One of the ”not to be missed” must of Inle Lake in Myanmar is the leg rowing Intha fishermen. Most lake traffic consists of long, flat-bottomed wooden boats. Unfortunately nowdays they generally have noisy and polluting diesel motors, but the traditional fisherman still use the leg rowing technique.
They are well known throughout Asia for their unique way of rowing, using a leg to hold the oar instead of their arms as usually the fishermen do, and also recognizable for their conical fishing nets, acrobatically handled by their legs and arms. When you see them fishing, they stand at the stern of the small and unstable wooden boat and it seems that just an extra millimeter ahead and the water would flood inside sinking the vessel.
Our local guide told us that the upright position has a number of advantages: first of all they can see across the lake to spot the dense hyacinth weeds that are scattered just below the surface of the lake because during the dry season the average deep is only around 2 meters. The other important thing is that they can keep watch for the tell-tale bubbles of shoals of fish and keep both hands free to handle the cumbersome nets. Obviously using this rowing technique having a so fine sense of balance is a result of practicing it since childhood.
We had been told that the fishermen learn the difficult skill from the age of 10 . The practice is just for the men because the Intha women still row in the customary style, holding the oars while sitting in the boat. Looking at the basket net, you’ll notice a spear sticking through the top of the frame. The spear is used to stir the many weeds below, exposing the fish. The fisherman can feel the fish bumping against the frame and releases the net to capture the them.