Somehow, we surpassed our two-year anniversary of living in Myanmar without ever going to Inle Lake. Dan flies in and out of Heho every other week, it seems; but it was never a good time to extend his trip and see the lake as a family. All of our visitors have said that Inle Lake was their favorite part of Myanmar, so of course we intended to go at some point. When my dear friend Monica decided to come see us, and the visit coincided with a holiday for Dan--we knew it was time to get away for the weekend.
Needless to say, we were not disappointed. We could have stayed on for a week and not been bored. Shan State is so bucolic and peaceful--and so unlike Yangon--that I kept forgetting we were still in the same country.
We spent our time on boats and on bicycles, in wineries and restaurants, running around the hotel grounds, and eating ALL THE FOOD. We even ran into friends from Yangon, which thrilled the girls.
We took a half-day tour of the villages on the lake, which included plenty of opportunities to buy crafts, of course. (The girls could not understand why we weren't buying them a souvenir at EVERY shop.) We learned about how they make fabric from lotus fibers:
We saw the fascinating one-leg paddling technique used by the local fishermen.
We met so many interesting and friendly people:
I really wanted to be out on the lake at golden hour so I could get some really beautiful shots of the fishermen. The first evening, the sun was behind a cloud and the girls were starving after being out on the lake all afternoon. We sped back to the hotel and caught a glimpse of the sunset just before it slipped behind the mountains. The second night, Monica and I decided to call for a boat to take us out right before sunset. We stood on the dock, waiting for our boat, watching the sun get lower and lower. We got stuck in the reeds and water plants on our way out to where the fishermen are, and missed the sunset by about five minutes. Rather than focus on my disappointment and frustration, I really enjoyed being on the boat in the cool evening breeze with Monica. I might not have gotten "the Inle Lake shot" that I envisioned, but I wasn't actually there to take photos. I honestly could have left my camera at home and still loved every minute of the trip. I'm getting better about putting down the camera and enjoying the ride. I think there is something to be said for taking fewer photos. A lot of photographers I know are experimenting with film cameras again, and they love it--not in spite of, but because of the fact that you don't have the luxury of taking hundreds of shots and then deleting the bad ones. When you spend more time thinking about your shot and less time shooting, you end up with carefully composed, creative images rather than the occasional lucky shot. You also end up experiencing the moment more fully, instead of always seeing life through the little viewfinder.