Inle Lake was one of our favourite places in Myanmar. The main town, Nyaungshwe, had lots of things catering to travellers like massages (which were amazing following our trek!) and pancake restaurants. We enjoyed wandering around the town, observing the boats zooming up and down the canals, spending time in the markets, and chatting to the locals. And one day, we headed out on the water.
The main attraction at Inle Lake is to hire a longboat for a day and visit different places across the lake. Our boat for the day cost 18,000K, which we split between four people – a pretty cheap day out for 4500K (about $5) each! We arranged the tour through our guesthouse, Joy Hotel. Any guesthouse will be able to arrange a trip for you, and the price is the same wherever you book. [Price as at November 2013]
Much of the tour is spent visiting the obligatory souvenir shops – silk weaving, papermaking, and silver smiths. It’s a bit of a downside of going on an organised tour, but you can just pop in and out of the shops and they don’t pressure you to buy anything which is good.
It was fantastic zooming along the flat water of the lake and seeing the locals fishing and gathering weed. It was freezing though, and we were thankful that we’d packed jumpers and raincoats to protect us from the wind!
We slowed down as we motored through floating gardens, where they actually have floating fields growing tomatoes and other vegetables! It was amazing, and the villages where all the houses on stilts were incredible – it’s so strange to think they live their whole lives above the water. There were even chickens pecking around on floating beds of vegetation.
One of the markets we stopped at was fairly eye-opening, lots of disgusting meat and fish smells, along with piglets rooting around, lots of oxen carts, and dogs everywhere. We bought some nice souvenirs though, a brightly coloured Pa’O scarf for me and a couple of handmade knives for Shaun.
We visited temples at Indein, located up a long stream about half an hour from the main lake. There were hundreds of old, crumbling temples crowded together, with all manner of vegetation growing from them. It was awesome! We thought this is what Bagan should have been like – it’s probably what it was like before the temples were all ‘restored’ there. The result at Bagan is that the temples are all symmetrical and look as they did hundreds of years ago when they were built, but they haven’t been restored using the appropriate methods and materials. Unfortunately, the same thing appears to be happening at Indein – we saw a number of old crumbly temples being plastered over when we were there. It was quite sad to think that in a few years time the wonderful atmosphere that is Indein at present will probably be gone. So if you’re thinking about heading to Myanmar and Inle Lake, go as soon as you can!
Our last stop for the day was at the so-called ‘jumping cat monastery’. We knew that the cats don’t jump any more (the monk who taught them to jump died and the other monks didn’t carry the jumping training on, apparently), but it was quite weird and also very cute to see a monastery full of cats. There were some very cute tiny kittens that crawled onto my lap and went to sleep!
The sun started to go down as we crossed the lake back to Nyaungshwe, and it was freezing with the wind blowing across the water. Fortunately there were umbrellas to shelter us from the wind! The sunset was pretty with some seagulls swooping for food thrown from a nearby boat.
It was a very unique and totally recommended day out – especially for the price! One of the best things we have done in Myanmar for sure.