the fishermen of inle lake
Blog Destinations Myanmar Photography, Art & Design

Fishermen of Inle Lake

February 23, 2017

the fishermen of inle lake


Whilst relaying my magical trip to Myanmar I have tried to keep myself focused and work through it day-by-day… but then I thought it’s throwback Thursday and I just cant resist jumping the gun 🙂

I LOVE surprises. Love, love, LOVE them! And my favourite kind of surprise, is when a destination completely catches me off guard. Inle Lake was one of those places.

Our first day out on the lake, we were separated into groups of four, and each group was assigned a long boat that would take us on a tour of life on the lake. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great day out. We learnt from the many workshops, we went to the market, we saw Burmese cats… I’ll go into more detail another time but as we cruised along the river, I didn’t feel very connected to it all, I couldn’t quite engage with the moment.

The morning before we had set off, Min had talked us through the traditional way of fishing that had shot Inle to photography fame. The old fashioned nets and balancing acts of the skilled fisherman were infamous amongst tourists, and Inle is a hot spot on nearly every tour groups itinerary.

So when we then took to the water later on, there they all were, lined up ready to show off their skills. Except, they weren’t fishing 🙁 As this wasn’t a method commonly used anymore, all of the fisherman we encountered were all there for show. Don’t get me wrong, it still takes great skill to do what they do and the images people took looked incredible but I couldn’t help but feel slightly sad that we didn’t get to see them actually fish.



That evening, when everyone was planning the activities for the next day I was completely at a loss. Some people were off on bikes, some headed to the hot springs, others wanted to relax in town… I just wanted to get back on the water. Min kept trying to persuade us all to visit In Dein – a collection of temples he kept saying, assuring us it truly was a sight to be seen. We were all feeling very “templed out” and no-one was paying him much attention, all of us wanting to focus on finding something that little bit different.

I spent all night trying to find something else to do… nothing. Didn’t help that I wandered out for dinner and came back late and too tired to do any research.

Morning came, me and a couple of others, desperate to get back on the boat and with no other plan in mind decided to give in to Min’s advice and head towards In Dein. Min organised our long boat, instructed the driver on where to take us and off we went.

And it’s a bloody good job we did it. As we sped out down the narrow route up to the great opening, which yesterday had been filled with fisherman dressed up for photographs with fishing net props… well today we were surrounded by REAL FISHERMAN.

The reason there were a lot more tourists out the day before was because the market was on. A fabulous sight to be seen, the stalls, were so bright, so vibrant, it was hustle and bustle on every turn. A big part of the market was the fresh fish section. We were told that most fisherman don’t kill their fish when they are caught. Instead they keep them alive in bags that are hung under their homes, homes suspended above the water. This way they are taken to the market alive and killed fresh on purchase.

Today wasn’t market day, which meant all those amazing fisherman that had lined the market paths yesterday with their stalls, were now on the water.


Our boat driver (feel so awful not knowing his name) couldn’t really speak any English, but nevertheless he was extremely understanding and read our minds the entire time. He slowed down and approached a number of the men, stopping at some points to let us watch as they caught little snappers and threw them into baskets on the boat.

The fisherman weren’t in the traditional dress you see on the images, but this was so much better. This was everyday life and it was beautiful to watch.



The day got progressively better and better. Turns out all that whingeing we had done at Min for sending us to another temple… well it was completely misguided and In Dein was incredible.

In Dein is a collection of hundreds of stupas, some dating back to the 12th century. Some are perfect, some have been restored and others are in ruins. They all stand together in a compacted area, giving it that wow factor. We walked the long passage to the entrance of the main temple, passing stalls, lots of cute puppies, and catching glimpses of the stupa structures we were about to encounter.



We reached the top, packed up our slippers and out to the back, we were surrounded by them. hundreds of stupas, different colours, textures, materials. They stood tall, congested, pointing straight up to the bright blue sky above. The ground was uneven, rugged and the only noise was that of our gasps as we turned corners and discovered new angles and viewing points. OH wait, I lied, there were other sounds, a subtle twinkling of bells. Tiny metal bells that decorated the top of each pagoda tower, ringing delicately in the warm breeze.

We started at the top and weaved our way down, it’s the kind of place you want to get lost. To just wander around endlessly. A lovely surprise.



The small village around the temple was quaint and full of life. Well when I say full of life, there were a number of locals relaxing back, eyes closed enjoying the sunshine. We had a small wander, Libby and I were on the lookout for art so we had our eyes peeled for anything that looked like a gallery.



But it wasn’t long though before our tummies were beckoning us to get back on and head back out for lunch. On the turn in, we had seen a restaurant set back on the waters’ edge, surrounded by trees. We pointed, shouted, did all that we could to signal to the driver to stop for us, but he shook his head and carried on.



We sat back, completely at his mercy and he drove us ten minutes away to another riverside joint. One of Min’s recommendations, they had picked out a lovely table up high on a two floor floating property, with views of the river.

Once again…


We all looked at each other, nodding in unison, each possessing the same thought, that guide Min did good. He knew we would have liked this and we did! The food was great, the company was homely and familiar and the location was perfect. I was incredibly impressed by our boat drivers resilience in saying no to five women just to get us here.

Stomachs filled it was time to head back. Again we took our time, slowed at various sights, it was the first time I noticed the Gold monument, erected to symbolise where the  ship had sunk, a story we had been introduced to yesterday, by Min.

I knew this was my last boat ride on the water for a while. So I took the opportunity to soak it all in. I secured my camera back in its case, shades on, blanket out and sat back to watch the sunlight glistening on the ripples our boat made as we cut through the waves.

This whole day out had truly been a wonderfully special surprise.



Moral of the story? Trust your guide! He really did always know best…



What destinations have taken you by surprise???

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