them to see over the low vegetation separating many of the canals, making it easier to navigate.

A man demonstrates the leg rowing technique.

Fishing, naturally, is the principle pastime of the lake people. In addition to traditional method of catching fish such as nets and lures, the shallow water provides for another technique. When a fisherman spots movement in the water, he will drop a cone shaped basket over the area and spear the fish on a pole.

This young man is pleased to display his recent catch.

Fishing this way can be an individual undertaking, one boat stalking individual fish, or a group effort when several men try to herd the animals.

One of the more curious fishing expeditions I witnessed on the lake brought the workers a boat-load of ... mud.

By the time they are done, the boat is full to the gunwale with heavy mud.

Using baskets on long poles, they dredge up the rich sediment mud on the lake bottom. This is used to fertilize their gardens. Of course, they don't exactly have normal gardens in the lake. While some homes have small island plots, most create floating rafts of vegetation to grow produce for the markets. These are arranged in neat rows and staked to the lake bed with long poles. The farmers attend to their crop by canoe.

A boy makes his way from the floating gardens beside his home.

The homes on the lake are typically modest. They are constructed with bamboo framework covered by woven mat walls and a thin thatched roof. There are many solid wood homes and businesses on the lake as well, but the bamboo hut is the most prevalent.

Drying shallots.

Paddling past one of the grand old homes of Ywama village.

Walk to school? Not in Inle!

There are many, many more photos of Inle Lake here.

1 comment:

Richard Veronneau said...

The photos are awful, merely snapshots without the least sense of composition, but the comments are highly interesting.