By Amy Nair
Tucked away in the north of Myanmar is the country’s largest inland lake, Indawgyi Lake. It is one of the largest lakes of Southeast Asia, extending for 13 kilometres from east to west and 24 kilometres from north to south. Its natural environment is pristine and surrounded by dense jungles, which is home to an amazing array of flora and fauna.
UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
Myanmar’s only UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is located in the dense forests on the banks of Indawgyi Lake. Most of these forests are the riverine evergreens, mixed deciduous forests and hill pine woodlands. A large number of animal species can be found here, some of which are endangered. There are Chinese pangolins, hog deer, indigenous narrow-headed soft-shell turtle, Asiatic soft-shell turtle, spot-billed pelican, oriental darter, greylag goose and purple swamphen.
The Fascinating Legends
Several fascinating legends are entangled with the lake. According to one, in 184 BC, there was originally no lake. Instead, there was a small village of 10,000 houses inhabited by Man Ti or better known as the magic people who were half tiger and half human. They wore blankets and their society had no rules, laws or religion.
Another story talks about a Buddhist woman Daw Aye Moan who was visited by a good nat (spirit) in a dream. The nat told the lady that all the villagers must leave the village, else, they all would die. She woke up and hastened to tell the villagers; however, nobody believed her. She left with her two children and two buffaloes and climbed a mountain in the night. In the morning, she saw a huge lake from above, not knowing that it was Indawgyi Lake. Later, the lake overflew and drowned all the houses and people in the village with its massive depth.
Legends say that the lake has three levels; the bottom one is inhabited by dragons, the middle level contains a submerged pagoda, and the top has the Shwe Min Zu Pagoda standing in the centre.
Sights To See
The banks around the Indawgyi Lake present a breathtaking view of nature with amazing sunsets that outline the horizon. Travellers can visit the Shwe Mitzu Pagoda, a beautiful monument located right on the water which casts a magnificent image on the lake in the late afternoon. The pagoda is owned by two villages that are located side by side, and travellers can get a glimpse of local life. Every November and December, the water on the right side turns red while that on the left side remains blue.
Another place to visit is the Golden Hill named Shwe Taung Hill, located on the northern side of the lake. There’s a pagoda on top where visitors can visit to get a good view of the landscape below.
Twenty villages surround the Indawgyi Lake and a visit there will help travellers understand the lives of the local people better. The notable villages include Lwemun Village, Hepa, Nammilaung and Namde. Most of these villages extend from the hill and stretch until the lakeside, presenting a scenic view of the surroundings.
Travelers looking for some fun activities can enjoy hiking and cycling through the dense forests and kayaking on the clear waters. Since the forests are home to a large number of birds and the lake is a major stop for migratory birds, the area is an ideal place for bird watchers too.
Indawgyi Lake is a place to go if one wants to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life to enjoy some alone time with nature. It is a magical place which provides a much-deserved break from the hectic chaos of the city.