Sunday, 17 August 2014

Indein and boating on Inle Lake

When you organise your boat trip on Inle Lake, you've got some options. You can let the boatman take you on a standard circuit which includes most of the popular places: the jumping cat monastery - whose cats have ceased jumping a couple of years ago - pagodas crowded with beggars, the floating gardens, the floating market if it's on that day, and lots of "factory" showrooms where you'll be given the option to purchase silver, cigars, laquer, etc., while your boatman takes a quick kickback. But you can also set your own itinerary and avoid the worst of the touristy stuff, if you're so inclined.

Fisherman using the traditional "leg-rowing" technique, which leaves both hands free to cast the net

I hooked up with a couple of other tourists in Nyaungshwe to hire a boat together (you pay by the boatload, not the person, so it makes economic sense to join up with other travellers if you're on you own) and we organised our own itinerary, taking in the morning at Indein, then a lazy tootle around the floating gardens, then back to town for mid-afternoon. If you decide to avoid the tourist spots that pay kickbacks, I'd suggest you keep your itinerary shorter than a full day, as your boatman will be earning less money than he normally would (because of the lack of kickbacks).

What still passes for shipping trucks in the Inle Lake region. Almost all the stilt houses we passed used solar panels for power - 20th century technology being added to a way of life that in other ways seems to have changed little.

The gardens are immensely serene, despite the noise from your boat engine. Thousands of butterflies and dragonflies flutter over floating rafts made of grasses. The rafts are used to grow tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and other local produce. You'll also see many birds in the floating gardens, and bunches of purple water hyacinth. It's absolutely lovely.

Farmer in the floating gardens, just before it started to rain (again)

When you arrive at Indein (aka Inthein), you'll pass through the market and small town first. When you see the long covered walkway, leading up the hill and covered in souvenir sellers (plus the obligatory "local entry fee") you'll know you're in the right spot. But don't take the walkway all the way up to the main pagoda at the top. Instead, get off the walkway and explore either side.
Elephant trunks over the doorway

You'll find weathered and crumbling old stupas by the dozen, by the hundred. Most are falling to bits and slowly being reclaimed by the jungle creepers. Glance through doorways and above the doors to spot murals, serenely decaying Buddhas, and carvings of chinthe (lion-like guardians) and pyinsa rupa (chimaras that are part elephant, lion, buffalo, fish and hinthar - a type of duck).

ruined stupa in Indein

Buddha in a ruined temple, Indein

murals in indein
Murals in one of the ruined stupas

You could easily spend hours here, exploring the monuments that cover the hillside. When you're exhausted, there are small cafes/restaurants down in the town to get some refreshments. You might even make a new friend.....
Small puppy took a liking to my feet. Can I keep him?

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