The leg-rowing fishermen of Inle Lake – Myanmar




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The iconic sight of Inle Lake in Myanmar is the leg rowing Intha fishermen. Most lake traffic consists of long, flat-bottomed boats. These days they generally have noisy diesel motors, but the traditional fisherman still use the leg rowing technique. They stand at the stern and wrap one leg round an oar whilst gripping the hull of the boat with the other foot.

Inle Lake Fisherman

Preparing the net

This upright position has a number of advantages – they can see across the lake to spot the dense hyacinth weeds that are scattered just below the surface of the lake. At the same time they can keep watch for the tell-tale bubbles of shoals of fish.

The deceptively simple looking basket net has a spear sticking through the top of the frame. The spear is used to stir the weed below, exposing the fish. The fisherman can feel the fish bumping against the frame and releases the net to capture the fish.

The leg can also be changed to allow for travelling greater distances, which could be useful on the 22-mile long lake. Women still row in the customary style, holding the oars whilst sitting in the boat.

Inle Lake Crop Harvest

Harvesting the crops on Inle Lake

Inle Lake Farming

There are also fruit and vegetable crops growing on the surface of the lake, so the standing position allow the fishermen to see beyond the trellises. The floating trellis frames rise and fall with the level of the lake, keeping the crops above water level.

Inle Lake Weed Gathering

Gathering weeds on Inle Lake

Inle Lake Fisherman

Inle Lake fisherman preparing his basket

The gardens grow in floating beds of lake-bottom weeds, and workers can be seen gathering these from all over the lake.

The most abundant fish in Inle Lake is the nga hpein, or Inle Carp. It can be kneaded together with potato or fermented rice to create htamin gyin – it’s a popular local dish but I’m not really a fan.

The Inle Lake fishermen know they are big tourist draws, so can often be seen pottering along on a diesel engine, then switching to leg rowing when a boat full of camera toting tourists draw near. Others aren’t so keen and turn away to get on with their fishing. The guy in the video above seemed quite new to fishing, and loved the attention.





14 Responses to The leg-rowing fishermen of Inle Lake – Myanmar

  1. wandering educators August 7, 2012 at 12:22 am #

    this is so cool. i can’t even imagine gardening (or fishing) like that!

  2. Micki August 7, 2012 at 12:39 am #

    Thanks for this! What an interesting peek into life in traditional Myanmar.

  3. D.J. - The World of Deej August 7, 2012 at 5:41 am #

    Awesome stuff…everything I’ve ever seen from bloggers coming out of Myanmar has made me want to go. Great pics…

    • steve August 7, 2012 at 8:11 am #

      Go soon if you can – I think it’s on the cusp of changing due to tourism

  4. Lisa Niver Rajna August 7, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

    Everytime I read your blog I get so excited to go back this year to Myanmar. Great pics! Lisa

  5. Forrest August 7, 2012 at 6:07 pm #

    I loved Inle also. We just got back and I have started blogging about the trip. Right now I am only as far as Bhutan. I hope you check it out.

    Great reads from you, thanks.

  6. Terry at Overnight New York August 8, 2012 at 2:34 am #

    Fascinating window into another culture. The fishing baskets are amazing — and gorgeous in their way.

  7. LeX August 9, 2012 at 4:14 am #

    Very traditional fishing technique! I like this! really unique content! ;)

    Keep it up! Enjoy reading it!

  8. Laurence August 12, 2012 at 9:44 pm #

    Wow, I’d never heard of this. Great shots of an interesting fishing technique :)


  1. Lisa Niver Rajna (@wesaidgotravel) - August 7, 2012

    Love these #Photos of #Myanmar from @SteveWBT Cannot wait to be there later this year #travel

  2. @BlogExpat - August 7, 2012

    RT @SteveWBT: The leg-rowing fishermen of Inle Lake – Myanmar

  3. @ACoupleTraveler - August 7, 2012

    RT @wesaidgotravel
    Love these #Photos of #Myanmar from @SteveWBT Cannot wait to be there later this year … #travel

  4. @HotelreviewsNYC - August 8, 2012

    Reading: The leg-rowing fishermen of Inle Lake – Myanmar – via @SteveWBT

  5. @NYX0R - September 4, 2012

    The leg-rowing fishermen of Inle Lake – Myanmar – via @SteveWBT

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