Most visitors to Myanmar expect to gain an insight into Burmese Buddhism amongst the stupas of Bagan but the reality is that despite its wonders Bagan is a dead, disappeared ruin of a city. It is in Nyaungshwe where Buddhism flourishes today.
Nyaungshwe, the town most travellers stay in during their visit to Inle Lake, is home to several monasteries and regarded as a spiritual centre of Burma. The rhythm of this town is set by the monks who wake at the more ludicrous hours of the morning to converge in single file on the populace to receive alms. To me, the idea of feeding fit and healthy clergymen is an alien one so I will hand you over to Through the Looking Glass for more information on feeding the monks.
The morning alms round is the most visible way the monks interact with the local community, but travellers who by some miracle managed to find something to do in town beyond 10pm and arise late next morning will not miss out on monk sightings. While in Thailand monks go largely unnoticed, appearing in orangey dribs and drabs here and there, in Myanmar they are a constant purple patch toing and throwing around the streets.
Some are aloof but others are happy to stop and talk, eager to practice their English. Education is often why they entered the monastic life so the less shy among them enjoy the chance to interact with us as much as we wish to learn about them. Travellers to Inle Lake may also get the chance to stay in a monastery, even if they don’t want to such is the current shortage of accommodation in the region.
Rounding a corner in Nyaungshwe we approached this dozen or so monks collecting firewood for their nearby monastery: