Flickr Tour of Inle Lake
August 13, 2006 12:07 PM   Subscribe

3000 feet up in the mountains of Eastern Myanmar (Burma) lies Inle Lake^, a giant freshwater lake that is populated by 70,000 people living in four separate cities on top of the lake. They dwell, fish, farm, worship and celebrate upon the surface of Lake Inle, living a unique lifestyle that seems wholly unto itself, untouched by the world outside. All pictures found using the amazing FlickrStorm tool.
posted by jonson (25 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Photos to reinvent daydreams by. Thanks, jonson.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:20 PM on August 13, 2006

Venice of the East?
posted by leftcoastbob at 12:21 PM on August 13, 2006

Thanks for this post, never heard of this.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:25 PM on August 13, 2006

I'm a bit concerned about traveling in Burma at the moment, but this is the sort of place I'd love to go to one day. Lovely photos, thanks.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:30 PM on August 13, 2006

Give the man his $30 and just be done with it!
An excellend find.
posted by growabrain at 12:52 PM on August 13, 2006

Lovely pictures of a dreamy place. However, the last link features a photo of Inya Lake, which is near (in?) Yangon, formerly Rangoon. You can see the different style, far more ornate than that of the rather isolated mountain area.

I visited Inle Lake about 20 years ago and it was lovely and fascinating. The air is cool and fresh, in contrast to the sweltering heat of the lowlands, and the people seemed particularly lithe and graceful. Perhaps growing up on and around boats gives them a gymnast's balance and a dancer's bearing. They were friendly, amiably curious, and gracious enough not to laugh as we wobbled in and out of the tour boat.

The tour guide made a big deal out of leg-rowing (see the "fish" link), saying this was unique to Inle Lake. It's rather odd-looking and seems like a difficult way to power a boat (it's quite understandable why it isn't done anywhere else!). When our group of tourists drew near some locals in their boats, they were all leg-rowing away. However, after we passed, they switched to poling their boats with the oar. In many places the lake is rather shallow and poling is vastly easier, but they had to keep up appearances.

It seems like time has stood still in Myanmar, since these pictures look nearly identical to what I saw in the mid-1980s. The corrugated metal roofs are a little more rusted, there are more streaks of black mildew on the walls, but other than that, these photos could have come from my trip. Thanks for bringing back memories, jonson!
posted by Quietgal at 1:01 PM on August 13, 2006

Obligatory carets remark.

I hear they have lots of Vitamin A.
posted by spiderwire at 1:21 PM on August 13, 2006

I'm in awe of the fact that you've been there, Quietgal - and thanks for catching the Inya lake mixup. I heard about Inle via a special on the Discovery channel a year or two back and have been fascinated ever since. Like Deathalicious above, I'd be a little too cautious/frightened to travel there currently, but I'm very eager to, someday. Add this to Dubai on the list of very far away places that I hope to see before I die.
posted by jonson at 1:29 PM on August 13, 2006

Great post.
posted by Muirwylde at 1:38 PM on August 13, 2006

Beautiful pictures!
posted by owhydididoit at 1:44 PM on August 13, 2006

Absolutely amazing. I bet these people have a low incidence of stress related deaths, which is all the more reason for visiting. Something about the idea of wandering off and getting lost somewhere that doesn't have a starbucks or a walmart really gets to me.

My two cents on the carets: don't hate, appreciate. i LIKE the link to wiki. however, i'd go with either a * or a |, and i'd do it using a superscript tag. anyone who complains about it needs to leave the house more often.
posted by jcterminal at 1:50 PM on August 13, 2006

Oh wow jonson, You're my link hero. Just one amazing post after another. Your innate love of life shines through, it's really nice. Inspiring and so good.

A little about Burma.

Weird culture combo, one of my fav topics. The Kachin Catholics and Baptists in the Burmese Highlands.

Never heard of this remarkable place. More pics of Inle Lake from another site. I once asked the humorist, SJ Perelman, who'd done a fair bit of globetrotting, what his fav places were and he said the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia and the highlands in Burma, Mandalay and Yangon. Along with Inle Lake, those are places I truly would like to visit.

Marvelous anecdote Quietgal. So interesting about the leg rowing and what you observed.

jcterminal, I'm trying to imagine how what are talking about would look using superscript. Like how? 3000 feet up in the mountains of Eastern Myanmar (Burma) lies Inle Lake.
posted by nickyskye at 2:17 PM on August 13, 2006

Holy Crap! Nickyskye, your "Inle Lake" link is awesome. Great photos & total jealousy on my part of the person lucky enough to have been there & talented enough to capture it on film.
posted by jonson at 2:23 PM on August 13, 2006

I suspect humanity is headed back to this style of living, just like the jellyfish are taking back the oceans. When all else has become a shitstorm of limited resources, global war, and environment destruction, we humans are going to go back to a subsistence living. Huts and primitive tools all the way, baby!

Fortunately, it'll be well after my death that the areas we inhabit will fall back that far. Fingers crossed.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:49 PM on August 13, 2006

Here's a brief YouTube travelogue of one cameraman's experiences, with footage of the single leg rowing technique, the floating temples and the place where they train the cats to jump.
posted by jonson at 3:49 PM on August 13, 2006

That YouTube vid rocks. Thanks.
posted by nickyskye at 4:27 PM on August 13, 2006

Burma was a beautiful and fascinating place to visit 20 years ago, and I hope you guys will have a chance to see it yourself someday (I suspect it hasn't changed all that much!). The government seems to be more repressive nowadays, but it wasn't exactly open back then either.

One thing that struck me was that, unlike in other Communist/socialist countries, the people in Burma seemed fairly cheerful. When I visited the USSR in 1981, everybody seemed sullen, tired, pissed off at everything, and constantly looking to hustle some fresh vegetables or blue jeans. The Burmese, on the other hand, seemed relaxed and more or less at peace with the world. Despite their relative poverty (barely relieved by an active smuggling trade across the Thai border), they just seemed ... happier ... than most people. I suppose it's the Buddhist influence. They knew they were poorer than their Thai neighbors, they knew their government was a repressive dictatorship, they knew they were intentionally cut off from the outside world, but they just didn't let it harsh their mellow.

5FF, we could do much worse than to live the subsistence life of Inle Lake fisherpeople. They may rely on their own musclepower for survival, but they live peacefully and appear well-fed by the lake's fish and their "floating" (bog, actually) gardens. I wouldn't trade my 21st century 1st World life for theirs, but in a Mad Max world, Inle Lake would be a veritable Eden.
posted by Quietgal at 4:42 PM on August 13, 2006

Just one amazing post after another.

Yup. You deserve to be making a living off MeFi posts. Just fantastic.
posted by languagehat at 5:40 PM on August 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

I was presented with the chance to go to Burma (from Thailand) a few years ago, but decided against the trip because of all the political pressure not to support the current regime. I'm still rather conflicted by the whole situation. In any case, a week later I met an Englishman who had spent several months cycling around Burma in the '80s and again in the '90s. He regaled us with amazing tales and spoke very highly of the burmese people which, of course, really made me regret my decision to abstain from visiting.

Photos like the ones posted here make me once again regret my decision to avoid such a beautiful country. Wonderful post, jonson.

For Londoners, or those visiting in the future, Mandalay on Edgware road is amazing and the proprietors are great.

For those in SF, Inya Lake on San Mateo Ave. in San Bruno is quite good and worth the trip from the city.
posted by shoepal at 5:47 PM on August 13, 2006

Yup. You deserve to be making a living off MeFi posts. Just fantastic.

Wow. That's the combination of nicest compliment/most personally respected complimenter that I think I've ever received. Thanks, lh!
posted by jonson at 6:15 PM on August 13, 2006

You may know her as Myanmar, but she'll always be Burma to me.
posted by mrmojoflying at 11:13 AM on August 14, 2006

Thanks for this, jonson. And homunculus, that BBC series by Kate McGeown is great.

Burma is possibly the most photogenic country I've ever seen. The people there are open, and blessed with a beautiful culture in a breathtaking land of rich resources. It hurts my heart that they live under such a brutal dictatorship. Yet, as Quietgal said, they do seem as happy as possible, under the circumstances, and from what I've heard they do attribute that to the Buddhism. They're the kind of people who'd truly rather laugh than fight: a charming and all-too nonresistant people.

For travelers, it's rather safe. Not to worry. The government wants you to come and spend wonderful American dollars (crisp, new bank notes are preferred, the kind with the large portrait). Don't worry about the explosion in downtown Yangon, because it didn't happen, and you won't hear about it (nobody will, so don't feel left out). And don't worry about why there are so few beggars, even though the place is impoverished enough to have many, because you won't see them anyway. Doesn't it make your vacation much better if you're not worrying? But those kids selling postcards-- aren't they cute? Hear how many languages they speak-- adorable!

When I was there last fall, the government was secretly preparing to remove to the hills (a surprise to most government employees who had to move immediately). From the outside, things appear more lax. You won't see so many guards with machine guns at the airport anymore, for example. But as much as it looks improved, the crackdown is that much more harsh for stepping out of line. The people are camera shy for reasons unfamiliar to those of us who live in a free society. Even I, with my outspoken 'Yay Democracy Power!' American upbringing, find myself reconsidering every detail that I reveal about my personal connections there, and not for my own sake. It's a poisonous, loathsome kind of fear.

But don't worry, travelers; you're safe. Plus, fewer places are restricted to you now that the government is tucked safely away, and they cleaned up before they left (nice of them, huh?). Don't concern yourself about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi either; she's probably the safest woman who ever lived. She has as many doctors as she needs to keep her healthy, and her protectors regularly check her pleasant little compound for venomous snakes. It wouldn't do for something to happen to The Lady, would it? Under the government's care, she'll stay alive for as long as humanly possible.

I don't mean to sound so down on travelers... contact is good... but this issue really gets to me. And shoepal, whether you regret your decision or not, I encourage you to tell people why you made that decision in the first place. It's possible to travel without handing all your tourist dollars to the regime, but it's difficult to plan or even communicate, and the people there are not free to host you and show you around as they'd like. Heh... should I have stopped that sentence after "free"?
posted by zennie at 9:12 PM on August 15, 2006

5FF, we could do much worse than to live the subsistence life of Inle Lake fisherpeople.

"Under a dictator" is about as bad as it gets, no?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:01 PM on August 15, 2006

These lake dwellers bring to mind the Aztecs, who built Tenocticlan upon Lake Texaco using a system of artifical agricultural islands called chinapas. Despit the similar circumstances, their cultural tempermants are very different.

(And I agree, amazing post.)
posted by samh23 at 2:51 AM on August 19, 2006

« Older toy art toy art toy art   |   Bestest best of the web? What have you done for me... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments