Thursday, January 7, 2010

Water Village, Flaming Pink Tassles and One legged Fishermen

This trip just keeps getting better. From Mandalay, we headed to Inle Lake, an outrageously beautiful body of water that is the setting for a number of traditional settlements. Starting with the market, we enjoyed an intimate look at the way in which the people in the region live. This beats any try-hard-city-slicker farmers market that I've ever seen. It's the real deal.

Even monks enjoy dvd's and music. Tasty...Though there is clearly a tourism industry here, it feels a less disturbed by it than, say, Bagan and Mandalay. Accessibility seems to be the key reason (it certainly isn't a matter of virtue). We had to take a one hour journey on a long boat to get to our lakeside hotel, which was another 45 minutes by boat from the 'main attraction'; an entire community built on the water. Stilted homes. Floating gardens.
The community depends heavily on fishing and, in fact, is known for its unique fishing style. The fisherman use one leg to paddle and steer the boat, meanwhile using both hands to handle the fishing net.
There are a few religious sites located in the village, including a temple that is home to a family of jumping cats. I hadn't realized that cats could be trained so well to do tricks.

A visit to another village, located nearby on the lakeside, made us wish that we had more time here. Hiking and trekking opportunities abound from here, but we were only able to enjoy a taste. There was a local fair taking place, which meant a lot of excitement and carnival-style games, including gambling (which is illegal). The main game here is like a giant manual slot machine (pictures werent allowed, otherwise I'd have a whole slideshow!). Three gigantic dice about the size of milk crates, resting on a flat board that is at a 60 degree angle, suspended by a long stick that is held by a person who releases the dice (one by one). It seems so primitive, yet even we (who have been to vegas) were captivated.

Our short hike took us past 1045 stupas on a hill. Had we not already been to Bagan, this might have been more interesting. It seems a shame that it is so easy to start to take these impressive things for granted. Then again, by now, the things we are appreciating the most are the people and the way of life here. It just seems so peaceful. Like these kids playing in their island yard. It's hard to tell from the picture, but one of the kids is wearing gummy fangs. We were passing by in a boat and just wanted to jump out and play along. Looked like so much fun.

Our hotel was presenting a cultural show. One of the stars of the show was a giant pink deer - the sort that has two guys underneath it, operating the movement of the legs, body and head. This one was special because it could pick up a candle with its mouth and light it. Impressive. And then they brought out the fireworks. Given that we were dining in a wooden house on a lake, this gave me the same sort of uneasy feeling that I had a few years ago when Erik's uncle Gary was pouring gasoline on the fire at our campsite in Kananaskis. but we watched with interest anyway think that it might have been my North American. When he knocked one of the over and then tried to correct it with his foot, flaming pink tassles seemed inevitable. But, thankfully, they quickly got it under control.

We spent two nights here, but could have done more. Sunsets continue to inspire. The first night.

and then the second.


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