Today I am still in Inle Lake, Myanmar. It was kind of an amazing day. The day started out with my guide and boat driver picking me up at the dock at the hotel at about 9:30 this morning. It was nice to sleep in a bit. Once loaded in the boat, we were off.
First we stopped at a small village on the lake where there are long neck women living. They mostly just live there now because of the tourists to sell them different items that they weave. It was interesting to hear the history of why they put the rings around their necks. Mostly it is because, originally, they lived near the jungle and it was to protect them from tiger and monkey attacks. See, monkeys are not our friends. Anyway, the men in the villages are able to run from the tigers and monkeys. But, the women were seen as weaker and not able to outrun the tigers and monkeys. So, they started putting the rings around their necks, so if a tiger or monkey did attack, they would go for the neck to kill their prey. The rings protect their necks so they are able to get away from an attack. The rings are put on the girls starting at age 9. They start with 9 rings. Then at age 14 they add more, and again at age 19. It doesn't make their necks longer, it actually pushes down their shoulders so their necks appear longer. I got to see some of the rings and they are really, really heavy. I guess when the women get older, they remove the rings but have to wear some sort of neck support for weeks because their necks are so weak. Most of them live near the Thai border, that is why they are seen in Thailand as well.
After the village stop, we made our way a blacksmith shop. They make everything from farming tools and knives to boat propellers. All done by hand. There is one guy stoking the fire with bellows and when the steel gets really hot, he jumps down from a platform and he and two other men shape the steel with sledgehammers while one guy holds whatever it is they are making and moves it to create the shape they need. Then they repeat the process over and over. While I was there they were making a knife. I saw this process about 5 times and it was still a long way off from being finished. It's hard work and seemed pretty dangerous. They weren't wearing shoes and the sparks were flying everywhere. But, it's how things are done in the villages and it all seems to work for them.
After the blacksmith, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant on the lake. It was a pretty cool place. I had a lunch of spring onion with rice paste wrapped in banana leaves and then steamed, tempura spring onion with chili peppers, and Shan noodles. The Shan noodles are amazing!! They are famous here because it is the name of this State in Myanmar and it is a local dish. It was Shan rice noodles with chicken in a broth, then you add cilantro, onion and chili. It is delicious!! I think maybe someone should open a Shan noodle place in Madison. I would eat there. Maybe instead of my grilled cheese truck, I should start a Shan noodle truck. I bet I would make millions!!! It was also a cat sanctuary. I was really confused by this. The guide told me that there were only two cats left in all of Myanmar and they were brought to this sanctuary so they could preserve them and breed them to bring back the population. I couldn't figure out why all the cats disappeared. Then we saw the cats and they are very specific Burmese cats. Only can be found in Myanmar. It is important for them to bring back the cats I guess. The cats had a whole room with little couches to sleep on and then there was a bridge leading to the cat island. It was a bit strange.
After the blacksmith we made our way to another village and saw a weaving factory. The women there weave silk and lotus thread into various items. The silk is kind of self explanatory. They do have silk here, but a lot of it is imported from China. The lotus root thread was interesting. There is an abundance of lotus flower on the lake. People go and harvest the stems and then bring the stems to the factory. The women there cut the ends off and pull it apart. When they pull it apart there are really thin, sticky threads that come out. They keep cutting and roll the thin threads to make a larger one. Then they take that one long thread and put it on a spool and it is then put on the loom to make various items. One scarf uses about 5000 lotus stems. It's a long process and it is all done by hand on ancient looking machinery. While I was there, there was two buildings with two floors and you could hear the weaving happening from every window. They also mix the lotus thread with silk to make different things. I think it is only done in Myanmar, but maybe I'm wrong on that.
Then, we made our way to another village and saw some floating gardens. They grow a lot of vegetables right on the lake. The lotus gets very heavy in areas and becomes a solid mass. So solid you can walk on it. Then they create rows in the water by digging out parts of the lotus and mud from the bottom of the lake and plant vegetables in the rows left, with the mud from the lake. It is pretty cool so see floating gardens in the middle of the lake. They also anchor the rows down with bamboo, otherwise they would just float away. Most of the items being grown now are tomatoes and squash. They have 8 tomato crops here every year, and the lake provides 80% of the tomatoes to all of Myanmar. It is a huge farming community. So many fishermen and gardens on the lake, it was impressive.
We also went to a place where they make the teak wood boats and also a monastery and pagoda. It was interesting, but not much was happening there. To be honest, I've seen A LOT of Buddha's in the past week and they are all starting to look the same to me. The monastery was interesting though. It is called jumping cat monastery. They have just regular every day cats at this monastery. I guess the main monk taught the cats to jump really high, straight up into the air. He trained them and when tourists came, the cats had to perform. That monk died a couple of years ago and the new main monk decided to stop showing the jumping cats. He wanted people to see the beauty of the monastery instead of the cats. Also, it pretty much went against the Buddhist religion, making the cats perform. The new monk said it was mean to the cats and we should respect them. I get that.
After visiting all these places we made our way back to the hotel. So here I am, really sunburned and having a beer and updating the blog! It's about 5:00p.m. here now. Once I, hopefully, get the blog updated I may take a nap before dinner. The internet service here is really bad so it might take another hour to add some photos.
Tomorrow I leave Inle Lake and travel to Yangon, Myanmar. Then I transfer to the international airport and fly to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Once in Ho Chi Minh City, I will transfer to the domestic airport and I will fly to Hanoi, Vietnam and meet up with my Sister and Nephew and a friend of my Sister's. So, tomorrow is a day full of traveling and I will be in 5 different airports tomorrow. My ride is picking me up at 6:45 tomorrow morning and I won't arrive in Hanoi until 11:30p.m. tomorrow night. So, it's going to be a not fun day. I don't know if I will post something tomorrow since there won't be much happening except airports and travel. But if I get some fun airport photos and I feel like it tomorrow, I may update tomorrow night. Otherwise I will update on Friday. Friday we are all going to the Perfume Pagoda in Hanoi. That should be a fun trip. So, until next time...