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Royal barge on Inle Lake for Hpaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival. Image courtesy of Myanmar Ministry of Hotels & Tourism

The laid-back villages around Inle Lake look forward to the annual Hpaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival, which celebrates the five Buddha images esconced in the lakeside  Hpaung Daw Oo Pagoda in Ywama town.

During the Festival, four of the five Buddha images take to the lake: Inle Lake leg-rowers propel a royal barge bearing the Buddha images across the waters, visiting each of the lake’s 14 villages in turn. One Buddha is never taken on tour: legend tells of one time the barge capsized, with only four out of the five Buddha images recovered from the deep. When they returned to the Pagoda, they found the fifth Buddha image waiting for them in its usual place!

The festival is usually accompanied by rowing competitions, martial arts performances, and festive markets selling Shan and Intha goods like knives, Shan paper products, and cheroots.

Hpaung Daw Oo Festival takes place over 18 days, coinciding with the first day of the waxing moon to the third day after the full moon of the 7th month of the traditional Burmese lunar calendar. In 2017, the feast day occurs between September 21 to October 8.