Pilgrims had been allowed to cover five small Buddha images with gold leaf in Phaung Daw Oo pagoda. As a result, the images have become different sizes and extremely heavy, he said.
“It takes three people to carry each Buddha image during the pagoda festival, and in 2015, one pilgrim tried to remove gold from one of the images. So we will no longer allow the offering of gold leaf to the images,” U Than Win said.
The annual Phaung Daw Oo pagoda festival is held annually for 18 days in September and October. People carry the Buddha images on a replica of a royal barge made in the shape of a mythical Hintha bird in procession around Inle Lake.
U That Lwin Toh, chairman of the Union of Myanmar Travel Association, agreed with the decision of the trustees to ban gold leaf offerings to the Buddha images.
“Offering gold leaf to Buddha images should instead be donated to the region’s development projects, which would help the state and local people as well,” he said.
This coming holiday season, the number of local and foreign visitors to Inle is expected to exceed that of last year, he said.
“Many Asian tourists are coming to Inle this year,” U Than Win said.
Foreigners have to pay an entrance fee of US$10 (K15,474) each at the lake.
Shan State has invited tenders from private firms to collect the lake’s entrance fees. Last year, 290,000 foreigners visited the lake, and that number is expected to reach 300,000 this year.