Our three days on Innlay Lake started at the airport in Mandalay where I watched a Canadian Documentary on Polar Bears while waiting for the flight! Quite surreal really.
Innlay is a long shallow lake banded by mountain ranges on both sides with numerous stilt villages dotting the water. The pace of life is dictated by the rhythms of the water and the residents are as at home on it we we would be on land. Little children have little boats and they play on and about them until they are old enough to join in the family business.
Fishermen fish using the iconic one legged rowing style seen in National Geographic and countless other documentaries. At first it looks impossibly awkward, but then you understand the mechanics and it all works. Unlike most, these men fish in the bright midday sun so they can actually see the fish in the shallow and clear waters of the lake, using basket nets and gently swishing themselves through the water with one leg wrapped around the oar. They need two hands for the basket net, one leg to perch delicately on a tiny platform on the bow of the canoe and the other for the oar! Timeless and elegant.
The rest of the time this tranquil scene is beset by the cacophony of dozens of really noisy two stroke engines which belch out clouds of diesel and zip around with huge rooster tails of spray from the design of the propellers. Also quite picturesque!
My room was right beside the main “highway” which the lake people use to get to the morning market. The room had a nice polite note explaining what and when the noise would start and asking for our understanding of local custom. Normally it would not be an issue and we were getting up early anyway for shoots – except at 5 in the morning when you have been up all night with a galloping case of food poisoning, the noise seems to add insult to injury! I have to say that the one benefit of food poisoning, if such a thing can be said, is that while rather violent while it lasts it is usually of short duration. After “romancing the throne” all night I passed on the mornings shoot, slept deeply for a couple of hours and was ready to go for the afternoon. A couple of others in the group have been fighting the more frequent and usual travellers lament for several days and you don’t envy them on long hot days away from the amenities!