This was a destination in my Myanmar itinerary which I thought of visiting before planning anything else. A beautiful village which is floating and is completely living on its lake is something that will take your breath away. It is located in Nyaun Shwe Area of Taungyyi District of Shan State.
It is definitely a great place to visit with a lot of other activities to do in and around the area. It is in the northern part of Myanmar. So if you are thinking of going to Inle Lake, carry proper woolen clothes with you. I definitely underestimated the weather of the area and kept regretting it for not keeping enough warm clothes with me.
I traveled to Inle Lake from Hpa An by an overnight bus which was not really a good experience. There are various reasons for this though. The bus was fine but the journey takes you through mountains so the roads are not straight. And it took me almost 14 hours in the bus from Hpa An to the junction where I had to get down at main highway to go to Nyaung Shwe area.
There are many tourists who prefer to do the 3-day trek from Kalaw all the way to Inle Lake. I was not really willing to put myself into that much hectic schedule. But those who had done it, I only heard good reviews about the trek.
After getting off the bus I fetched myself an open truck which cost me 5,000 MMK from the junction till my hostel. In between, the truck stopped at a tourist zone entrance counter. Now, this was something I saw a first in Myanmar after being to 28 other countries. Various cities have got their own zone entrance fee which is mandatory for every tourist to pay otherwise you cannot roam around in that particular area. And once you buy the ticket, you are not supposed to pay the entrance fee for the certain attractions which are promoted by the government. It is 13,500 MMK for Inle Zone Entrance Fee, for which you also get a receipt.
The only way to roam around in Inle Lake is to hire a bicycle or a motorbike. Most of the hostels provide complimentary bicycles. Traveling via other modes of transport is still possible but can be super costly for a solo traveler.
I stayed at Palace Nyaung Shwe Guesthouse which I thought to be one of the best guesthouses I have ever been to. It was neat, clean and quite. A structure like cottages and a very helpful staff who can arrange almost anything for you. Early check-in and late check-outs are also allowed when there is not much of rush. Breakfast is delicious and cooked by the staff themselves.
Since my hostel had their own tour arrangements; I decided to go for one of those. One option was a day tour where you go for a sunrise tour for which you leave your hostel as early as 5:00 AM other was a sunset tour for which you leave your hostel at around 10:00. I was first cribbing to wake up early but then going for the sunrise tour turned out to be the best option.
Best Place to Visit in and Around Inle Lake
1. Red Mountain Vineyards and Wineries
- This winery was almost 30 minutes cycle ride from my hostel. As I said traveling solo can be costlier I thought of going by cycle.
- At first, it was all fun. But when I took a turn from the main road to enter the winery area it was not that fun because of the steep slope that takes you up the mountain.
- The winery is set up on a small hill and gives you some awesome views of the sunset. And of course, the wine tasting as well.
- You might call me stupid, but I am not a wine person so I did not taste a single wine out here. Although I enjoyed my time here like anything.
Timing:- 09:00 AM to 06:00 PM
Visit Duration:- 1 Hour
Ticket Cost:- Free
2. Sunrise Boat Tour
- The boat tour is the only way you can go around the whole Inle Lake area and cover everything that you need to see here.
We left as early as 5 o'clock from our hostel. We were told that there will be a pick up for us from the hostel and Yes!!! The pick up did arrive - a person a bicycle asking us to grab other bicycles and ride behind him. And there we were three of us riding our bicycles in windy weather trying to catch up with each other.
Once you reach the peer you can just leave your bicycles on the side and get on the boat. It was pitch dark. We got on the boat and we were on our way to the beautiful day. It was a wooden boat with 3 proper chairs mounted at the center of it for passengers to be seated one behind the other. They also provide life jackets and blankets on the boat. At first, the boat was going slowly but once it was out of the town area it was at full speed and so was the wind.
I the one who underestimated the weather and over considered my own capacity of taking in the cold was regretting not getting a single jacket with me on tour. Thankfully I had my own in-flight blanket and other layers of clothes which saved me for some time.
After a ride of 15 to 20 minutes, the person behind me shouted out to me to look at the view and when I peeped out of my blanket OH MY GOODNESS!!! We were surrounded by water with some water plants floating around us, pitch dark and a sky full of stars right in front of me. It was the view I will never forget.
A few moments later when it started getting bright, we stopped in the middle of the lake waiting for the Sun to rise from behind the mountains and meanwhile ate our breakfast box provided by the hostel. We could see some famous Myanmar fishermen doing their usual routing. On the opposite side we could also see the hot air balloons being flown in the air, one of the famous activity - The Balloons Over Inle. After the beautiful sunrise, we were off for our various spots we were supposed to stop for our tour.
A. Gold and Silver Smith Factory
- Producing gold and silver jewelry have been a long tradition in Myanmar. You actually get to see craftsmen and women working and making jewelry by hand.
- The boat stops at the deck and you can walk few steps up to the factory. The staff over there gives you a brief orientation tour of the factory about the various procedures that take place there.
B. Silk Factory
- Myanmar silk has been very famous throughout the country. You get to see many of the locals wearing different dresses made of silk and so are these silk factories a must stop during the boat tour.
- Being an Indian, the procedures being done at this factory was not much of an amusement for me since India have had this tradition for ages.
- In any case, the fascinating thing I found was the different patterns and the way they use the machinery and the preciseness.
C. Cigar Making Factory
- This was a very interesting place to visit. A cigar making factory right in the middle of the lake.
- And that too very interesting way of cigar making. A cigar material is stuffed into a leaf of corn and is rolled with a tool and cut to a perfect size making all cigars of the same size.
- They have different flavors of honey, banana, mint.
D. Floating Market
- To my surprise, this was quite a huge floating market. Practically speaking, this was the first time I ever visited a floating market.
- It had everything you can imagine, right from basic Myanmar souvenirs to Omega globe watches (which tempted me a lot to buy, but I just controlled thinking this might not be the right place to spend money for this).
- Further down the single dirt lane of the market, it also has a full spread market where you seel people selling all the household stuff, vegetables, fruits etc.
E. Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda
- Whether it be a metropolitan city or it is a small town, you cannot leave it without visiting at least one pagoda.
- So this pagoda was one of the stops of our itinerary. The pagoda is quite huge and you get to see different statues of Buddha in four different directions having different meanings.
- You need to leave your shoes in the boat itself and then get off the boat for entering the pagoda.
F. Jumping Cat Monastery
- A monastery that is dedicated to the cats. No!!! You do not get to see any cats jumping here. But Yes!!! you do get to see a lot of cats around.
- This was the last stop for our boat tour and was a quite and a peaceful one. It housed a statue of Buddha and other religious practices were taking place here.
- Once you go inside, you get to see a big ordination hall where monks are being seated and a place for visitors to sit and pray.
- They keep herbal tea and some nuts for visitors to munch while they are seated over there.
After completing our whole tour, we were on our journey back to the peer. On the way, we again got to spot fishermen, this time in full daylight and I got to get some superb clicks of the fishermen and the surrounding.
In all, the reason I thought the sunrise tour was the best because when we were returning, it was already a bit warm and I can definitely imagine sunset tour wouldn't be that much pleasing in terms of the weather. So anyone who is going to Myanmar out there; never thinks of leaving without going to Inle Lake.
After completing our whole tour, we were on our journey back to the peer. On the way we again got to spot fishermen, this time in full daylight and I got to get some superb clicks of the fishermen and the surrounding.
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