Continuing on our journey through Myanmar, my mom and I waved good-bye to beautiful Bagan and took an eastbound hopper flight. We arrived to the HeHo airport in the Nyuangshwe district of Shan State. This area of Myanmar is nestled in the mountains near the Thai and Chinese borders. My mom and I shared a taxi with a backpacker and made our way down a windy road that ended in a completely different world. Inle Lake, our final destination on this adventure, was bursting with the culture and adventure we came to experience.Inle Lake is 13.5 miles long and seven miles wide, situated in a valley between two mountain ranges. The lake is covered with floating gardens, stilt-house villages and Buddhist temples that rise above the water. The Intha fishing community makes their way through the reeds with their boats along with their unique leg rowing, a technique you won’t see anywhere else in the world. This paradise was like nothing I had seen before and its unique traditions feel like a different world. It’s hard to believe that anything could top Bagan, but I do believe we saved the best for last.With no roads or sidewalks in the traditional sense, locals and visitors get around in one-person-wide wooden boats. The villages consist of single- and two-story wooden stilt houses with waterways in between. The over-the-water bungalows that you would expect in places like Tahiti, you’ll also find on Inle Lake for a lot less per night. There are also many villages along the coastline of the lake, which makes the lake look much bigger than it actually is. The famous “floating gardens” (kyunpaw) that the Intha create are built by collecting weeds from the surface and lashing them together to form big strips that are then anchored to the be of the lake with bamboo poles. This method provides support for the garden to rise with the fluctuating water levels, a form of sustainable agriculture very unique to this region.October to February are the peak months to visit, as temperatures are not as hot after monsoon season. As with all Asian travel during these months, be ware of Chinese New Year if you aren’t into crowds. Water levels are at their highest in October and November and flowers bloom in those times, adding gorgeous bursts of yellow to the scenery.
Due to the time limitations of our travel, I had to make a tough decision when planning this trip. I was forced to decide between visiting the coastal region of Myanmar (hello tropical vacation land!) and exploring into the depths of the Inle area. The mermaid in me journeyed toward the mountains kicking and screaming, but I must say, I am beyond satisfied with my choice. Inle Lake was mesmerizing, leaving behind an impression on my entire way of life. The community, the scenery, the history and the textiles were vibrant and expressive of a culture that has been relatively uninterrupted. I will always remember and be grateful for our glimpse into this fascinating, deeply rooted Burmese lifestyle.