Inle lake/ Stilted

It’s so bloody cold. Dressed to tan, we wrap the blankets around us, as the water splashes back and the air hits us hard. The long narrow boat cuts through the water, through the hazy grey setting, as we lookout to a what seems like a sea of pale blues and whites. The river is wide and on either side is the occasional spouts of the green and muddy brown marsh land.  Entering our vision, are what seems like flamencos; gracefully stood dancing on the water surface, long silhouetted lines of their extended legs, forming balletic postures.  In our sight were the famous long boat men. Each with a foot wrapped around long sticks, as they guide their boats and fish.  We had arrived at Inle Lake, a cluster of villages living on the nearl water, home to over 70,000 people!

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Unlike in Kerala, where man made banks had been made around the houses, these villages sat wholly on the water. house raised on stilts and boats parked underneath. As you go through you can find temples, monasteries, markets, silversmiths, silk makers, blacksmith. Rowing through the villages, past the small raised spaces you can start to feel claustrophobic, the idea of being prohibited to this defined space. Yet on the other hand you are in awe at the way they have utilised the space, wondering how different it would be to live in this way moving from boat to station, to pavements or large spaces to run free.

The most innovative use of the water is the floating gardens. You see men hauling green gloopy weeds out of the river into their boats, as it engulfs all around them, sure to soon sink the boat,  yet they keep on loading. Later they will use bamboo poles to create an initial structure buried into the ground, where they will then weave the greenery around them creating a layer which they can then add compose to grow above. Lanes of fruit and veg will start to grow, a women on very narrow boats can then weave through piking up the produce as they reach out on the very edge of the boat. Watching this happen makes you think what the world could be like if we continue to flood all around us, the way we may have to life- on the edge of a boat!

 

Kathmandu/ Dust youself off and get back up again

Driving through Nepal on arrival, felt like entering a ghost town. Quiet washed over the city, grey sky’s, and dust upon everything. A consistency and regularity to everything, everywhere had been put into order and then left. The shops front neats and tidy, no litter. Every few metres piles of bricks and mounts of dirt. Unlike India with chaos and litter everywhere, there was order amongst the rumble of the half crumbling houses. As we got closer to the city centre things got busier. People wondered the streets with masks on their faces, hiding from the dust. School kids, mums with baby’s bundled in scarves strapped to their backs. Colour started to leak through the grey, the reds of temples shrines and gold pray bells, the yellow and oranges of the the fruit filling the bowl in the front of a bicycle, rusted silver pots filled with powdered spices. Elements of Indian and Tibetian influence peaked through the square, uniformed streets. The deeper you walked into the old town, the more the layers revealed. Deep cracks through the road, turning a corner to the whole road in upheaval, climbing over mounts of mud, jumping over a ditch to get to the other side of the road, as people rebuild after the devastation that was the earthquake. 

2 years on and the damage caused is still very much prevalent. On the outskirts you still see camps where people who lost their homes still live, people who lost their business. In the city every few houses are ripped open, exposed interiors that once stood whole. The amazing part is how they have rebuilt, the strength of the people. You will find old ladies with a woven basket strapped to their head, loading up bricks as they climb through the mud to empty the heavy load into a nearby truck. At home this would be the work of young labours, 17year old boys not 50-60 year old women, but they are there working hard to make the city. With so many people affected by the earthquake our hostel owner tells us that the most advertised products on television are now cerment, followed by steel rods and then biscuits!