Yesterday we spent a full day on a narrow longboat cruising the lake and myriad canals that finger out in the south-western area of the lake. Fisherman dot the waterways but there were also many who were not fishing but clearing the water hyacinth that is seriously invading the lake. Like many other fresh water lakes in the world this rapid infestation is caused by farming on the surrounding land. Fertilizer and livestock poop runoff feeds the plants to the point that the lake is being choked and if not controlled will probably lead to the destruction of the small fishery that exists on the lake and the eventual death of any life save the hyacinths. This is not exclusive to Myanmar. Where I grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Lake Winnipeg, among the largest fresh water lakes in the world is now severely threatened by the same cause. It doesn’t matter if you are 1st world or 3rd world, developed or not, this is a serious world-wide issue that needs immediate attention and probably radical solutions to reverse this course of destruction. Sorry to sound so gloomy.
The lake is 22 km long and 10 km wide and is located in central Myanmar. It is fringed by floating marshes and floating gardens. Stilt house villages rise above the water and along with fishing, handicrafts, silk and lotus weavers and silversmiths add to the lake based economy. Our first stop after about a 45 minute ride through the lake and then a winding twisting canal was the village of Indein which is famous for it’s crumbling groups of ancient pagodas, Nyaung Oak, and Shwe Inn Thein Paya noted for the 100’s of densely packed stupas.
Shwe Inn Thein Paya Pagoda
Our final stop before heading back to our departure jetty was Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery. At over 200 years old, it is the oldest and largest in the Inle Lake region. It is built on wooden stilts and is set among floating gardens.It is also known as the “Cat Monastery”. The monks trained cats to jump through hoops when boredom set in but apparently this tradition has faded and we didn’t see one cat. The wooden monastery houses a collection of Buddha images in Shan, Tabetan, Bagan and Inwa styles. On our way we navigated through a mesh of canals passing Shan and Intha villages on the banks.