The Shan States is a state of Myanmar. It borders China to the north, Laos to the east and Thailand to the south and five administrative divisions of Myanmar in the west. It is the largest of the 14 administrative divisions by land area, Shan states covers 155,800km, almost a quarter of the total area of Myanmar. The state gets its name from the Shan people, one of the several ethnic groups that inhabit the area .The Shan states is largely rural, with only three cities of significant size; Lashio, Kengtung, and the capital, Taungyyi.
The Shan state is famous for ecotourism like Inle Lake, Pindaya Cave, floating villages, and golden triangle of Thailand Lao, Tachileik.
Inle lake is the second largest lake in Myanmar. It was called” Venice of the East”.
It is about 13.5 miles long and 7 miles wide. It is a fresh water lake: the highest altitude is 3000 feet (900m) and the deepest level is about 6 meters. It is about 720 km from Yangon. It is surrounded by the lush greenery of the Shan States and is well known for its natural beauty.
There are about 64 villages around Inle lake compound and most are floating villages.
The people from the villages are called Inthas that literally mean ‘people of the lake’, with a mix of other ethnicities including Shan Taungyo, Pa-O, Danu, Kayah, Danaw and Bamar. For centuries, the Inthas have developed their own unique lifestyle based around the beautiful waters of the lake.
They live in houses built on stilts in the lake and are self-sufficient, growing vegetables on floating gardens made out of silt and weeds secured to the bottom of the lake with bamboo stakes. They are skilled boatmen and fishermen, and are known for their unique style of rowing, standing on one leg while using the other leg to push the oar through the water. Most of them are gardeners, farmers, fishermen and some do hand-made goods.
The only means of transportation is by boat.
The locals plant vegetables and fruits in the large floating gardens, which are called “hyun-hmaw” on the lake. The Intha coalesces weeds and mud in Inle Lake together to create the floating gardens and piles of bamboo poles to avoid the gardens from drifting. Generally it takes 50 years to create a 1m-thick garden. The main products planted in the gardens are tomatoes and beans.
The inhabitants are mostly Buddhist and Buddhist monasteries and small pagodas dot the landscape. The most famous product of Inle Lake is a unique fabric woven using lotus fibres, used to adorn images of the Buddha. This unique fabric is found only in Inle, and is believed to have been created by a woman over a century ago, as a gift to a revered abbot.
In the next few articles we will talk about the interesting places in and around the Inle Lake. It is also very interesting to learn about the different ethnic groups that live in and around Inle Lake.