Inle Lake – the Lake of Life

A painted journey

Intentionally discovered roads are ones in which the decision to seek that particular path has already been made. The mind, high anticipation, and excitement strategically facilitate the creation of destination imagery. We envision the exact experience we desire to have. If ever there was a place that recreates the ideals of a dream, it is Myanmar. A slate of vibrant color, it is a place that may very well stand unmatched in retrospect to other countries in terms of natural aesthetics.

Of the many diverse landscapes of Myanmar, the famous Inle Lake, in the Nyaungshwe Township, piqued my interest. For the first time, I was going to have the opportunity to observe life along a lake.

The Nyaungshwe Township, home to Inle Lake

An Asian fairytale

Inle Lake had long been a destination that I wanted to visit. The pictures alone left me in awe. It seemed like a mystical place. A place where colors inexplicably and naturally burst. An unintentional array of beauty and goodness that only nature alone could bestow upon the eyes. I’ve seen many stunning countries, and each had a character distinguishable from the rest. But, this country was different. This was antiquated, untouched, and classically unmatched natural artistry.

Inle Lake's beauty

Myanmar – a hidden beauty

Myanmar (Burma)- a land once under the rulership of a tyrannical dictatorship, was awaking from its history of deprivation, and opening up to the world anew. Unscathed, by the outside world, opening up its borders to tourism some seven years prior allowed for the sweet taste of democracy. This newfound liberation exposed both the beauties and horrors of a country kept hidden for years. Yes, there were unspoken horrors- ones in which the country itself has unsuccessfully attempted to mask currently and in the past. Yet, these contrasting truths characterized Myanmar for exactly what it is.

Burmese woman crossing a bridge in Inle Lake

A Burmese Place of Peace

I was staying at the loveliest hotel in Nyaungshwe Township – Aquarius Inn. A family-run hotel, individuals worked in concert to assure their guests had the best experience. They made a great effort to get to know each person who stayed with them and did as much as possible to appease their guests. This was something that would become quite significant to me, shortly before my departure from this region.

However, amidst the minor requests that were made, I had asked the owner of the hotel if it would have been possible to arrange a trip to Maing Thouk Village – an area that was the centerfold for Inle Lake. With little hesitation, I was provided a taxi.

Country living at its best

Interestingly, it wasn’t your typical taxi, however. It was more of a family pickup truck, whose owner made a living giving rides to tourists. The last time I ever rode on the back of a pickup truck was in the Federated States of Micronesia. I’m a city girl through and through, so this experience was not one that was common to me. However, in a very cliche manner, it helped me understand the reason why so many love country life. I synonymize this to country-living. Haha I hopped onto the back and took in all the views. I felt like a nomadic soul, lost along the road. Yet, I was neither nomadic nor lost. All decisions up until this point were made with intention.

Beautiful flowers of Inle Lake

Journies of color

The roads changed color from lushed green shrubbery to an amber-colored garden of eden. As the skies began to open, following a periodic cloudy disposition, the sun appeared to kiss the ground of the path that laid behind our moving truck. For me, this was a sign of change, a transition of sorts.

The road to Inle Lake

As I turned my direction to the front of the truck, a tiny face peered between the driver and passenger’s seats, smiling. My taxi driver’s young son shyly watched me the entire time while his mother held him. He was intrigued by me. I suppose most likely because he had probably never seen a person of color before. I’m certain he had observed me smiling at myself as the characteristics of the road changed. Who knows, but maybe he had seen and understood these same transitions as well.

Braving trails

After journeying through sun-exposed roads we happened upon an enclosed tree-lined path. Exuding a jungle-like feeling, tree branches brushed against the car, some falling to the ground. Within a moment’s notice, we breezed past a small snake. Although seemingly harmless, the sight of it made me wonder what other critters might be hiding in this forest.

As we trod along this road, we came across a young woman braving these woods on a bike, by herself. Amused by the sight of her taking on such a venture on a road home to such ferocious predators (ie. the snake), I asked my taxi driver to stop the car. I beckoned to the woman and asked if she needed a ride to her destination. It turned out she was going to the same region I was, and it was still a long way till we would get there. We packed her bike onto the truck, and off we went to Inle Lake.

Inle Lake

An hour or so after, we arrived at the entrance. As my new friend and I conversed about the journey we had just taken, we glanced ahead of us. There stood a wooden bridge encircled by what appeared to be a village built on stilts. As the sun shone brightly, this village came to life. Schoolchildren ran past us, vendors directing their canoes to open their floating markets, stray dogs trailing behind us. Despite the hustle and bustle, the language of daily life in this village was known and yet unspoken.

I walked back and forth taking it all in. It felt like a living fairytale. Bursts of color plastered across the homes built along his lake. The lake itself appeared to hold them up. Theoretically, this idea was not so farfetched. You see, Inle Lake was the bread and butter, the gift that continuously gave, the central body of this biosphere. Without it, life as these people knew it would cease to exist. The life that existed beneath the lake provided life to the organisms that lived above the lake. I watched as fishermen gathered seaweed from the base of the lake to load upon their boats. These weeds represented sustenance. There was value in everything in the lake and of the lake. Villagers wasted no time making use of all the lake had to offer.

Picture perfect

Pictorially, this was a vision that could have easily been painted by some great artist. There was symmetry and flow between what was living and inanimate. This was something that could not be denied. Whether it was purposefully orchestrated or not, it was a masterpiece. I watched intriguingly as a variety of events occurred in front of me. These things were all common events, things that on any given day in America would have very little semblance to me. Yet, it was different here. These happenings exposed that which was characteristic to Myanmar.

It was difficult to contemplate leaving. The moment was all too great. I felt a sense of comfort here. A comfort that would have easily made me acclimate to the mundane. And all too well that is a feeling I dread. This time, I wanted to bask in it. I am certain most people would pay to have a moment like this – especially knowing how hectic Western life can be. Why would anyone want to leave? I wanted to live in it eternally. The peacefulness I felt was all too immense. I wasn’t sure if I would ever have had a moment like this. Time passes too quickly, and time is always of the essence.

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