Monday, October 1, 2007

Myanmar, Part V

Our last major stop in Myanmar was Inle Lake, which is quite large (about 45 square miles) but relatively shallow (5 feet on average). We spent half a day motoring around the lake, visiting monasteries, local craftsmen, and other sights around the lake.

The first thing you notice about the lake is the traditional boats that people use on them. The boats look ridiculously unstable, and the villagers tend to stand way out on one end while rowing them. There are many fisherman on the lake, but we also saw many boats loaded down, like these:

The villagers collect weeds from the bottom of the lake, then use them to form floating gardens where they grow crops (apparently tomatoes are a popular choice).

Many people on the lake, in houses on stilts above the water. This is one of the villages that we visited while we were there:

In this village, they weave cloth from silk and from the lotus plant. (I had no idea that you could do that!) Lotus cloth is even more expensive than silk, because it takes an extraordinary amount of time to make---but it doesn't seem as nice as silk to me. Here's one of the villagers boiling silk:

And another one weaving it:

In another village, they make cheroots, which look a lot like cigars. Apparently the villagers make 1 kyat for rolling a single cheroot. It takes about 30 seconds to roll a cheroot, and apparently they make about 1000 kyats per day, which is less than one dollar. It's amazing how little that is; but on the other hand, they seem to have all the basic necessities for life---food, shelter, water, etc. Their lives certainly aren't as easy as our lives in the western world, but I wouldn't say that the villagers are living in poverty.

There's also a very strange monastery on the lake where the monks have trained cats to jump through hoops. It's now a popular tourist attraction. They don't jump horizontally through hoops like you might expect---the trainer holds the hoop directly over a cat's head, and he jumps straight up through it:

And one more picture that I really liked:


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