Inle Lake is a fresh water lake located near Nyaungshwe city. It is the second largest lake in Myanmar with an estimated surface area of 44.9 square miles. A few useful facts about Inle and Myanmar in general:
- The people of Inle Lake (called Intha), approximately 70,000 of them, live in four cities bordering the lake, in numerous small villages along the lake’s shores, and on the lake itself.
- Inle Lake is suffering from the environmental effects of increased population and rapid growth in both agriculture and tourism.
- Sanitation in the villages around the lake is an ongoing concern for public health authorities, due to untreated sewage (with 72% of households using open pits, not latrines) and waste water flowing into the lake.
- The best time of the year to visit is during September and October. Although we really enjoyed the slow season with better hotel prices and a lake to ourselves.
- As you enter the city, you are required to pay a $10/person tourist tax – BAH!
- In Myanmar and in other Asian countries, people really go out of their way to make their skin lighter as it is considered to be a socioeconomic status to have lighter features. Isn’t it interesting that we, the western tourists run to get a tan, while this part of the world wants to be lighter for a very different reason?
- Anywhere you travel in Myanmar or in SE Asia, you will see signs at airports prohibiting the import and export of ivory – yay for saving the elephants!
Most tourist that go to Inle, start with a hike through Kalaw and a few days later (or depending on your pace), they end up near Inle for some much needed relaxation. We did not get to hike as this was raining season (hallelujah), so instead we took the bus directly from Bagan to the town of Nyaungshwe which is located about 10km’s from the lake.
WHERE TO STAY:
At first, I thought it would be best to stay right on the lake. However, after a little bit of research, we realized that staying in the town right outside the lake is a much better option as you get to see how the locals live and try out their delicious cuisine.
If you do stay on the lake at one of the resorts, you do not have access to the variety of restaurants and you are not able to swim in the lake either as it is primarily used for fishing, tourist boats and daily hygiene routines of the local people.
Brilliant Hotel: Stay here! The end! This hotel was (as the name would suggest), BRILLIANT! Super nice staff, tasty breakfast, great bikes given for free to ride into town (10 minutes) and a delicious restaurant across the street (more on this in the food section).
The entrance to the hotel…
The lovely views surrounding the hotel were Brilliant!
Blog promotional photo – thanks, Jeff and Cat!
Yummy fresh breakfast . . .
. . . and our morning and afternoon hotel guests!
Tasting the “real” Burmese food was one of the many reasons why it was awesome to come to this little town. Every place that we went to was a huge step up from anywhere else in Myanmar.
Thanakha Garden: Wonderful little spot with great service and delicious food. The four of us had a few meals here! It’s a bit more of an international food spot, but nonetheless, the food was great!
This guy not only ate all of our fish but he also took all of our money!Pwe Taw Win: I wish we found this place on day 1 because I would have never left. This is the real deal Burmese style food which was soooo fresh – literally farm to table experience. It opened only about 6 months ago and I hope it continues to thrive. The experience of sitting in the huts on the floor was just another cool benefit of this place. If you come here, try the tomato salad and the fried chicken. DROOL! Live Dim Sum: Ok, so you wouldn’t really expect a dim sum place to be good in Myanmar or to even be in Myanmar, but this place was fantastic! We came here on our last day at the lake and yet again I wished that we discovered it way sooner. Fresh, clean and delicious!Tea Shops: Myanmar culture is known for mid day tea breaks (it was after all a British ruled country for many years). What a sweet treat their tea was! It’s a pretty heavy duty black tea which is mixed with milk, sugar and condensed milk on top of that – so, it is sugar overload which is how I like it! And to add to this deliciousness, the tea shops put a variety of pastries on the table which you can choose to eat if you want while drinking your tea. Smart business idea – how can I not eat the pastries that are in front of me and that look like fluffy sugary clouds of heaven? I will take 7!
THINGS TO DO:
Tour the lake by boat: Probably the #1 activity is to hire a boat. You can do a full day/half day/morning/afternoon/sunset, etc. Either your hotel can set everything up for you or you can simply go to the pier and choose any of the boat vendors. We decided to do half a day in the afternoon so we could watch the sunset on the lake. That was a great choice as the lake was super quiet at that time which made it that much more culturally enriching.
The boat pier – I really thought when they said a boat tour that it would be bigger than a canoe!
You can tell the boat driver which activities you would like to do. For example, we chose to check out a monastery on the water, a temple, a silk factory and a paper umbrella making demonstration.
Lotus flowers are everywhere on the lake which are used to make exorbitantly expensive silk.
Silk making in progress. I really wanted to buy a souvenir until I saw that one scarf cost about $150 USD. NOT in this flashpacker’s budget!
This little girl was helping her mom (not pictured)!
As you go around the lake, you see lots of fishermen doing some impressive balancing work – throwing the fishing net in the water, paddling with one foot, steering with another – pretty incredible!
Lady P was a huge fishing helper!
A few selfies were a must!
Homes and shops on stilts . . .
We then stopped by a paper umbrella making demonstration and saw this beautiful woman (known as the Kayan people). Her eyes were so haunting that you forgot about the elongated neck! I felt awkward asking her to take a picture, but she was very gracious!
And lastly, we got to enjoy a beautiful sunset on our way back.
Lavendar Spa: after all of the activities, treat yourself to a massage! This was a great spot in town with $12 massages which lasted about 80 minutes. It was so good and relaxing that we almost missed our bus!
And lastly, just take a bicycle and ride around town and see how the locals live!
Cycle by Red Mountain Winery and check out the gorgeous views …
Swing by a temple or two . . .Bike around the town and stop by a tea shop for an afternoon break!
But be sure to follow these rules which are posted at the entrance to the city:
Next, we head back to Yangon via JJ Express night bus and then a flight to Koh Phangan – a Thai Island in the Golf of Thailand for three weeks of nothingness.
Mr. Bean is coming along for the ride!