Welcome to an enchanting land of golden pagodas, velvet shoes and lotus flowers. The horizon is full of hope as visitors are being encouraged to explore the treasures of this unique Asian country, says Harriet O’Brien. Burma is an almost fairy-tale land of exquisite idiosyncrasies. The people wear velvet flip-flops, men and women are almost always impeccably turned out in skirt-like lungyis and they liberally and devoutly apply small patches of gold leaf to their already gilded temples and golden images of Buddha. In the meantime, their myriad pagodas hum with the sounds of gongs and bells, which are struck every time a donation is made so that all may share the merit of the good deed. The reverberating spirit of generosity is part of the innate charm of the Burmese people and their culture and as in other parts of Burma, visitors are welcome at the local pagodas and monasteries.
Just over 13 miles long, the Inle lake presents some of Burma’s most dreamy scenery – and some of its most wonderfully quirky sights. The indigenous Intha people live over the water in houses on stilts. They grew wealthy (by Burmese standards) from farming their homemade floating islands and from fishing, for which they developed a curious method of rowing with one arm and a leg so as to keep the other arm free for manoeuvring nets. They now also make tidy sums from tourism. Visitors are taken around the lake by motorised longboat, their picturesque tours punctuated by plenty of retail opportunities, with stops at teak-panelled workshops on stilts: silversmith, cheroot-maker, papermaker. Most striking of all is the weaving outfit at the village of In Paw Khon, into a world of wooden looms in which all worked by hand.