Inle Lake is one of Myanmar’s most popular tourist attractions, and it’s also one of the places most at environmental risk due to overfishing and the use of pesticides and fertilizer by local farmers, and, ironically, the rapid growth of the tourism industry. Since the “opening up” of Myanmar in recent years, increasingly packed boatloads of tourists are taking to the lake, which only adds to the pollution and congestion conditions. And to accommodate those growing throngs of foreigners who want to see the lake and the surrounding area, more forests and farmland are being decimated to make way for “scenic” hotels along the lakeshore.
Earlier this month I read a report, announcing that the Hilton Hotel chain will be opening properties in Nay Pyi Daw and Ngapali Beach this year, followed by a Hilton Inle resort in 2106, and a Hilton Mandalay in 2017. Hilton Inle? Please, please, please …. tell me that’s somebody’s idea of a joke. A fucking sick joke. Say it ain’t so, Ko Soe Moe! There’s really going to be a Hilton Inle? I’m getting intestinal cramps just thinking about it. Is this really someone’s idea of progress? Hey, I realize that new hotels mean new jobs, and the locals certainly deserve the chance to better their lives, but are expensive resorts a good solution, especially in an area that is so environmentally fragile?
I actually visited Inle Lake again back in March when I took the kids from 90th Street in Mandalay on a multi-day trip to Shan State. Normally when I visit this part of Shan State, in Nyaungshwe, I avoid the lake altogether. I did my obligatory Inle boat tour several years ago and haven’t felt the need to do another one, but with the group in tow — most of whom had never seen the lake — it was chance to be tourist all over again. And I have to admit, it was a lot of fun, although being on the lake and traipsing around its surrounding villages all day was more than a bit tiring.
After visiting weaving villages, famous old lakeside pagodas and ancient stupas, stopping by the “Jumping Cat Monastery” (where the cats have gotten so fat that they rarely jump any more), the kids decided it was time for a swim when we reached Indein.