As with many sites in Burma it’s often the local inhabitants that make a visit and In Dein on the edge of Inle Lake is a perfect example. The friendly and colourful Pa-O people who inhabit the region are certainly used to tourists and hawk their handicrafts to visitors but they still seem to manage to be outgoing without being too pushy, so long may that last. Here are a few images of the area.
This striking Pa-O woman tending her heard of goats with a baby in tow was happy to pose amid the great backdrop of ruined stupas — she just requested was a light for her cheroot. The lake shore and stilt villages are predominantly inhabited by Intha people but step away from the lake and most of the hillside villages are home to the Pa-O ethnic group.
This elderly Pa-O woman in the ‘Bamboo Forest’ was smoking her cheroot between the In Dein stupas and the riverbank; not quite such hard core betel users as many Burmese, the Pa-O tend to favour cheroots and the women are heavy smokers too.
While the Pa-O women favour either red or orange head scarves, the menfolk are more flexible in their choice of turban-style head-wear. Again while the women generally are clad in all black cotton costumes men are usually clothed in similar fashion to local Burmese.
The Pa-O ethnic group are not related to either the Burmese or Shan and form part of the wider Sino-Tibetan family, who migrated into what is now Shan State in more recent times. They are today one of the largest ethnic groups of the region and are found in a large swathe of lower Shan State intermingled among their Mon-Khmer and Tai-Kadai neighbouring groups, the Palaung and Shan respectively.
The above Pa-O girl — yes she’s wearing a blue not orange scarf — can be found most days in the ‘Bamboo Forest’ cooking poppadoms in hot sand in a large wok. No oil is used and surprisingly not a grain of sand sticks to the finished snack. She’ll let you have a go doing her job but it isn’t as easy as she makes it look.
While adopting the Burmese thanaka fashion, as we mentioned the Pa-O are not such great fans of betel as may of the hill-tribe groups are; we’d like to know who this woman’s dentist is!
Despite being a stone’s throw from the plush lakeside tourist resorts, the local villages are still very traditional and lack both running water and electricity. This old woman is carrying what looks like a heavy load of firewood home from In Dein.
Water buffaloes are still a common form of transport for Pa-O youth.
There’s lots more to discover at In Dein than the already spectacular ruins, so go for a wander!
By Mark Ord
Last updated on 24th March, 2014.