Aa agile fisherman in a straw hat performed a balletic dance as he flung his nets across the waters of Inle Lake, an oasis of glassy calm in the Shan Hills of Myanmar.
Fishing for carp, he balanced on one leg on the prow of his flimsy wooden boat, the other leg wrapped round a single oar with which he paddled and steered over a massive body of water swollen by monsoons.
The searing midday sun sparkled on his gossamer nets as we puttered past in our long tailed motor boat on a voyage of discovery through the land better known as Burma. It was like stepping back into history, where the pace of life has stilled.
The landscape of slender-tipped stupas slowly unfolded as we travelled all morning from the towns of Nyaung Shwe to Shwe Inn Dein.
With fingers dangling in the cooling ripples, we slipped past clumps of palest pink water hyacinths and floating gardens bearing crops of sesame and peanuts, each plot pinioned by bamboo stakes.
On the banks, more pagodas punctured the skyline with their tiered towers, and bulbous stupas flaunted glistening golden domes, rich red brickwork and blinding whitewash.
In the World Heritage Site of Bagan alone there are more than 2,000 temples, monasteries, stupas and pagodas built by self-aggrandising monarchs dating back to the ninth century.