Thaung Tho Kyaung Market, Inle Lake, Myanmar
Man with a Cheroot
A man takes a break, squatting on the bundles of bamboo that sit at the docks of the Thaung Tho Market on Inle Lake.
Inle Lake, Myanmar’s second largest freshwater body of water, sits in the mountainous-west of the multi-ethnic Shan State. The 45 square-mile (117 square-kilometer) lake is known for its leg-rowing Intha fishermen and its floating villages. Amongst the reeds and narrow waterways, the ethnic markets and buddhist pagodas are also worth a visit.
The markets around Inle Lake are held on a rotating five-day cycle. The one at Thaung Tho Kyaung, a Pa’O (Taungthu) village in the canals well south of the city of Nampan, is a popular event which brings the local people down from the surrounding hills and in from the waterways.
The Pa’O people are the second largest ethnic group in the Shan State – and many live on and around the lake.
Life on the Water
Whatever you want to do on Inle Lake, you do it by boat.
Our Boat on the Lake
Our boatman steers us through the waterways…
Portrait of a Boatman
… to our various destinations around Inle Lake.
Thaung Tho Kyaung Pagoda
We pass many beautiful Buddhist temples on our travels.
Boats at the Dock
Our docking point near the Thaung Tho Market is already busy with boat traffic.
Man on a Break
Bamboo is big business. These long, strong, pieces are used extensively for construction.
Woman at the Dock
Smaller pieces of bamboo and other non-wood fibres are woven for walls, floors and roofing.
The Thaung Tho Market is a busy place: they are already washing up at the coffee hut.
Dotted all around the markets are stalls for preparing paan: betel quid. Called kun-ya (ကွမ်းယာ) in Burmese, the quid is a combination of areca nuts with spice and/or tobacco wrapped up in betel leaves.
Making Betel Paan
The word “paan” comes from the Sanskrit word “parṇa” (leaf). The betel leaf is spread with slaked lime – a calcium hydroxide paste – which helps release the alkaloid stimulants in the betel leaf and areca nut.
Betel Leaves and Areca Nuts
Limed betel leaf is filled with chopped areca nut…
… and a mixture of tobacco and spices…
Making Betel Paan
… before being rolled into a packet …
… and tucked into one’s mouth to be chewed.
Young Man in Thanaka Powder
Although young, this betel-paan salesman already shows some signs of the oral problems caused by chewing quid.
Thaung Tho Market
The markets are a centre for the local Pa-O (Black Karen) people and include produce, clothing and trinkets.
Although many Pa’O women now wear modern blouses or sweaters instead of the traditional black jackets, they still wear their woven checkered head-dresses. These vegetable-sellers wait for customers, …
… as they survey the market area.
These three boys were enjoying “window shopping” together. It is not uncommon for young boys to become Buddhist novices.
Ornate pipes are amongst the bits and baubles on offer.
Checking out the Goods
A Karen man examines a length of fabric…
… and makes his purchase…
… without ever loosening his grip on his cheroot.
Karen Woman and Child
With her baby in a carry-sling, a young Karen mum does her shopping.
Boats on the Dock
As we leave the markets, the dock area is busy with people loading the 20-foot lengths of bamboo.
I love markets for the glimpse they give into people’s every-day lives.
Two things stood out for me at this one:
Firstly, time is paced differently: there is a lot of standing or squatting while watching and waiting – interspersed with bursts of activity or labour-intensive periods. Whether you are waiting to sell your bamboo or your vegetables, or waiting for your betel paan, you will have long spells of inactivity.
Secondly, stimulants – in the form of coffee, cheroots and betel paan – have a more prominent role than any single food-stuff.
I guess the stimulants help with those long periods of idleness…
Until next time ~