It is an hour’s drive to the edge of the lake and the Inle Princess Resort – offering 46 guest chalets crafted by Intha carpenters from bamboo and reclaimed hardwood.
Almost immediately, we board our private open air long tail boat to explore this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, ASEAN Heritage Site, National Wildlife Sanctuary and a national Wetland Sanctuary.
The Intha people row standing up with one leg wrapped around an oar. Our “leg rower” takes us away from the resort jetty, and we drop him at his home on stilts before our driver fires up the engine for our first day on this vast water world.
Birds soar overhead and the Elephant Head Mountain Range surrounds us in this photographer’s dream of calm waters dotted with floating vegetation, fishing canoes, and entire villages built on stilts.
For three glorious days, we explore by boat to visit silk weavers and admire endless floating gardens where fruits and vegetables are grown. We stop at the small market of Indein to visit the Sagar Pagoda complex with dozens of small stupas, which are in very bad condition, but I can still see fascinating Buddha images. There is a traffic jam of local boats as a farmer bathes his two water buffalo in the channel leading into this floating village.
The day we visit the big five-day market in Nanpan is a true insight into the life style of the ethnic Pa-O, Danu and Intha people who come to sell their goods. The market contains everything. Endless stalls are piled high with fish, meat, vegetables, fruit, sweets, pottery, fabric, electronics, iPhones from Korea, plus barbers, a dentist, tailors with treadle Singer sewing machines, and a pharmacy where no prescriptions are needed to purchase drugs from China and India.
This beautiful, unique and fragile world truly enlightens me into the Myanmar culture and touches my heart. I leave you with a few truths and tips for your journey to mysterious magical Myanmar.
- The Myanmar people are friendly, helpful and polite
- Respect the Myanmar people and their unique traditions.
- Don’t take any photos that may make people feel embarrassed.
- Do smile
- Don’t point with your foot (In Myanmar the feet convey messages. Pointing with your feet means disrespect)
- Wear appropriate clothes when visiting religious sites
- Do tuck away your feet (When you sit, your legs should not be stretched out and your feet should never face the Buddha)
- Don’t touch anyone on the head (The head is the most esteemed part of the body. To be touched on the head is considered aggressive)
- Don’t kiss in public
- Don’t disturb people praying or meditating
- Calling with your finger up means calling for a challenge
- Visitors may experience electricity outages – please understand about the electricity situation in Myanmar
- Don’t touch the robe of a monk
- Do not go where you are advised not to go (Myanmar is slowly opening up and more destinations will be accessible in the future)
Relax and enjoy your holiday!
Author Bio: Sherrill Bodine is an author, fashionista and world traveler. She is the author of more than a dozen romance novels, has co-written a comic book and was a contributing columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times.