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The wholesale part of the market isn’t as picturesque as the retail part, but it’s just as busy. And interesting.

It’s not just food that’s for sale, but also other items that sometimes people need in bulk. Large baskets, for example, and woven bamboo mats.



In case you’re wondering why people need so many of these things, well, most of the houses have walls made of the woven bamboo mats. And sitting platforms, indoors and out. And as for the baskets…

Gotta have something to bring all that ginger root home in. And also the tomatoes.

Not everything ends up in baskets, though. Large sacks are also popular. Here, a man is filling a sack with green beans. It’s really good that he doesn’t pick them out like I do, examining each one individually.

In fact, large sacks are more common than baskets in the wholesale market.


In the wholesale market, merchandise is sold by weight, and the scale can be moved from village to village just like the market.

One of the more interesting aspects of the five-day market is the variety of different tribal people who buy and sell goods there. And just people-watching in general.


After the market, we caught a plane at Heho airport and flew to Yangon. I’ve already posted about Yangon on this blog. That same afternoon, we flew from Yangon to Siem Reap, Cambodia. We bid farewell to Myanmar with some regret. We miss it.



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This is really cool…
Click to Mix and Solve

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Markets in Europe in the Middle Ages may not have been much different from this. Oh, they wouldn’t have had trucks, of course. Or tomatoes, for that matter. But I imagine the look and feel would have been much the same.

Let’s start with the retail market. Later, we’ll see the wholesale market, too.

Remember those tomatoes they were unloading from the boats? Here they come to market.

And indeed, you can find tomatoes at this market. Along with many other kinds of very fresh fruits and vegetables.



Also, there were lovely flowers.


As you might expect of a market on Inle Lake, many vendors sold seafood, both dried and fresh; and also hearty fish soups and soup ingredients in addition to fish.


And here are some of the other things they sold.

Tomatoes and corn–just like the farmers markets here in New England!


Or then again, maybe not quite like the farmers markets in New England.


Yes, I do think that this last one is skewered grilled eels. Or maybe snakes. Bon appetit!

Finally, here’s a panorama of the market that Dan shot. It’s a big file (3mb). Click here if you’d like to view it; it should load in a new window or tab. It’s pretty cool.



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Market day! We arrived at Inle Lake too late in the morning to make the five-day market in Nyaung Shwe, but this morning we had to get up very early (5am, as I recollect) to go to the five-day market in Heho.

The five-day market serves not just the residents of all the villages in and around Inle Lake, but also the tribal people living in the hills all around. Serving this large geographic area with this (relatively) small and diverse population, the market has developed a pattern of moving from place to place on a five-day rotating schedule. Hence the name.

On each fifth day, the market is held in more than one village or town at diverse locations around the lake. The market schedule is further complicated by the fact that no markets are held on the days of the full or new moon. (This at first seemed like a charming superstition, until we recollected that in some states in the US, stores have to stay closed on Sundays. And isn’t that just the same thing?)

Even so, many people have to come long distances. Retailers in these remote sites buy wholesale at the nearest market to them so that they can resell to the people in their area until the market comes around again five days later. People living closer just buy for themselves until the market comes around to some place close enough to go again. Thus, the market offers a wholesale as well as a retail section.

Dan says this is the best market of them all.

This could be true. Certainly it was fun to photograph, and certainly it’s been hard to winnow down our collective hundred-plus photos to a reasonable number to share. So today we’re just going to look at what it’s like to go to the market. Tomorrow, we’ll get there and look around.

Going to the market from our water-bound hotel is a two-stage process: by water to Nyaung Shwe (setting out shortly after sunrise), and from there by land to Heho.

At that early hour, the lake (and then the canal that connects to Nyaung Shwe) bore considerable traffic of market-goers, mostly vendors with goods to sell.


Once we reached the dock, we watched the boats being unloaded as we waited for our car.



Do you see the two men carrying the basket of tomatoes on a pole?

When the car arrived, we set out by land.

Well, will you look at that! Between people and goods, they’ve managed to fit quite a load onto that truck!

As you can imagine, they’re not going too fast. We pass them and reach Heho. Somehow, this reminds me of the idea of a town in the Wild West. The turnoff to the market is just ahead.



Whoa, here comes that truck again!

And there it goes. There is a place where all the trucks can park. This one is probably headed over there.

As for us pedestrians, there’s a whole informal little market just on the way to the regular market.

Tomorrow, we’ll visit the main market.


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It’s called the Inle Resort Hotel, and it seems to want to be an eco-lodge of sorts. It’s very tastefully done and beautifully sited at the edge of the lake among the natural habitat. We like this hotel best, perhaps, of all those we stayed at. We liked it so much that it’s the only one we photographed.

The approach to the hotel is beautiful and tranquil–by water, of course, with a long, curved, elegant “driveway.” It puts the guest into a certain relaxed and appreciative mood even before arriving.



The lobby, open to the air, has lovely views as well. Like so many places in Myanmar, it is built mostly of teak, and the wood is beautiful.



Our room, at the farthest back corner of the hotel compound, continues the simplicity of structure and decor combined with the richness of materials and environment. The mosquito netting around the bed is mostly a decoration. There is air conditioning and there are screens and doors and windows that shut tightly. And even when we sat outside on the deck to enjoy our quiet and peaceful view, there were not any mosquitos.



After settling in, we walked around the hotel grounds and enjoyed the end-of-day panorama.



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It was the end of a long day on the lake for Dan and me; and for you, dear readers, it’s been two weeks of reading and seeing photos of various attractions on Inle Lake. It’s time to head back to the hotel for an evening of relaxation, because we have to get up early tomorrow morning in order to get to the five-day market on time. But we’ve come a long way south down the lake, and as our boat heads back, the wind srops; the sun comes out; and the scenery turns from lovely to drop-dead gorgeous.

But first, a look at a few of the one-off structures we noted throughout the day, places of no particular touristic interest but which seemed unique (or typical) of the lake scenery as a whole. These are the man-made structures in their watery environment.

This attractive structure, built in an isolated location in the middle of the lake, is (we were told) a government-run guest house. Whyever they might need one of those here… Make of it what you will.

Here are a couple of rural scenes.


And a couple of pagodas glimpsed in passing from the water.


But it was the landscape of lake and mountain and sky that was the most enchanting of all, both earlier in the day…


and late in the afternoon as the wind died down.



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You have to admit, I’ve laid pretty low on the holy sites for the last several posts, a week now, maybe more. So… this is Myanmar, and it’s time for a monastery. And not just any monastery, but the famous home of the jumping cats.

As with all places around Inle Lake, arrival is by boat.

The monastery complex comprises a number of buildings arranged in an attractive tableau.



The pagoda contains many attractive Buddhas of different styles.



In addition, the place is inhabited by many contented cats.



Interestingly, the monks of this monastery have trained the cats to jump through hoops. We didn’t get to see this in person, though we would have loved to. We were told that there have been complaints that training cats is too trivial a pursuit, and not spiritual enough, for serious monks to pursue. And so now the monks no longer demonstrate their cats’ skills. They might still be training them, of course, but not so publicly.

You can watch a video on youtube by clicking here. This is fun. Enjoy!


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Just writing the title of this post makes me smile. Floating tomato gardens! What a concept! And what would they do with the cucumbers? Hang the vines on air hooks?

Maybe not. Maybe that’s why they grow tomatoes on Inle Lake, and not cucumbers.

But tomatoes they do grow, and they grow them in abundance. This region supplies sixty percent of all the tomatoes consumed in Myanmar–a population of 5.5 million people. That’s a lot of tomatoes.

So… The tomatoes are grown in baskets that float in the lake, in long, dense, caged rows. There are problems with this farming technique. The silt that escapes the baskets and the organic waste from the plants are slowly eroding the lake environment, enriching the water so that water hyacinth–lovely, but a devastating weed–is beginning to take over, one of the few plants that can grow in water so organically rich. And then there is the matter of the pesticides… Let’s just say: This is not water you’d want to drink.

Nevertheless, there is an enchanting beauty in these farms.



Mostly it’s the women who work the tomato gardens, weeding and harvesting. They work from their boats.



Occasionally, the tomato gardens frame vistas that have breathtaking rural grace and beauty.





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I suppose you might think of it as the Venice of Inle Lake. Or at least one of them.

I can’t quite suppress a smile as I write this, but the village does have its fine, gilded place of worship, one of the few structures built on solid ground.

I don’t know the name of this village, but it seems to be something out of a fairy tale. Even the approach seems full of the promise of magic.

All of the village’s main roads and side streets are waterways.



The houses, too, have a certain fairy-tale quality, reflected on their stilts back into the water.



But as in so many places in Myanmar, I liked most just watching the people. Perhaps they enjoyed watching us, too.



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How, you might be wondering, do they get electricity to all those remote, and, well, potentially wet places all around the lake?

Or perhaps you are thinking, especially after the last post, that they don’t use electricity in many of these places. This could be true, especially since the electricity outside the large cities in Myanmar is notoriously unreliable due to shortages.

But in fact, they do bring electricity around the lake, and on towers and structures that are strangely beautiful while at the same time emanating a sense of imminent danger.

From the first time I saw one of these, I knew I had to capture a photographic record of them.


Let’s just hope that the storm brewing in the background doesn’t bring…lightning…



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