Fishing Boat, Inle Lake





Stretching for 22 km in the Shan plateau of central Myanmar, Inle Lake is the main source of life for the Intha, meaning “lake people”, who live in the 200 villages of the lake’s watershed.  Residing in either floating homes or houses built on high stilts, the Intha cultivate tomatoes, squash and aubergine plants on gardens which float around the lake.  There is even a floating Buddhist temple right in the center of the lake.


Because of the tall reeds growing in the lake, the Intha have developed a unique way of fishing.  Standing on one leg at the end of the boat, a fisherman wraps his other leg around the oar, and in this way propels the boat.  This leaves his hands free to operate the fishing net.  Requiring an enormous amount of balance, agility and strength, the fishermen learn their craft when they are 13 years old and continue until they are around 75 years of age.  Thought to have originated in the 12th century, the art of one-legged rowing enables the fishermen to see above the reeds and plants in the lake, which they would not be able to do if they were sitting down.  It allows them to see across the lake to find thick hyacinth weeds just below the surface, where fish could be hiding.  They can also keep watch for bursts of bubbles created by shoals of fish.


To begin fishing, the fishermen hit the water with their oars, then put their boats together and throw a cone-shaped net contraption into the water.  Rowing with their legs enables them to keep their hands free to fish, which they do by spearing the fish through the hole at the top of the net.  Starting just before dawn, they fish until it is time to take the catch to the local markets.


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