Introducing Inle Lake
As a destination, we have to admit that Inle Lake delivers. On paper the lake is 13.5 miles long and 7 miles wide but up close it’s hard to tell where the water finishes and the marshes start. Most of the time the surface of the lake seems to perpetually resemble a vast silver sheet, one interspersed with stilt-house villages, island-bound Buddhist temples and floating gardens. Commuter and tourist motorboats and flat-bottomed skiffs navigate this watery world, the latter propelled by the unique Intha technique of leg rowing – in which one leg is wrapped around the paddle to drive the blade through the water in a snake-like motion – adding to the ephemeral aura.
When eventually you do hit land, you'll encounter whitewashed stupas or Shan, Pa-O, Taung Yo, Danu, Kayah and Danaw tribal people at the markets that hopscotch around the lake on a five-day cycle. Officially at least, the area around the lake has also been protected as the Inle Wetland Bird Sanctuary, a government-recognised bird sanctuary, since 1985 and you’ll see herons, warblers, cormorants, wild ducks and egrets. But in recent years, overuse of pesticides and diminishing water levels have begun to impact both wildlife and humans.