Visit Inle Lake - the best Inle Lake Tour and all the must see places
A day on Inle Lake
For good reasons Inle is one of Myanmar’s most popular destinations for travelers. Any traveler guide to Myanmar (Burma) will have Inle Lake as one of the "don't miss" destinations - and that for good reasons! The lake and it's surrounding areas are absolutely gorgeous. Famous for its floating villages and gardens you will find picturesque Inle Lake in western Shan State. The way of life of the local Intha people, with their living communities based entirely on the water is unique. Touring around this magnificent place and explore local lake life will be the highlight of your visit.
--> for all the basic Info about Inle Lake read my blogpost: Visit amazing Inle Lake - all you need to know before visiting.
Find a boat driver to tour the lake with
You can either hire a boat driver directly from your hotel or at one of the many privately owned tourist agencies throughout Nyaungshwe. The price for a day will be around 20'000 kyat – 30'000 kyat, depending on what you would like to see. Most boat drivers will do a similar route around the lake. Trips can be tailored so it's advantageous to know what there is to see and what you would like to explore so you can tell your boatman about your preferences. You may be taken to one too many handicraft workshops, as most guides get commission on sales, but feel free to tell them that you do not want to get off the boat.
Get the day started
Start your day nice and early, before the big mass of tourists start their day. Between 7am and 7.30am is great. The boatman will pick you up at your hotel and you will board a slender wooden canoe fitted with long-tailed extremely loud motors. An other great advantage of starting early is seeing all the locals riding with the boats into Nyaungshwe for work.
The Fisherman of Inle Lake
The Intha fishermen of Inle Lake have quite the unusual technique for catching fish in the shallow waters. Inle Lake fishermen have a curious and unique rowing style, which consists of standing on one leg on the extreme of the boat and wrapping their other leg around the the oar.
This upright position has a number of advantages: standing on the end of the boat enables them to have a better view to lead the way better and they can see across the lake. Also they can spot the bubbles fish make in the water a lot easier. As they row with their leg, they have their hands free which allows them to collect the net whilst propelling the boat.
A short while after leaving Nyaungshwe you will spot fishermen with orange pants and white shirts. They are not the “real” fishermen, but mostly performers waiting for tourists. But no worries, you will see the real ones throughout the day. Certainly they won't be as close to you, as the loud diesel motors scare the fish, nevertheless you will see that the fisherman of Inle still fish in their traditional technique.
The real fishermen of Inle Lake
We started by riding along the floating gardens. It is quite impressive. With no land to grow crops the people living on the lake have built their own gardens – and they are floating!
We continued our trip – these were my favorite parts. When we drove from one lake village to the next. This enabled us to explore real local life. The women doing laundry, children playing on the skinny motor less boats and men getting ready for going out to catch the fish of the day.
The handicraft workshops
One of the ways the locals are capitalizing on the influx of visitors is by exhibiting their traditional handicrafts. As already mentioned your driver will take you to several handicraft workshops. You are welcome to tell your guide that you do not want to get off if something is not of your interest. I needed the restroom quite regularly so I was happy to get off the loud boat every once in a while.
Visiting the Long Neck Women
Our first stop was visiting the Long Neck Women. I wasn't exactly sure if I wanted to visit, as I felt it would be like a zoo – only that instead of going to stare at an animals we would stare at these beautiful women. Nevertheless, we got off. These gorgeous ladies were weaving scarves and just as expected we were told that I is okay to take pictures. I did not feel quite comfortable with that, so I asked if they are here just for the tourists. The answer was yes, but also that they were happy to be here because they can make more money down here on the lake than in their villages. I couldn't quite understand. She explained that tourists are generous and they tip them as a thank you for being allowed to take a photo. Also they sell more of their products thanks to tourism. That made kind of sense to me. I took a photo of them and then showed them the picture I had taken. They smiled and said thank you. I left them a nice tip and said my goodbyes. If you visit, be kind and treat them like humans, not animals in a zoo – so ask before you take a photo, show them the picture afterwards feel free to leave a nice tip. It must be noted though, that these women from the Kayan tribe are not in fact indigenous to the area. Their own homes are in in the hills south west of Loikaw.
Indein Pagodas - a must visit!
Our next stop and definitely a MUST SEE is Indein. Indein is a village near Inle Lake accessible by boat during and right after rainy season via the Inn Thein creek, a long narrow canal. The ride up to Indein is absolutely scenic.
Once you get to the village you'll have to walk about 1km to reach the many ancient pagodas. The walkway is lined with stalls where vendors sell Shan shoulder bags, longyis, shirts and other items.
On top you will see as far as the eye can reach: Stupas. Stupas in many shapes and sizes and in various states of preservation. While some have been restored, others are in their original crumbling state. Absolutely amazing!
→ Note that Indein is some distance from the main circuit of Inle Lake, so a trip here will make your boat tour slightly longer and more expensive.
Around 100 years ago the women of Inle Lake began weaving patterned textiles out of the lotus flowers which grow on the lake. The Khit Sun Yin hand weaving center has thrown its doors open to tourists to let them watch this fascinating process. The stems of the Lotus plant are made up of a mixture of fibers, which when woven together produce incredibly high quality clothes. I had never seen weaving with Lotus before, so the visit was quite interesting.
We continued Nga Hpe Kyaung Monastery mostly known as the “jumping cat” Monastery. It was previously famous for its jumping cats; the local monks trained them to jump through hoops. This practice has now stopped. The monastery itself is wooden with lots of carvings and lies in the middle of the lake.
After the monastery we stopped to visit Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda which is the main Pagoda on the lake and a highly religious sight. The 5 Buddha statues are not recognizable because they have been layered with gold leaf over time. There are lots of souvenir stores surrounding the Pagoda and the sellers are slightly more aggressive than what I had so far experienced in Myanmar.
Throughout the day we also stopped at a silver and cigar factory as well as a shop where they make all kinds of handicrafts out of teak wood including the boats used on Inle Lake.
Maing Thauk Bridge
Our last stop was the beautiful Maing Thauk bridge. Maing Thauk is accessible by boat or by road. You can also cycle there in an hour or so along a dirt track leading southeast from Nyaungshwe.
Maing Thauk Village is located on the eastern shore of the lake. The village is built on both land and water: a half on water and half on land. The two parts of the village was connected by a 450 meters long wooden bridge.
Beautiful Inle Lake
Where to stay
How to get to Inle Lake