Inle Lake – a magical place, especially at 7am when boats can start traversing this most famous and second-largest lake in Myanmar (its surface area: 116 square kilometres). You can take a longer trip to get to distant villages. It will cost you only 10,000MMK / 7,50USD per person (the boat for 2 people) to set off on a 6-8h trip and to enjoy the views of life on the water, and much more.
We went on a long boat trip with a boatman, who practically didn’t speak English at all, but this was nothing unusual. You shoulnd’t expect to have a nice chat with any Burmese boatman during the tour, you just get in the boat and the guy takes you to the places included in the tour program, that’s it. In case you really want to know something about the place and its people you should additionally pay for an English speaking guide.
Our tour started earlier, at 7am instead of 8am as we wanted to see the morning market in the Indein village which was quite away from the other attractions (the market was supposed to finish at 9am). We managed to be there on time but, to be honest, the market itself was nothing special compared to the ones we had already seen in Burmese villages.
However, the Indein Village with a great view from the hill on hundreds of stupas was absolutely worth it.
The next point in the programme are local working studios (painting, crafting, weaving, silver making studios, etc) and shops located in huts on stilts on the water where all the tourists are taken to get literally ripped-off by buying local hand-made products (the things for which you will pay 3-4 times cheaper in Nyaung Shwe). And so we were taken to places where local people make silver and gold, paper, textiles, wood carvings, boats, anise cigarettes, umbrellas… The each and every process is thoroughly explained by one or 2 family members speaking good English, then you are directed to the store. Naturally, we didn’t spend much time on this type of activities as we weren’t interested in buying anything.
We saw also so called long neck women (women wearing golden neck rings), probably one of few remaining ones in Myanmar as the majority of them coming from the Padaung tribe wanted to flee the Burmese military regime and escaped to northern Thailand many years ago to live a better life. You will read more about them in our post about Chiang Rai (a Thai city).
There are other stops on the water included in the tour programme, for example: temples on the way, a monastery and a so called Floating Garden (garden on the water where you can see the plantation of tomatoes).
Besides, when you look around you will certainly enjoy observing ordinary life of local people e.g. bathing in the lake on the steps of their huts.
The landscape in the distance makes you speechless, you can admire beautiful mountains surrounding the lake, and even closer to the boat you can observe a technique of fishing of the local fishermen.
Some fishermen catch fish ”on demand” whenever they see tourists in the horizon, and, unfortunately, you can see that it is a spectacle played deliberately for the tourists. In such cases, we preferred not to take any photos when supposedly a fisherman was expecting a tip from us. Seeing in the distance an interesting group of working fishermen we decided to ask our boatman to come closer with the boat to get a more accurate image of what exactly they were doing.
1.Where to sleep near Inle Lake? We can recommend you the accommodation in Nyaung Shwe, since there it’s relatively cheap (9USD per person per night including breakfast) in a private room with shared bathroom, situated in the center of town (eg. Joy Hotel).
2. When entering the Inle Lake zone the tourists must pay Inle Lake Zone Entrance Fee (should be 12.500MMK but last time they charged us 10USD).
3. All the boat trips have virtually the same program. It is you who decides whether you want to stay in a particular place longer or not, or whether you want to explore it at all, and how much time the boatman is waiting for you, etc. We decided to check all the points, although in fact we spent little time in studios and shops thus also shortened our trip a little bit as it finished about 2:30pm. On the day of our trip, there was one attraction which wasn’t available, so called floating market, which was closed. Supposedly you could see it every 5 days, so if yo are interested in seeing it you might want to check this information before booking a trip.
4.The boatman will ask you about the lunch somewhere on the lake – another place to rip you off. It’s not included in the tour as it’s expensive, so we suggest taking some fruit and snacks for the trip and eat your lunch at a normal price after you get back to Nyaung Shwe, which we did.
5.While in Nyaung Shwe you can rent a bike for 1.500MMK /1USD and go to the Red Mountain Winery (up to 6km from the town). We went there on Sunday and as it turned out the winery was closed on that day, but we could at least go for wine tasting. They will give you 4 glasses of wine of various types for 5.000MMK /4USD. We liked especially the 2 white wines as they were made of tropical fruits: guava, lichi, pineapple, melon, and tasted really refreshing. The 2 red cups of wine were also fine: the 1st one having a bit of a chocolate flavour with spices and the other – with a cherry flavor. The scenery around makes you want to stay there longer, but… there is a bike waiting for you way down the hill, so now getting on it you could go even further 6-7km more to Maing Thauk (the town famous for its so called Forest Monastery, a monastery you need to get up the hill to, and later you can also reach a market in the forest – closed on Sundays).