Unlike elsewhere in Burma, where the main (but not the only) attractions are temples, monasteries and buildings of historical significance, Inle Lake is all about the people. The shallow lake is populated by people from a number of ethnic groups, such as the Intha people, known for their unusual leg rowing technique, and the Pa-O tribe, identified by the brightly-coloured headscarves they wear. Not only are there villages on the banks of the lake, but also directly on the lake, where people live in houses on stilts and farm crops on floating gardens, which are formed using a bed of water hyacinth and reeds, and anchored by bamboo poles. The nutrient-rich water makes for abundant harvests, as is obvious from the numbers of boats on the lake that are heavily laden with juicy tomatoes and other fruit and vegetables.
We think there are few better ways to spend a couple of days than sitting in a longtail boat as the hustle and bustle of Inle Lake drifts by. Not only is it possible to see people fishing or tending to their floating gardens, you can also go into the villages and see various artisans at work, from cheroot rolling to the weaving of expensive lotus thread. The vibrant rotating market is a hive of activity and a particular favourite.