Inle Lake, another highlights of Myanmar, one of my favorite countries is without a doubt a magical place. I’ve always been mesmerized by the images of other great photographers such as Steve McCurry from Magnum depicting the famous fishermen using their sticks with one leg to manoeuver the boat and use their big nets to get the fish. I was looking forward to see that, to get a good shot of that.
So of course Inle was on my itinerary for this trip. A couple of days before, in Yangon, a local told me that this was all a big tourist trap, the so-called fishermen waiting for the tourists to pose for money but it turned out that this guy was fraud and tried to scam us so he kinda lost some credibility to my eyes…turned out he was not lying that much this time though!
Booking a boat trip for the day in Inle Lake is a must, it really is the main attraction of the region and it’s worth every single of the 20 000 khyat (20$ for 4 persons for one day). I do not know why but traveling in Myanmar means you are always up at 5h AM and our boat driver was to pick us up at the hotel at 5h30 AM. Yes I know, it’ sad to miss the free breakfast, I was thinking the same until the little lady from the hotel, still so deeply asleep ran to us when we were leaving, with four little lunch boxes for us…those are the nicest people in the world, seriously.
Getting on the boat that early, with the city awakening, the cold, the wind, the light slowly getting in was an amazing experience. Simply overwhelming to be there in the boat and truly realize how amazing the place and the moment are.
Finally entering the lake in itself, you are welcomed by, you’ve guessed it, 2-3 “traditional-folk-authentic-local-lookatme” “fishermen”. They just stand there, close to your boat (at least I was not sad of not having my 70-200mm) and they do all that gymnastic with their poles (that sounds weird) and their nets. They even coordinate themselves and all and yes, it does look good with the sunrise and everything but I felt so bad taking pictures, knowing those do not represent anything real and there’s no challenge in it. Plus it encourages a negative practice. Meh, at least I’m telling the truth here.
At the end of their little show, they at least pretend to be the real deal by showing one dead old fish lying in the back of their boat (as this would prove anything *sigh*) and yes, you’ve guessed it, they ask for money.
Good thing is that passed these three fakermen (that’s like fake + fishermen, I’m that clever) you see some real fishermen. Maybe they’re not wearing the whole traditional costume or using the bucket net or doing acrobatic but it’s the real deal. The sun was rising and thus clearly cutting their silouhettes in yellow light with a blurry reflection on the water. Yes you’ve guessed it again, now was the time I really missed my 70-200 and I did cry for a little while. The rest of the trip is at least more authentic and gets you through amazing floating gardens, island market, old ruined stuppas, a monastery and more.
You liked the story? You like the picture? Good news is that you can buy it as a print online! Not only does it provide you with amazing art to display in your house but it is also the best way to help me continue and improve my work, cheers!
Important things to remember if you do not want to read the whole story even though you should
- Go to Myanmar, it’s worth it
- Go to Inle Lake, it’s worth it
- Take a boat ride, it’s worth it
- Be prepared to see fakermen, do not take pictures if you refuse to get in this
- Get warm clothes for the morning, cold ones with sunscreen for the rest of the day
- Bring your 70-200mm if you do not want to cry like a baby
- Low light situations always mean high ISO and large apertures
- Make sure to have quicker shutter speed, there’s a lot of movement on a boat
- Be creative with sunrise; silhouettes, reflections on water and different framing