At first, everyone was afraid of the spirits here. The spirits were strong and used to drive away people. So many tried to cultivate this land before us and were driven away, either by the spirits or being disheartened by how tough this life is but our father persevered.
The Yay Phyone Gyi nat [spirit] in the underground spring nearby is very strong. The fresh water is so clear and you can drink it straight from the source. So much of Inle Lake is polluted now, this is one of the last places where it’s clean and from the source.
We farm fish now. We turned our paddy fields into fish farms and grow little ngar phar fish and kyauk ngar. When our father first came here decades ago, many had tried to cultivate this land because of the spring but this was all wild, it was jungle terrain, it was nothing like it is now. There is even a road out the back of the spring there that goes around the lake and takes you to Nyaung Shwe. Back then this area was practically frontier land and there was not one other house nearby. We still don’t have electricity so we use small solar panels.
Our family has been here 25 years. For some reason, the Yay Phyone Gyi nat has favoured our family. While others fled because it was too difficult to harvest crops, our father got lucky with some of his. The nat is very strong here and people were afraid at night. But there were many of us. There were 12 children in the family so we were also strong.
We were willing to work hard. Our father pioneered this area, he passed away awhile ago, but he was very determined and difficult to scare off. He didn’t have money but he had the drive and there were many years that we lost out with our paddy. The harvest was often weak and the rice was not good quality, barely edible. But he worked it out eventually and it became better.
Since our father died we have turned more and more to fish farming because it is more consistent. It has been about three or four years that the paddy has completely failed. The weather is too unpredictable and the rains never come on time. The lake water is drying up and the flooding doesn’t happen at the right times, the whole rhythm is off but the nat is still strong. The water from the spring is still clear so we do not feel out of favour with the nat.
Yay Phyone spring