Monasteries and pagodas around Inle Lake

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This is the most highly revered monastery in the Inle Lake area as it houses five ancient images of the Buddha that are completely covered in gold leaf. These statues are thought to be more than 800 years old, but are now unrecognisable as Buddhas because of the amount of gold covering them. They are in the centre of the pohoto below, brown bodies with gold heads. Buddhism is a very structured religion, and men are given preferential access to the dieties. The many clocks in the temple are there to remind one that death could come at any time, so….

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For many years, the five Buddhas were paraded around Inle Lake so that everyone had the chance to pay their respects, and for men to add more gold leaf (a practise now stopped). The Buddha images would travel on the Karaweik boat which is moored next to the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda. The front end of the gilded boat represents the head of a Karaweik bird, and its tail is at the other (hidden) end.

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In 1965, there was a storm on the lake and the Karaweik barge capsized and only four of the five Buddha images were rescued. Sometime later, the fifth Buddha appeared at a point marked by this statue of the Karaweik bird on the lake….

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From this time onwards, the fifth Buddha image remains in the pagoda while the other four are taken out during the Phaung Daw Oo pagoda festival (October/November); he is clearly thought to bring bad luck.


This wooden monastry, built on stilts, is known for its jumping cats. The monks would train cats to jump through hoops, but this practice ceased a while ago. Nga The Chaung Monastery is over 200 years old and contains some very fine images of Buddha.

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We saw many temples alongside the lake, but I do not know their names. Here are a few images...

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© Helen Gray 2021