Inle Lake is the second largest natural lake in Myanmar. It is located in the middle of a greatest depression in the Nyaung Shwe valley, between the two parallel mountain ranges that run from north to south in the Southern Shan State. The lake is 35 km away from the nearest airport at Heho. There are flights from both Yangon and Mandalay flying to Heho on a daily basis. Inle Lake is 14 miles long and 7 miles wide and comparatively shallow. It lies at 4358 feet above the sea level among the hazy blue-mountains that are native to the Southern Shan State. The locals in the Inle Lake area are known as ‘Inthas’’ and are devout Buddhists The Intha men are known for their farming and fishing skills while women are known for their superb silk weaving skills.
Inle's most unusual feature is its extraordinary 'leg-rowing fishermen' who have developed an original, eccentric method of rowing their small boats using only one leg. There are also several floating gardens that are built-up from strips of water hyacinth and mud dredged from the lakebed. Villages, farms and monasteries are perched over the water on stilts as natives rarely go to the mainland while conducting their daily businesses. Visitors can observe cottage industries such as weaving, netting and cheroot making.
The largest village on the Inlay Lake has an intricate web of canals that are used as roads. There are several teak houses that are been built on large wooden piles driven directly into the lake bed. The main tourist activity and attraction in Ywama is the floating market which is located on the widest canal in the village.
The Phaungdaw O Pagoda is home to the five most revered Buddha statues in Myanmar, and these statues are commonly believed to have miraculous powers. Over the years, these statues have been covered with so many gold leaves that it is impossible to see their original structures. In the month of September (or October) the four of these five statues are carried on a royal barge and ferried around the lake. The Phaungdaw Oo Pagoda festival draws people from several parts of Myanmar not only to pay homage to the Buddha statutes, but also to enjoy the lively fair that accompanies it.The famous unique leg-rowing competitions that take place between Inthas is also a huge attraction.
The Shwe Indein Pagoda is located on the summit of a hill in one of the smaller villages on the western bank of the Inle Lake. The Pagoda has a Buddha image that is enshrined in a whitewashed stupa, and below the stupa, surrounding the hill, lies hundreds of ancient stupas, most of which are in ruins engulfed with overgrown bushes. The pagoda hill is quiet and calm, and a cool breeze usually passes through the region ringing all the little bells hanging from the stupa umbrellas.
This mysterious place is located at the end of the marvellous Indein creek which is connected to Inlay Lake. The creek is narrow with many twist and turns, and both sides of the bank are covered in paddy fields. At lunch time, while the farmers take rest the water buffaloes working in the fields enjoy themselves by taking a dip in the creek. Several bamboo dams that were built by local farmers for better irrigation can also be witnessed along the creek.
The most convenient way to get to Inle is to fly from Yangon to Heho and take a car from there to the lake. There are daily flights to Heho from Yangon which takes about an hour. However, if you are flying from Mandalay to Heho, it takes only 20 minutes. Traveling by car along the uphill and winding road over the Shan Plateau may take several more hours than flying, but the journey is worth experiencing. There are also regular train services via Thazi Junction to Heho and Shwenyaung which is the nearest station to Inle Lake.
Minethauk is a large, bustling market with an inherent local atmosphere where buyers can choose from a variety of products both from the lake and from other places on the mainland.
"If we could take Kalaw with us, we would!", the British are reported to have said when leaving Myanmar. This old hill station on the rim of the Shan Plateau, in the Pinelands, remains a favourite for holidays away from the harsh tropical sun.
Situated at about 1,400 meters above sea-level, Kalaw is located 70 km west of Taunggyi. The main attractions of Kalaw are the town itself with its mock-tutor colonial bungalows, its ethnic mixture of people, and significant trekking routes that lead through many villages occupied by ethnic-minority. Even today, many of the Tudor-style houses and English gardens from the colonial days remain vibrant in Kalaw. There are many hill tribes near Kalaw such as athe Palaung village, and every five days several tribesmen come down to the Kalaw market and trade goods. Usually, the tribesmen come dressed in their traditional clothing, thus adding to the quiet attraction of Kalaw.
Situated at the foot of Mene-taung mountain range, 45 km north of Kalaw is a picturesque place called Pindaya. Pindaya is known as ‘the home of countless Buddha Images ‘for having several statues and carvings in its extensive lime stone caves. The main attraction here is the Pindaya Cave, locally known as Shwe Oo Min Cave. Pindaya is also known for its unique traditional Shan umbrellas made out of paper. The limestone caves contain a maze of chambers with 6,226 Buddha statues crafted in different sizes. These statues are made of white marble, bronze or plaster, and are coated with gold leaves. Some of the smaller caves within the complex serve as meditation chambers.
Loikaw is the capital of the Kayah State, and is situated about 130 miles southeast of Kalaw. This region is famous for its unqiue Padaung tribe (Giraffe Necked Women) where women elongate their necks using brass rings. The beautiful, pleasant surroundings of the Lawpita hydroelectric power plant and the Baluchaung waterfall are also only a day’s trip away from Loikaw.
This route is swarming with tress, bushes, plantations and livestocks. However, when the road changes from flat highway to twists and turns of the mountain clumps of bamboo and plum trees replace the vegetation. Forests filled with dry, leafless trees and thorn forests fill the hillsides. The Loikaw vegetation, on the other hand, is much greener; the trees are larger and denser. Several fruit producing plants such as bananas, coconuts, mangos, and other trees can also be seen. Away from the cliffs are deep alleys with either dry streambeds or water trickling down the hills. A lot of timber plantations can also be seen as Shan State is one of the main timber production regions for its commercially valuable hardwood.
The road also passes through the beautiful hillside where the temprate climate produces fruits such as pears, peaches and oranges in addition to the common rice, tea, wheat, Soya beans, groundnuts, tobacco, potatoes, garlic, sunflower seeds and dried green cordia leaves that are used as cheroot wrappers.
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