I spent the day yesterday on a long boat trip around the lake. It's a big body of water, stretching in a slither 22 kilometres north to south. Being a fresh water lake, there are plenty of birds, with some conservation wetlands stretching around the site. As well as for the birds, it's also a lifeforce for many of the local Shan people who fish, wash and live in houses protruding from the water on slits around the lake.
Many of the sights are touristy but interesting nonetheless. Our first stop was a weaving factory, where they produce fabric from the lotus flower. If you break and separate the stalk of the lotus plant, fine silk-like threads emerge. The fabric is tough, much like hemp. Although not producing the thread itself on site, they were weaving beautiful silk, lotus and cotton fabrics for sewing into scarves and longyis, the national dress skirt worm by both men and women. So, of course, I have a new scarf for my collection. :) Mum, I would love to take you to these fabric makers in Asia one day - you would love to see it I know.
Besides the weaving factory, we also visited cheroot, boat-making and silversmith outlets. Most of these places are more like show-rooms than working factories. The cheroot place in particular was very touristy, with eight girls arranged in two lines like a choir, quite different from the proper factory I saw near Bago (see previous post).
The highlight for me for the day was a spot called Indein, on the west side of the lake. It's not on the general tourist boat agenda, but we made a special stop. Dotted around this village are more than 1000 stupas, some which date back more than 2000 years. Amazingly, these stupas aren't protected or even cordoned off from the rest of the small village. People live near them and around them, and we wandered through backlanes and tilled fields on our own to get to some of them. One hillside spot was so magical I expected a snake to slither out and start speaking to me in tongues. The main pagoda is home to more than 1000 beautiful stupas in itself. Some date back centuries, and others are still being built today. One of my companions scoffed at the fact that some of the stupas are not old, but I loved the fact that this ancient site is still in use by the locals, evolving and growing like a living organism.
BTW, I leave Inlay tomorrow evening, heading for Mandalay. Big city hopefully equals cheaper internet. It's 3000 kyat here, 10 times as much as in Yangon. But it's good to be in touch.
Pics posted! Village life on the lake; Indein 2000 year-old temples; me in longboat; sunset Inlay-style.