Intha people: Local Tribe in Inle Lake, Myanmar
In western Shan State, you will find picturesque Inle Lake, with its famous floating villages and unique floating gardens of the local Intha people; their living communities based entirely on the water. Inle Lake, a freshwater lake, is the second largest lake in Myanmar located in the Nyaungshwe Township of Shan State, part of Shan Hills in Myanmar.
Inle Lake is a major tourist destination in Myanmar. Leg-rowing Intha people are members of a Tibeto-Burman ethnic group living around Inle Lake and speak an archaic dialect of Burmese. They’re believed to have come from the Dawei area (Southern part of Myanmar) and living on the lake through the tending of vegetable farms on floating gardens.
The local area, Nyaungshwe, is not only a tourist town, but also the main trading hub for the local villages, and the departure point of crafts produced from the lake towards the rest of the country. Most buildings on the lake are built with stilts on water. 70,000 of Intha people live in four cities bordering the lake and in numerous small villages along the lake's shores, and on the lake itself. Not only Intha people, but also a mix of other ethnics such as Shan, Pa-O, Taung Yo, Danu, Kayah and Danaw populate the villages around the lake shore, and most of them are Buddhists. Local markets are open five days a week. This local area is now a bustling center for travelers with guest houses, hotels, restaurants and tour agencies.
Most transportation on the lake is traditionally by small boats, or by somewhat larger boats with inboard diesel engines with 'long-tail' propellers for going on shallow water. Local Intha fishermen are famous for their distinctive rowing style which involves standing at the stern on one leg and wrapping the other leg around the oar and this unique style is evolved due to the reeds and floating plants which make difficult to see above them while sitting.
A popular traditional cuisine of Intha people is Htamin-jin (fermented rice) served with tomato and potato or fish salad or hna-pyan-jaw (twice-fried Shan tofu), and fish caught from the lake are a staple of the local diet. In addition to fishing, locals grow vegetables and fruit in large gardens that float on the surface of the lake. Rice cultivation and consumption is also significant fact of the local diet and agricultural tradition.
A number of festivals occur from August to October on Inle Lake. In the Hpaung Daw U Festival, Intha people and Shan turn out in their best clothes in great numbers to celebrate. Traditional boat racing, with dozens of leg-rowers compete in teams on each boat and these races are locally one of the most anticipated affairs during the Hpaung Daw U Festival.
However, in many places with authentic life on the lake shines through and the sites sufficiently spread out. Intha people and other local people are friendly and welcoming. These tribes also make Inle Lake a must-see destination of your trip to Myanmar.