Sunday, February 14, 2016

My Trip to Burma: Last day in Inle Lake: Long-necked ladies, skilled silversmiths, and ancient ruins at Indein.

We started our last day in Inle Lake with a nice breakfast at the hotel.  Love those long pastries.

Nyein Nyein picked us up at the hotel and we walked to the jetty.  As usual, we passed multiple dogs along the way.

I spotted this dog just walking amongst the folks on the street.  She had a little grocery bag in her mouth.
She went over to a grassy area nearby and then skillfully opened the bag, which contained the remains of some food that someone had tossed away.  I'm impressed at how resourceful these dogs are (but sad that so many are homeless).

On the walk, we passed by a few little tributaries of the main canal that were so crammed with long boats that I don't know how they're ever going to get them out.  

We also passed a typical sight, when it comes to Burmese transport: cramming the maximum number of people onboard.

We got into our colorful little boat and headed toward our first stop, a workshop where some Padaung  women were working.  These are the famous long-necked ladies with the gold rings around their necks.

Beautiful day for a boat ride

And once again, a sight I never got tired of seeing, the fishermen out early, with their nets, doing their famous one-legged rowing.

We soon arrived at Hnin Thitsat, which is billed as an umbrella and hand weaving workshop. 

We were met immediately by one of the Padaung women.  She was a really nice person, someone who would really stick their neck out for you if you needed.  

It is indeed a hand weaving workshop.  Here's a woman weaving some very blue thread.

They sold all sorts of trinkets, like bells, (we bought one) and little figurines of Padaung women.
Cute little statues, and marionettes, too.

If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it.

 On our way out I spotted a little kitten, of course.

                  Had to pat him, of course.

Actually, had to pick him up.  He had a little friend nearby, too.  So cute.

So they tore me away from the kitten and we headed to our next stop, a silversmith's shop.  But before we got in the boat, I managed to take this very nicely composed photo of these women selling souvenirs from their boats. The women are nicely spaced apart, their hats are all tilting at the same angle, the two in the front have their oars at pretty much the same angle.  Kinda neat.

Okay, we hit the boat, went under a little overpass, and then had to carefully negotiate our way to the next stop.  We had to wait for this boat to come through before we could go.  Our driver warned us we'll feel a bump going over this little step, but we'd be okay.  We barely felt it.

Here we are.  Mya Hin Tha, the gold and silversmith workshop.  We got to see the guys melting the silver, and we got to see the craftsmen performing their trade.  Some of them were very young.

This guy was making earrings.  It was very detailed work.

There's the finished product.

 This young guy was making clasps for chains.  Very fine manual dexterity involved here.

Check out this guy's hands.  George Costanza may have been a hand model, but I can't imagine his hands are as nice as this kid's.  These hands have never done any manual labor, that's for sure.

 I believe this guy was making parts that would eventually become one of these fish, which were a popular item in the shop.

We got in the boat and continued on.  It was a beautiful, warm day.  But this was November, and 82 degrees is considered cold to some folks.  Like Nyein Nyein.  Notice her behind Mark. She was bundled up with sweaters and scarves, and she held an umbrella in front of her to block the "wind".

Our boat made our way to Indein (sometimes called Inthein).   The village starts with these reed beds,  above which you can see these slender, graceful Shan stupas. 

We made our way to Nyaung Oak, a set of amazing, picturesque stupas with carvings of Buddhas, chin the, devas, elephants, and peacocks.

This is all part of the Shwe Inthein stupa complex. It's a collection of 1054 17th and 18th century stupas which are being slowly restored.

Up on that hill is the first collection of stupas.  Once again, I'm struck by how these ruins, which are so old and of such historic importance, aren't roped off or guarded in any way at all.  You just walk among them, climb among them, touch them.  You can't have this kind of experience in the U.S., where it's all behind glass or protected by security guards.

Here's Mark at the entrance of one of the small many small stupas.  Check out the still-intact intricately carved figures around the entrance.

Many of these stupas had Indian looking carvings.

The brick structures were often crumbling, but these statues seemed to remain intact.
This little pagoda was the coolest.  It was up on a mound, with a little dirt path leading to the entrance.  
The walls in the entryway had some very nicely preserved Buddha paintings.

Inside, amongst some rubble was a pretty spectacular Buddha.  Again, there was no one guarding it, no cameras.  There wasn't even room for more than one person inside.  It's just you and the Buddha.

There were many sites like these.  A crumbling monument, intricate carvings on the exterior, and a Buddha statue inside.  It's amazing to think of how many people, over the years, built these and worshipped here.

Here's another.  Interesting pagoda, nice intact exterior carvings, Buddha statue inside.

Halfway through exploring the place, I was joined by a very cute dog. I patted her, and naturally she followed me for a few minutes, before finally wandering off and latching onto some other dog-loving tourists.

Afterward, we headed uphill, along a covered walkway where people were selling hand-crafts and other items.

There was something very cool about these little pagodas, with their narrow entrances and individual, unique Buddha statues.  They were each so small and so intimate.  You can't help wondering about the person or persons who built that particular one, how much time they spent in it, and how much it meant to them.  Each one felt special.
Here's something pretty neat: trees that started growing on top of some of the pagodas. 

Here's a few final views, before we head to our next amazing site.

We walked through a covered hallway, past a few people selling souvenirs.  They had some pretty neat stuff.  

We went back outside and ran into this girl selling colorful clothing. 

And this woman doing the same, with her baby on her back.

She was happy to pose with her lil' baby.  He was oblivious, naturally.

Just before we entered, we ran into these tribal women selling fruits and veggies.  Another mom, happy to show off her kid.

Next up are another set of pagodas that are part of the whole complex.  This is the Shwe Inthein Pagoda.

Inside the building are a few interesting monuments.   There's a bell. And of course, many Buddha images.

Oops, sorry.  Ladies not allowed!

There was an interesting statue in the pagoda. It was the Buddha's footprint, so to speak.  Many people paid their respects to this one, and then tossed in donations.  It's in the foreground.

We then hit the terrace and saw another collection of stupas.  There were hundreds of them, most covered in gold.

Saw this nice dog on the terrace.  Another sweetie.  Followed us around for a while. This one looked fairly well cared for.

And also this cat, in the entryway.

We walked back through another covered walkway where handicrafts and souvenirs were being sold, and then back to our boat for the event I'd been looking forward to more than any other: a visit to the Inthar Heritage House and the Burmese Cat Sanctuary.  That warrants its very own post.  Stay tuned!

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