Nestled in the green mountain ranges of the Shan State plateau, this freshwater paradise has captivated the minds of travellers for centuries. Covering an estimated surface area of 116 square kilometres, it is the second largest lake in the country, and at 900 metres above sea level, it is also one of the highest. Due to its abundance of water, vegetation and idyllic climate conditions, the region has long served as an important wildlife habitat. In fact, over twenty species of the lake’s snails and nine species of fish can be found nowhere else in the world.
One of the most iconic sights associated with a trip to this region however is that of the skilful, one-legged Intha rowers, a group of hardworking fisherman who prowl the lake in traditional wooden boats, usually with conical-shaped fish traps attached. In order to propel their vessels, the fishermen expertly wrap their legs around a long wooden oar, whilst at the same time rowing in a smooth and circular motion. This technique, which is said to date back to the 12th century, is said to provide the fishermen with a clear view of the lake as they seamlessly navigate the narrow waterways.
Whilst Inle Lake’s population consists predominately of Intha, the region is considered a melting pot for a range of other ethnic groups including, Shan, Taungyo, Pa-O, Danu, Kayah, Danaw and Bamar. Many of these tribes peacefully coexist in bamboo clad, stilted accommodation which look out over the endless maze of floating gardens. For those keen to appreciate this cultural diversity first-hand, Tour Mandalay would strongly recommend stopping off at one of the many open house workshops. Typical products you might expect to find include handmade tools, carvings, textiles and cheroots.