In the unique watery world of Inle Lake, Intha fisherman row canoes with one leg, gardens float, and wooden homes perch above the water on rickety stilts. Take a while to explore one among Myanmar’s most iconic destinations with an early-morning cruise, a cycle through the countryside, or sojourns into the encompassing hills and villages.
Take a boat trip
Getting out onto the water is of course the foremost popular thanks to experience Inle Lake. Every morning a flotilla of slender wooden canoes fitted with long-tailed outboard motors surges forth, transporting visitors to varied natural, cultural, religious and historic sites. Nyaungshwe, on the northern fringe of the lake, is that the base for beginning on motorboat trips – every hotel and guesthouse in town can help arrange one, or simply await a ship captain to approach you within the street.
Trips are often tailored, but tours typically include visits to the famous sights within the northern a part of the lake, like Phaung Daw Oo Paya in Tha Ley, the Nga Hpe Kyaung (Jumping Cat Monastery) in Nga Phe village, and therefore the floating gardens. confirm to spend time observing the Intha fishermen (most photogenic at dawn) and their unique technique of rowing the boat with one leg while using both hands to fish. Other destinations further afield include villages Thaung Thut, Hmaw Be, and Samkar, and you’ll also include a visit to Inthein, where crumbing, hilltop pagodas look down on the water.
A standard excursion costs K15,000 to K18,000 (US$12 to US$15); or K20,000 with Inthein. The fee covers the whole boat; drivers will carry up to 5 passengers, who get padded seats and life jackets. Many trips start at dawn, when the sunshine is great for photos. During the day it gets very hot: bring a hat, water and many of sunscreen. Sunset trips also are popular, although note it can get chilly on the lake. Most boats provide blankets but you’ll need a jacket or a wrap.
DIY cycling tour
Inle isn’t only about the water. it is also possible to explore the perimeter by bicycle and absorb some beautiful Burmese countryside. Many sights are clustered round the lake, including hot springs and little villages.
Begin in Nyaungshwe, where bikes are often hired for around K1500 (US$1.50) per day. Peddle west along an unpaved, bumpy road through farmland. Take a left at the T-junction and head south, following the mountains. After about 8km you’ll reach the Khaung Daing hot springs, where the water is piped into a series of swimming pools. A soak here costs adults US$7, or US$10 for a dip during a private pool.
Continue pedalling south until you reach Khaung Daing, an Intha village producing Shan State’s famous tofu. Shan tofu is formed with split false lupine flour, mixed with boiling then poured into a mould to line . Thin tofu wafers are began to dry, and you’ll enjoy a tofu thoke (tofu salad) for a couple of hundred kyat.
After lunch, hire a ship for K8000 (US$6.50) to ferry you and your bike across the lake. You’ll be deposited on the eastern side, where you’ll continue cycling north through sugar cane plantations and little villages.
As you near the side of the lake you’ll anger Mountain Estate winery to the east. head Capitol Hill for a powerful view of Inle and therefore the vineyards (you also can taste the wine for K3000). Continue round the side of the lake, and head into Nyaungshwe before sunset because the roads aren’t lit.
Journey beyond the lake
It’s well worth taking each day or two to travel beyond Inle’s most easily accessible sights, or to go to one among the region’s villages on day .
Taunggyi, about an hour from Nyaungshwe by pick-up truck, is that the administrative capital of Shan State, with variety of historic churches and Burmese-style mosques, and an evening market selling cheap-and-cheerful local treats.
Taunggyi is additionally one among the locations for a country market that rotates among a few dozen towns within the Inle Lake region. The market happens every five days (except when there is a full moon), drawing minorities down from the hills to trade livestock and produce. Other market towns include Maing Thauk, near Nyaungshwe; Thaung Thut, at the southern end of the lake; Pindaya, home of the Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda; and Inthein, where the market is popular for its sheer size and photogenic setting. Hotels and guesthouses can advise you where the market are going to be heading next.
Further afield (and also on the market circuit), about three hours by pick-up from the lake, is Kalaw, a former hill station surrounded by Buddhist pagodas, hilltop viewpoints and therefore the peaceful villages of the Palaung, Danu, Pa-O, Taung Yo and Danaw peoples. Set during a gorgeous landscape of forest-capped hills, Kalaw may be a top trekking destination, and therefore the start line for two- to four-day hikes all the thanks to Inle. Many restaurants in Kalaw serve food with distinctive Nepali and Indian flavours, because of the labourers who came to create the railroad during British rule.
Make it happen
The springboard for Inle Lake is Nyaungshwe, but the town has no bus depot or airport. If travelling to Inle Lake by air, you will need to fly to Heho, about an hour away by car (taxis charge K25,000 – US$20 – from the airport). If arriving by land, take any bus bound for Taunggyi and hop off in Shwenyaung, the junction resulting in Nyaungshwe, from where thoun bein (tuk-tuk) drivers can take you the remaining 10km.
There is a compulsory K12,500 (US$10) fee to enter the Inle Lake area, which you want to pay on arrival at the permit booth located by the bridge at the doorway to Nyaungshwe. Tickets are valid for one week, although you’re unlikely to be asked to pay again if you stay longer.