Today is a day of artisans and SHOPPING! We travel the tourist trail not in a van but in a boat. The boat is supplied with water for thirst, ponchos for rain and umbrellas for sun. Five low chairs nicely spaced down the length of the craft so everyone has leg room and a great view. Off we go.
First stop is a temple with five smallish Buddhas, but there has been so much gold leaf pressed onto them that they look like Buddha blobs (sorry). Not too impressive. What was most interesting was the market in behind the temple. Locals and tourists alike were plying the aisles shopping for herbal remedies, boat parts, longgi, kids clothes, tomatoes, throw away syringes, fish, chicken, betel nut, rice and everything else a person could imagine. We wander, look, point, ask questions, bargain, shop and snap photos.
There is a weaving workshop on Inle Lake that weaves the strands from lotus flower stocks. We watch a young woman break the stock, pull the strand from the stock and when she has enough she rolls the strands into a thin string. Another woman spins and hangs the strands to dry. The lotus strands will only take chemical dyes not the natural dyes used for silk. The strands are woven into scarves mostly and are supposed to keep a person warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather. L asks the price of a normal size scarf. $160 US. We both pass up the opportunity to own one.
The workshop also weaves silk and cotton. The fabrics created are wondrous and I could buy the whole store. I settle for a silk scarf in one of my favorite colours.
A cigar workshop sees three gorgeous women hand rolling short cigars. Two roll “strong” flavoured and one rolls “sweet” flavoured. We are mesmerized by the movement of their hands in the rolling of one cigar. When asked if we would like to try, we kindly say No Thank you!
The blacksmith workshop employs about five strong sweaty men who pump the bellows, heat the metal, hammer the hot metal and create knives of all sizes, scissors, bells, and statuettes. We watch three of them pound in alternating cadence a piece of red hot metal that will eventually become a cleaver. No purchases here.
The Special Fish Silver Workshop is a third generation workshop now run by the grandson of the original owner. He employs only family, sons, cousins, and nephews in the workshop and the ladies in the shop. He explains that they buy “rocks” that have bauxite, copper, silver and zinc in them. The rock is boiled to remove the bauxite and zinc as vapour. Then nitric acid is introduced to separate the copper and silver, they can then remove the silver. There are 4 to 5 artisans creating bracelets, earrings and special articulating fish pendants of all sizes. The male fish articulate up and down and the female fish articulate side to side. No purchases here either – too rich for us.
We spend the last hour of the day cruising the floating gardens that are so well known in Myanmar. The gardeners grow tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and various gourds in rows and rows. It is hard to describe so here are a few pictures.
Every one of these craftspeople is using traditional non-mechanical methods to produce their products. These establishments we visited are not set up for the tourist, as in most countries, but are the way they produce the goods they sell. I hope this does not change with the quaintness of the place replaced by the contrived tourist display of elsewhere.
We have learned about weaving lotus strands, blacksmiths, silver smiths and floating gardens today. A wonderful day which was made so relaxing by the method of transportation – a boat.