Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Day 8 -- A Day On The Lake

We started, as we usually do, by visiting the local market. To get there we again crossed the hyacinth-dotted lake, passing by a number of local fisherman using the traditional cone-shaped nets, which are becoming more and more rare (or so says out guide). We eventually reached the small but interesting market. What separated it from the others that we've been to is that, in addition to the locals, several stalls were manned by Pa-Oh women, one of the local hill tribes. They dress in black, with orange or red head scarves, and their faces are rounder than those of the local population, a bit more tibetan, which is where the tribe originated. From where they live now, it is evidently a 4 hour journey to get to Inle. The market used to be a floating one, but it no longer is, which is a shame, because the floating markets I've seen before, in Thailand and Kashmir, were really beautiful affairs.

After the market we headed for In Dein, a village on the furthest end of the lake. This was really a fascinating site to walk through, with hundreds of old brick stupas and temples in various states of decay and reconstruction. Each temole almost felt like its own discovery, as you looked inside to see how much of the Buddha was left, and how much had crumbled or been overtaken by trees. As in Heho, many of the temples had old paintings on the walls inside. Interestingly, all of these figured, both the Buddhas and the drawings are all smiling, a trait of Shan buddhist images. Inle must have always been a happy place. At the top of the village was a large temple of little note, but clearly renovated.

Then it was back down to one of the villages, where we made a quick stop at the home of a family from a different hill tribe, whose name escapes me at the moment. But it is a tribe that stretches their necks with heavy metal coils, making the women into human giraffes. It was quite uncomfortable being there, both because of the strangeness of the neck brace, and because it was like looking at people in a zoo. But, they have chosen to come to Inle to do their weaving and show the visitors a bit of their lives, and evidently it is much preferable to the mountains from which many have been forced out and now live as refuges.

Then it was time for lunch at a restaurant overlooking the lake's main pagoda, Phaung Daw Oo, best known for the fact that it's five small Buddhas have been so covered in gold leif by worshippers that they are now merely blobs of gold. Evidently, these blobs of gold are taken out on a huge barge, not unlike the one we saw in Yangon, once a year for a major festival that involves boat races and boat parades.

Our final stop before returning to the hotel was to Nga Hpe Chaung Monastery. Known for some reason for its cats that jump through hoops, Ellery loved it because of the newborn kittens who took to her; I liked it because the Buddhas inside, as well as the decoration, was some of the most beautiful we've seen, very intricate and delicate, and adorned with glass and jewels.

After a brief break, Ellery and I took a brief walk to the village that sits about a mile inland from the hotel. It was a nice walk (did I mention that it's at least 29 degrees cooler here than anywhere else we've been) and we were able to stop in at what appeared to be one family's living complex. There was a fairly large area where corn was being grown and several buildings, each of which seemed to have its own purpose (kitchen, horse stable, trainers, etc.). The people were very friendly and invited us for tea. And they were fascinated by Ellery's braces; I think they didn't know if they were decorative or not, and as they spoke no English it took quite some time to explain what they were for.

So, tomorrow we leave Myanmar and head to Thailand. It's been a great trip so far, and a country I'm glad we came to see.