Instagraming Markets of Inle Lake Burma

Nov 2014

One of the first areas I love to explore when traveling are the local markets. Many are off the beaten path and provide a real opportunity to connect with the local culture. Instagraming Markets of Inle Lake Burma was a great chance to share with my readers a inside sense of the country.

inle lake's markets

Observing what is fresh in the marketplace also gives visitors a chance to see the local produce and get ideas for what to order for meals. This woman was one of the first we saw, and I knew we were in for a treat.

a meat vendor at the inle lake market

There was plenty of meat and internal organs were well represented. People seemed to specialize in one type of animal and have every part available. When meat is a luxury for villagers the nose to tail concept is not a new foodie trend, but a necessity for sustainable living.

Weighing fresh tofu at Inle Lake's market

Close by, I was more than happy to observe fresh tofu being weighed. We had an excellent opportunity to see this source of protein being made at a local organic factory. Soybeans are cooked, ground, pressed and made into blocks that have the consistency of a custard. Many recipes call for firm tofu which will keep its texture when stirred and added to different dishes.

Many kinds of dried fish are used in the Burmese cooking recipes.

Fish is everywhere in Inle Lake. I’ve never seen so many different varieties, and I found the curry tomato version especially delicious This vendor with her  piles of dried fish was very popular. Fermented and salted varieties used in the pungent fish sauce or ngan pear yay. Although a whiff from the bottle is enough to clear your sinuses, a small amount gives a really subtle flavor to many of the dishes you’ll find in the country. I never thought I’d find myself eating fish soup, the national dish of mohingha, for breakfast.

MSG at the local Burmese market

Can you guess what this is? Looking much like Ivory Snow Flakes, the mound of monosodium glutamate-or MSG-took me by surprise. This white crystalline powder, developed as a flavor enhancer at the end of the 19th century is used in many dishes to give the taste of meat or as many call it today, unami. Many people, myself included, develop a flush, dizziness and headache after eating it. The cups here were the units of measure used for purchasing.

green onions at the inle lake market

The Intha people of the area live in villages surrounding the lake and floating houses directly on the lake built on stilts. The hydroponic tomatoes grown in the middle of the lake are impressive and although I try and stick to the peel it, boil it or forget it philosophy when traveling, I could’t resist trying some of the tender morsels {without consequences} at our hotel.

smiles at inle lake

Throughout the market we were greeted with smiles and offerings of food to taste. It’s always a bit awkward to pass, but after taking photos, without exception my subjects all enjoyed seeing their image. Hand signs are a universal language.

Preparing buns at the marketplace in Burma.

These buns were being prepared at one end of the market where a open air cafe was doing a brisk business. Destined for the deep fryer, this method of cooking is very popular with street food vendors in Myanmar. When the oil is the right temperature, it allows for a crusty exterior while leaving the interior of the bun moist and steam cooked.

shadows at the market

Anyone following my feed on Instagram knows that my kind of selfie is a shadow shot.  I could have spent hours here and long for the day when my travel schedule will allow me to rewind and repeat a day, rather than moving on to the next adventure. Recalling the words to the Peter Pan song, me and my shadow love to visit markets anywhere in the world.

  1. Your photos are excellent! I really enjoyed reading your article about the market!

  2. Your great pictures have inspired me to find mine from a market journey in Burundi, North Sulawesi. It was such a simple way to connect with the locals eye-to-eye. Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Fab pics, Alison! Visiting local markets is absolutely one of the best things I like to do while visiting a new place (or any place for that matter.) Thx for sharing.

  4. Just gorgeous. You always have such beautiful photos Alison, capturing the essence of wherever you are on all your travels. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I love these images – you’ve captured the colours and vibrancy of the market perfectly. Too bad about the MSG! My husband is really allergic to it too so I hope its not added to everything. Would be a shame as it seems there are so many wonderful and natural flavours that don’t need enhancing.

  6. Nancie says:

    Thanks for taking me back to Inle Lake and the market. I loved my time there. Your shots are lovely.

  7. Carrie says:

    How lucky I am feeling to have discovered this wonderful blog right now! I am completely sucked in–my goodness.

  8. One of the things we really love to do when we travel is go to local markets. It’s a great way to get a feel of the area and the culture.

  9. I’ve so enjoyed this vicarious trip through your eyes. Your posts have made me determined that we will get there. What lovely and (somewhat exotic) food. Like you, the local market one of the first places we check out in any destination.

  10. I really enjoyed your photos and had to chuckle that they’ve been eating all of the parts of the animals forever and here we have people who feel smug about doing that! I’m mulling a trip to Myanmar next year so am sort of gobbling up information on it. Thanks for your contribution!

  11. These are wonderful photos and descriptions of the markets of Inle Lake Burma. I really enjoyed your post.

  12. I love visiting markets too! Your photos of the vendors and their wares are wonderful!

  13. Johanna says:

    Love your photos, and yes markets are such fun as it gives a real insight into the culture of a place. I love that there were so many different (and obscure) things for sale at the market you visited in Burma.

  14. Beautiful photos, thank you for sharing!

  15. Sue Reddel says:

    Truly enjoyed your photos of the markets. I’m now following you on Instagram. Glad to connect with you. Cheers!

  16. Anna Parker says:

    square pictures I love and these colours and smiles are a great capture of your visit. I am sure our elders wouldn’t have thought we would go back to square, but they looks fabulous!

  17. What a wonderful piece. I love your description – “plenty of meat and internal organs were well represented” I really got the picture there. Your photos are really fabulous, I almost feel I can sense the characters of some of the subjects.

  18. Love your shadow selfie and I too love photographing markets, especially food markets. You’ve given us a juicy glimpse of the cuisine of this region that’s left me wanting more!

  19. Linda says:

    Such a great, inspirational post! I’m heading to Burma and hope to visit one of these markets. Thanks for sharing!