Lake of Life
Inle Lake, the second largest in Myanmar, inhabited by Intha People. Located in the Nyaungshwe township of Shan state, the lake stretches as far as 116 square kilometers. The Intha People depend on the lake for their survival and forms a crucial part of their community.
Traditions still hold out in Myanmar’s countryside, which has so far been relatively untouched. Myanmar was often seen as one of the world’s most isolated nations, akin to North Korea. Although the recent governments have eased the restrictions on tourism, the country remains unique, steeped in idiosyncratic cultural rituals unspoiled by rampant tourism. No more is this apparent than Inle; it is a living exhibition of untouched tradition, culture, and people.
Surrounded by a fresh water, the Intha developed a unique way of living; homes are built on stilts that sit on top of the lake. Farming and fishing became major industry and economic drivers for the Intha. Local fisherman are known for their distinct rowing style, which involved standing at the stern on one leg and using the other leg with the oar to row.
A large group of Pa’O People, who are known with their all-black or indigo outfits with colourful turbans are commonly seen in this part of the region. The Pa’O believe that they are a descendants of a Weiza, a supernatural being manifested as a dragon. Their fashion is a resemblance of a legend that has been passed from generation to generation. The men drape the tail of their turban as a symbol of Weiza. The women’s turban is meant to resemble a dragon’s head. Another ethnic group that populate this captivating lake is the Padaung People or commonly known as a long neck tribe. They share a believe that the distinctive brass neck rings are a symbol of beauty.
On Inle lake each village has a market on a different day of the week. Neighbouring villagers come to the markets in their flat bottom boats to shop for fruit, vegetable, fish, meat, and other goods. The flat bottom boats are ideal for the shallow water of the Inle which is rich with floating vegetation. As the boat travels through the magnificent lake, it slowly unveils the conventional way of living in Inle Lake.
Although the tourism sector is rapidly increasing, exposing the Myanmarese to western ideologies, the Buddhist traditions are still held strongly; myth, history, and religion intertwine in Myanmar like a synchronised harmony.
Irene (b.1998) is a Indonesian photographer focused on documentary and travel photography. She has received several awards for her works including top 24 creators in Miami Art Basel by See. Me. Her works have appeared in publications worldwide. Irene is based in Jakarta and works globally.