Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Inle and Beyond

I started this trip sick and haven’t quite caught up to my narration. Plus, Primo and Prima set a brisk pace of fun. One must always try to have 2 cappuccino breaks during the day between the tours, shopping, lunch and making new friends. 
Getting ready to go

Life on the canal.
As I write this, I am a good 4 days behind in my self-imposed duty of travel blogger.
Having just got over a nasty sinus infection I have been petitioning for a “down” day. Down meaning sleeping late, a little shopping leisurely meals, massage and cocktails. Today was to be the day. Alas, the weather conspired against me and a full day of rain was predicted for our agreed upon tour of the lake day. If you know me, or have read any other part of my blog, you know our motto is: The only plan, is there is no plan. So off we waddled to the jetty to hire a boat and hopefully an English-speaking guide for a 4-hour tour.
Life on the lake. Slapping the water for fish

Fisherman with large net.
The goddess was with us. The cloudy day covered us from the glare of an unrelenting sun and nary a drop of precipitation touched our heads, nor did we succumb to sunburn on our delicate skin.

Our boat was a 4 seated, long boat. As we headed out the canal from the central town to the mouth of the lake, we passed homes, temples and lots of water buffalo. Arriving at the mouth of the giant lake, we were greeted by the Posing Fishermen. Inle Lake is famous for the fishermen who paddle with one leg, all the while working their nets with their arms and hands. They have large baskets which they balance on talented toes while their long boats glide thru the shallow lake. It is very picturesque and most of these fishermen have learned that it’s much more profitable to pose than fish. Who’s to blame them? We keep our camera’s down, as the Posing Fishermen will approach each and every boat that has a camera out and ask for money. 

The lake is enormous with 32 separate types of indignenous folks who live here. There are about 100 villages.  Famous to this lake, are the floating gardens built in the shallows. It is a type of hydroponics that the Indians have been using for year; growing lush tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans to name a few. You can tell where the patches of “real” land are, as it is heavily planted with Banana trees, Mangos and Papaya’s on the waters edge. 
Another lovely village
For the most part, it is very clean out here. There is a notable lack of garbage in the lake itself. Most villages have electricity now, and every home has at least on light bulb inside. Cooking is done on propane stoves. Diesel stations are highly regulated. 

Coming in to town to shop.

We spend time drifting with a real fisherman (I’m sure he was the guides cousin) working his net and coming up with a fish. With the motor turned off, the lake was supremely quiet. We pay him for the pleasure of watching him fish and he graciously posed for us, smiling and snaggled toothed.
The women of Tan Puay Ton
Guess which on I bought?
Our next stop was the village of Tan Puay Ton, home of the women who wear brass rings around their neck, which push the clavicle down as they are added. Starting at age 9, rings are added to the neck every year until they are 24 (to save them from tigers). Luckily, we live in a time, when even these remote villagers know that this kind of disfigurement is detrimental to health of their children and one day soon, as young women and families eschew this practice, there will only be memories and pictures of the Tan Puay Ton women. But for now, these older women are celebrities. We’ve seen then on multiple travel shows and today, I get to visit them and say “min ga la bar.” I buy a much, too much and very expensive hand-woven scarf that one of them has made, because, why not? They are rare, exotic and endangered and deserve to live comfortably in their later years. 

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