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Saga Asia | The city of the children of the lake (Inle)

Inle Lake, in Myanmar, is surrounded by more than 200 villages where the majority of the Intha live, which means “the children of the lake”. We had two days to explore it and we started by watching the sunrise on a body of water so still it looked like liquid mercury.

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We arrived at 2 in the morning and by 5 we were already in a canoe to go to the lake to wait for the sun to rise. Once we absorbed that moment, it didn’t really matter anymore. Only the cold, it was quite cold. We let NICO take us to all the attractions and he decided that we should start with a temple and after, breakfast in his “neighborhood”.

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We toured the floating fields, the silk stores, a jewelry store, a dry cleaner, and ended up having lunch at the NICO boss’s house. We put on Thanaka, a traditional make-up and sunscreen and we changed to a smaller canoe to be able to paddle and we floated through different canals from where we saw people fishing, bathing, moving land, and selling, approached by vendors in canoe to show us their crafts . We experienced community tourism, where businesses recommend each other.

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And as it is the country of temples … Nyaung Ohak, a small forest of temples that are collapsing. Nature coexists with them, so getting lost for a while among its stones, passing broken Budhas, greeting the dogs that inhabit it, is a good way to close the day. Except it doesn’t end there. We returned in the canoe, accompanied by other ladies whose transport engine had burned out, and arrived after sunset to make one last stop at the night market.

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The next day, after talking with another tourist we met in Bagán and we bumped at Inle Lake, we decided to do the Tofu tour. We rented some bikes and went to the other side of the lake. We pass some temples and hot springs to cross the lake by canoe and start a culinary route. All typical street flavors, made from tofu.

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We started with a tofu salad (which they served us twice before the route began), we went through different little houses where they prepared all the fried foods that they sell in stores and on the streets. Everyone was smiling and our guide, the head of the Tofu Palace, talked with everyone and shared some food that he brought from our different stops to everyone he met. In the hours we spent touring these work spaces, although we couldn’t speak to anyone, we smiled at each other. The strength of these community ties were very obvious.

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We finally crossed back to our side of the lake and were lucky enough to see another sunset on that body of water, with the bikes in the canoe and then a quick trip back to the hostel before we lost all sunlight. These were the days on a place surrounded by simplicity, craftsmanship, nature and a welcoming energy.

Note: we left a lake that still suffers from overcrowding, increased tourist visits and pollution from agriculture and sedimentation from floating plantations. Several of its endemic species may be in danger. That is why in 2015, the United Nations added it to the World Network Biosphere Reserves to monitor and protect it.

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