2 Days in Inle Lake, Myanmar
Our whirlwind 2 day trip to Inle Lake was definitely the highlight of our visit to Myanmar. Although we were limited in time, we were still able to sightsee and tick off all the ‘touristy’ things, soak up the local Intha village life, and also had the opportunity to disconnect from the modern world – it wasn’t hard as we were surrounded by captivating mountain and water views, void of unsightly skyscrapers, tacky advertising and the noise of car horns or motors. We also had lots of moments of patchy wifi – in a good way! Waking up to a morning mist over the lake, and the distant sounds of Buddhist prayers and the rumbling of motorised boats, we were treated to a small glimpse of life without the modern trappings back home.
We highly recommend including Inle Lake as part of your visit to Myanmar. If you have a short itinerary, I have listed some activities and things we did to give you an idea on what you can pack in 2 days!
|Lotus silk weaving shop
Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda
|Shwe Inn Tha Floating Resort
|Maing Thauk Village Market
Maing Thauk Forest Monastery
|Hotel Grand Continental, Kuala Lumpur
Maing Thauk Monastery
The Monastery itself is quite basic, however its located atop a small mountain where you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular panorama of the lake and surrounding landscape. The hike up is easy if you stick to the main road, however we
got lost took a detour and went the scenic route up the grassy hillside.
Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda
The Phaung Daw Oo pagoda was our last stop on our half day tour. The temple is an impressive structure with its ornate gold and red stupa towering over its white washed walls – a stark contract against its more humble neighbouring stilt houses.
If you pay a visit to the pagoda, like with any religious sites make sure you wear something that covers your knees and shoulders.
Outside the pagoda, we were invited to join a game of hacky sack with the friendly Intha locals, but we stuck to playing spectators.
The village of Inthein has several clusters of stupas of varying colours, sizes and shapes all sprawled across different sites. Most of the structures remain intact, but some have become ruins of ancient temples, crumbling, raw and overgrown with nature.
Take the time to explore the different sites, walking through unmarked dirt paths and experiencing the peace and quiet without throngs of tourists by your side.
Buy some local souvenirs
As part of the tour organised with our resort, we visited several workshops where locals demonstrated their skills and showcased their craftsmanship. I must admit, even though there was an evident lack of tourists, the workshops do feel a little contrived and unauthentic, offering ‘tourist’ prices – however I did enjoy seeing the what types of goods and trade locals were involved in and if you are okay to part with a little more money – or even better, practice the skill of bartering – you can take home some good quality gifts and souvenirs. Our resort was upfront and disclosed that we were going to visit the workshops (unlike our previous experiences in Bangkok or Delhi!) so we were quite prepared mentally to say no if we felt any pressure to purchase something #legithustlebackyo – I suggest you check what your tour involves so there aren’t any surprises, and if you don’t want to include the visits, you can always ask the operator to skip them.
Lotus silk weaving workshop
Camouflaged among the houses along the lake was a nondescript workshop filled with colourful longyis, scarves and bags. Our tour guide explained the extraction process of the lotus silks, as well as the dyeing and weaving process. All the items made in the workshop were available for sale – prices aren’t cheap but they had some unique prints and if I had to recommend one workshop to visit, this would probably be it as there was a good range of gifts and wearable souvenirs to choose from.
A popular cigar in Myanmar, the Inle Lake cheroots were rolled with tobacco and different flavours like banana and honey. The workshop sold a few varieties in the different flavours, as well as varying thicknesses and tobacco strength.
The blacksmith workshop was as you can imagine, a loud and visual experience – we could hear the echo of the metal being hammered before arriving at the workshop. The souvenir shop was filled with cigar pipes, masks, knives and assorted metal ornaments all for sale.
Maing Thauk Village Market
The village of Maing Thauk is located on the north east side of the lake. At the banks of the lake was a long rickety wooden jetty that was used as a landing point for all the boats visiting the village. Along our walk to the village markets, we passed a small cafe blasting gaudy karoke ‘disco’ music at 9 am in the morning – of course we stopped (why not?) and indulged in some delicious lapae yae with a generous serving of condensed milk and deep fried breadsticks coated in sugar #cleaneating
Stomachs full and on a sugar high from our mid morning meal/dessert, we walked another 5-10 minutes before reaching the markets. Most of the visitors were locals shopping for fresh produce but there were a few stalls selling jewellery and other handicrafts for tourists. Alternatively, there are also the 5 day rotating markets – which as the name suggests – rotates in different locations around Inle Lake.
A visit to one of the the markets is a must do even if you don’t plan on buying anything. The colours, sights and sounds of the bustling marketplace is a great experience and a chance to meet a lot of the locals, or simply people watch.
Check out the floating gardens
Tomatoes grown on a lake anyone?
Although I do appreciate a beautiful sunset, I much prefer watching a sun rise. It signals a new day and better yet when you’re travelling, it usually means that you’ll experience the serenity and peace of a destination while everyone is still in their slumber. Every vantage point in Inle lake seemed like the perfect location to watch the sun rise – but try to be in a boat in the middle of the lake watching the local fishermen as they traverse through the water – distinct silhouettes famed by their unique leg rowing (and the lonely planet guide we had on hand!).
If you have a chance to go out on the lake earlier, I highly recommend it as the lighting was great for photographs and there were more fishermen out than the middle of the day when the sun was out at its peak.
the time we were planning our trip in 2012, there didn’t seem to be any way to buy an air ticket online. We found a travel agency close to our accommodation who booked our tickets to Heho airport and back. We paid in cash as credit card facilities were not available. The booking process was relatively easy and we received our paper tickets that day (working for an airline at the time, I was quite excited to have received my first old school paper ticket- and at the same time so scared to lose it!). I’m not sure if e tickets are the norm now, however if it isn’t, we recommend you check the airline timetables online to see what days and departure times you’re able to fly so you have an idea when you reserve your booking.
As tickets weren’t electronic, check in kiosks and passbook app technology were virtually non existent. However, the check in process was relatively easy, albeit a bit clunky. Upon showing our tickets to the check in desk, we were given boarding passes and stickers to wear to help assist airline staff to identify where passengers final destinations were. We flew Yangon Airways from Yangon to Heho Airport, and Air KBZ on our return flight, both operated by turboprops.
From Heho Airport, we took a 1 hour taxi ride to the town of Nyaung Shwe located north east of the lake. The ride was filled with panoramic views of hillsides and greenery so you’ll be kept busy taking in the surroundings from the car. There was an entrance fee of 5 USD at Nyaung Shwe which we paid at the park entrance (although I have read recently in forums it has since doubled to 10 USD now). Our taxi driver dropped us off at the jetty where we negotiated our fare to our hotel. From the jetty, it took another 40 minutes or so to reach our resort.
Related post: Hotel Review – Shwe Inn Tha Floating Resort, Inle Lake
|Make sure you only bring crisp, unfolded US dollar notes, otherwise shopkeepers may not accept it.
|If you take a boat trip out on the lake, we recommend getting up that few hours earlier - you can cat nap later! The light is great for photographing the Intha fishermen and its surroundings. If you're visiting any of the pagodas around Inle lake, if you go early, chances are you will be the only visitors there so its so worth it.
|Barter! The workshops we visited were keen to barter so worth a shot to save a few kyats.
|Bring plenty of insect repellant.