20141114-IMG_8967Life on Inle Lake is so foreign that it almost feels like another world.  

The local cultural oddities and unique ways of providing opened my eyes and brought me far out of my element.  

It is the exact kind of place I love to explore.

The local high mountain fishing villages are mostly built on the water, so everyone needs a boat to get around.  The houses are built on ancient wooden beams and vine covered temples appear on swaths of land dotted throughout the area.

A rich weave of tradition, history, and shocking modern elements make Inle lake one of the most unique cultures in Asia. Here are the 10 elements that I found most interesting about this far off land.

The Top 10 Experiences of Inle Lake, Myanmar

1. The Water Villages

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Life on the water is calm and beautiful.

Floating gardens of flowering water lilies bob against ancient teak supports, and the green water grasses that surround the houses sway with the current.  

Paddling through the small canals, and marveling at the quaint beauty of the wooden houses, I could see how the villagers are so content to live here.  

2. The Villagers

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Even though Inle Lake is small and distant, there are a surprising amount of cultures and people to be found.

One of my favorites are the long-necked women from the Paduang Tribe.  They are more than happy to take a photo with you, as long as you follow my photography tips for taking pictures of locals.  

The happy children playing in the streets, boats full of monks on their way to pray and the famous one-legged fisherman all contribute to the unique and diverse nature of Inle Lake.

3. The Markets

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Inle lake has some of the most unique and diverse markets of anywhere in Myanmar, with a plethora of locally made goods and artifacts to browse. Some of the more interesting pieces I discovered were images of Buddah inked on the back of ancient bamboo scripts and intricate wooden carvings for every taste and style.

The food markets are a pleasure to browse as well, with an eye-opening variety of spices, dried fish and produce.

4. The Water Farms

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These were truly something extraordinary. For as far as the eye could see, place-holding bamboo sticks emerged from floating gardens of vegetables. The endless green harmonized with the soft splash of water as we silently rowed our boat through hidden canals.

The rich variety of food grown here and the unique ways of harvesting it from boats made these farms one of my favorite memories from Inle Lake.

5. The High Mountain Cigars

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These unique cigars are a local favorite.  The tobacco is brought down fresh from the surrounding mountains and wrapped in a green tobacco leaf. Most boat tours will make a stop at the production headquarters where you can sample them for free…but be warned! The locals smoke them like they are nothing, but don’t let that fool you.  I tried one and felt buzzed for half of the day!

6. The Textile Industry

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The thriving textile industry was a very interesting addition to the diverse culture at Inle lake.  The whole scene was a bit touristy, but it was very cool to learn about the process from one of the free guided tours. The threads are spun from lotus root fibers and weaved into intricate designs using ingenious hand powered weaves.

We wanted to buy one of the finished products but the price was a little out of our budget.

7. The Wine Industry

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The thriving wine industry was definitely the most surprising discovery about Inle Lake culture!  We could not believe our eyes when we first saw the modern winery with acres of vineyards.

Red Mountain Estate Winery offers free tours daily and is generally agreeable to the public walking around on their own.  The beautifully polished wine tanks and the complex bottling machine are very cool. The wine itself was not amazing, but the scenery and the price made it a very nice way to watch the sunset, but go early if you want to catch a table outside! 

8. The Stupas

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Inle Lake has no shortage of religious history, or the structures that go along with it.  One of my favorite complexes in all of Myanmar can be found at Indein Village. The original temples are quickly being renovated, but the shear number and location of the stupas make for an amazing half hour of view finding.

 9. The Lake

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Of course, it’s worth mentioning the magnificent lake that gives Inle its title.  The water is filled with all kinds of different environments, which makes it very interesting to explore.

The middle is a massive deep water dream with gorgeous mountains rising on all sides. Just outside, seaweed and fresh water flowers bob up down, creating an interesting texture on and under the water. There are an almost endless number of little bays, rivers, and canals to explore via boat. Some sections of the lake are closed to tourists unless you obtain a special permit ahead of time.

10. The One-Legged Fishermen

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Seeing the one legged fisherman was arguably my favorite experience while visiting Inle Lake.  This unique style of fishing is brilliant because it allows the local fisherman two hands to cast their nets while maneuvering their boats.  

It is a beautiful way of working. The balance and coordination needed to manage the process left us awestruck.  Several times, we were sure they would fall into the water, but they managed to keep their graceful positions every time.

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Inle lake is one of the most beautiful and exciting places to visit in Myanmar!  These were just a few of many experiences that made it a special trip for me. What local experience are you most excited to have in Inle Laky Myanmar?