Phung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival – Inle Lake MYANMAR

Inle Lake – The jewel of Myanmar, maybe the jewel of Asia.  Take a domestic flight in Myanmar to Heho, the closest airport to Nyaung Shwe on the Northern shores of Inle Lake.  Time to ditch transport as we know it, we were transported for the duration of a stay at Inle Lake in long tail boats enabling exploration to every corner of the lake – From the floating tomato farms, entire villages with houses on stilts in the middle of the lake, to the daily rotation of the local market to different villages around the lake’s shoreline.

Our Destination Journey spent 4 nights at Inle lake – beginning with our motorised long boat transfer from Ngaun Shwe of around 30 minutes skimming across the water to our lake side home – Inle Princess.  Our speed slowed a little as we entered narrow canals passing floating Tomato farms. On arrival to the private Inle Princess lagoon our boats were met by local “pilots”, the engines of our boats were stopped and our pilots rowed us in traditional style, with one leg wrapped around an oar,  A serene and calm 5  minute conclusion of our journey with just the sloosh of the oar in the water taking us on the quiet waterway towards the Inle Princess Jetty.

Every day the local market moves from Village to village in a five day rotation around the lake. Our Long boat exploration of Inle Lake took us past more floating tomato farms, fisherman rowing with one leg, keeping their hands free to use their cane fish traps to snare their daily catch and houses on stilts. Our 4 “tourist boats” became lost among the hundreds of local long tail boats bringing thousands of people to do their daily shopping in the market on the lakes shoreline – today the Southern end of the lake at Naungdaw.

The remainder of our day we visited a few of the the stilted villages in the middle of the lake, Visiting Cheroot, silver factories and then a tour of a garment factories with clothing made of Silk or Lotus Root. We stopped at the Inle Heritage restaurant located on one of the smaller canals on the lake for lunch with tea leaf salad among other Myanmar delicacies.

An early start on our long boats had us jockeying for the best position on the lake to watch the water parade.  Dozens of long boats tied end to end, each being rowed by around one hundred  “one leg” rowers on each boat, towing a smaller boat with a Buddha statue.

The statue is taken from village to village around the lake, visiting a different village each day for two and half weeks. The sight of all the rowers on each boat and to be amongst hundreds of spectator boats in the middle of Inle Lake was truly amazing.  Right in front of us one of the boats began to take on water and started to sink. Luckily the boats in front and behind knew to untie the ropes linking them and the sinking boat – if they didn’t the entire row of boats would have all sunk. Nobody seemed phased just plenty of laughter as some of the small boats lining the route aided the now swimming rowers to safety.

Later that day after visiting a village on the banks of the lake we again rendezvoused with hundreds of small craft and lined a rowing course to witness the long “one leg” rowing boats in a series of races to determine  the fastest team.

Our time on Inle Lake at the Phung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival was a fabulous spectacle and we will definitely be escorting another journey to Inle Lake again in the next year or so.

Another highlight to our stay was our final dinner at the Inle Princess, sorry no details you will have to join us next time, I don’t want to spoil the surprise !!

Cheers Glenn.

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