Nestled between two mountain ranges Inle Lake in Myanmar features a unique ecosystem & rich traditions that have changed little from generation to generation.
This vast body of water ( 22km x 11km) is home to 17 villages, all on stilts.
There are no main streets or cars as the lake does not actually have a continuous shoreline; and as a result an individual cannot walk around the lake directly.
Residents travel around by canoe or via numerous bamboo walkways over the canals.
Much of the commerce takes place on the water as merchants, their small boats loaded with handicrafts or produce, do business via a travelling floating market which is held on a rotational basis, in five different sites around the lake area.
Typical products include silver jewellery , textiles, and cigars.
The Padung tribe-Myanmar’s ‘giraffe’ woman have become a victim of their tradition of neck rings . Originally fitting of brass neck rings was to make woman less attractive to raiding tribes however these heavy rings cause deformation of the collar bones and upper ribs, pushing the shoulders away from the head. Many Padaung woman reach a stage where they are unable to carry the weight of their heads without the rings as additional support.
The entire lake sustains a purpose-built community around an ecosystem which includes fishing , crops , livestock & temples.
Crops are grown via floating gardens. Farmers gather up weeds from the deeper parts of the lake, bringing these back in boats to build floating crops beds. Bamboo poles are anchored in the beds to ensure they do not float away.
The constant availability of nutrient-laden water results in these gardens being incredibly fertile while their ability to rise and fall with changes in the water level ensure they remain flood resistant.
From the air, the area is so filled with floating vegetation that it appears more land than lake.
The inhabitants of the island are called the Intha, and are devout Buddhists.
Another remarkable feature of the lake are the leg-rowing Intha fishermen . Unique to this area they stand on the stern with one leg and use the other leg, wrapped around an oar, to row their flat-bottom boats.