Exploring Inle Lake
After hiking through the Burmese countryside for 2 days we arrived at Inle Lake. This lake is famous for the local fishermen and their unique one-leg rowing style. But there is much more to see on the second largest lake of Myanmar: floating villages and gardens, pagodas and monasteries as well as floating markets selling traditional hand-made crafts.
There are villages around and floating on the lake, which are home to 70.000 people. The most popular place to stay for tourists is Nyaung Shwe. The town is not big, so it’s easy to explore it by foot or bicycle. It’s a bit more touristy then other places in Myanmar but still authentic and not crowded. The atmosphere is very laid-back and there are a couple of nice restaurants and bars to hang out. I like the Chillax Bar because they have comfortable seats to chill, proper internet (which is not usual in Myanmar) and the food and drinks are very good but a bit pricy. Note: Every restaurant and bar closes at 10.00 pm.
Between the Yanada Man Aung Paya Temple and the Chillax Bar there is a little hill with ruins of an old temple, you can walk it up and there is a great view over the town and the temple.
At the very authentic Mingalarmarket you can find local dishes, fruits, vegetables, traditional clothes like the Longyi and beautiful souvenirs. In contrast to other South-East Asian countries you will not find souvenirs especially made for tourist. The vendors sell ancient unique items like coins, Buddha figures, books made of bamboo wood and tattoo metal sticks – it feels like walking through a museum. Some of these items I have never seen before but the vendors explain friendly what they are and how to use them, without pushing you to buy anything.
We didn’t have enough time to do this but you can rent bicycles to explore the area around Inle lake. If you drive up the mountains you have a great view over the lake. Tourists are not allowed to rent scooters in this city.
Boat trip on Inle Lake
A trip to Inle Lake is not completed without seeing the famous local fishermen. You will have to rent a boat to see them, but there is no need to book the trip in advance. The boats carry up to 5 people and they start the trip whenever you want. When you walk around in the street the boat men come over to you and ask if you are interested in a boat trip. In the morning we went out of our guest house and a few minutes later we already found a friendly guy that took us on his boat. We were 4 people and payed 20.000 MMK (15 USD) for the whole boat.
While driving around you can see the traditional fishermen, rowing with one leg, everywhere on the lake. Our boat man stopped close to a fisherman so we could take a few nice pictures – for a little tip. At sunset fishermen in special clothes and with bigger fisher nets appear and offer to pose for pictures, for 30 USD each. We were not willing to pay this amount – but a few professional photographers close to us were – so we were able to take a few pictures secretly 🙂
The boats take you through floating villages with wooden houses and stop at a temple, a monastery and manufacturers of (sweet) cigars, lotus and cotton silk and silver jewelry. All these crafts are hand-made with traditional old tools and skills. The most interesting part for me was the production of lotus fabric: They explain and show you the process from getting the fiber out of the plant until the products are finished. At first I thought that these stops are typical tourist traps, but surprisingly they were really interesting. Of course the vendors try to sell their goods but if you don’t want to buy anything they are not unfriendly or intrusive.
Our boat man also took us to a floating house where we could see women from the Kayan tribe, who are famous for wearing heavy neck rings, which stretch their necks over the years. The Kayan people are an ethnic minority in Myanmar and also settled in the North of Thailand.
The boat trip takes 7 hours and is a great and interesting experience. The lake and the landscape is truly beautiful, but suffers from environmental pollution. Nowadays, there are programs to protect the lake and its ecosystem, but please make sure you don’t leave any garbage behind.
What to bring: sun screen and a hat to protect yourself from the sun during the day and something to cover yourself for the chilly temperature after sunset.
Read my other blogs about Myanmar to get more information & impressions about this beautiful country.
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