This lake is considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the world and it is for sure one of the top attractions of Myanmar. For most people there, the lake is not only their source of income, but also their mean of transportation and their home. They actually live in houses on poles because the water level changes are up to four meters depending on the season. Because of those level changes some of their gardens are also floating while they are full of vegetables and fruits.
When our night bus from Yangon arrived at the Inle lake we were a bit tired but even more keen to explore this area. We hired a private boat that drove us the 1h way over the lake to our floating hotel and continued the next day with the exploration of the lake and its surrounding. And after 4 days on the lake we can present you with our highlights:
1. Our floating hotel
We stayed at the Shwe Inn Tha Floating Resort and absolutely loved it there. Even though we had booked the cheapest room category they gave us their best water bungalow. Observing the boats that passed by was fun, the pool refreshing, the staff super hospital and the breakfast delicious. The only downside were the loud boat engines that started roaring early in the morning till late at night.
2. The fishermen
They have their unique one-legged rowing technique which frees their hands to hold their fishing basket or net. Most of the basket fishers actually only pose for tourists, but the net fishers are still fulfilling their original profession. After they have set up their nets, they hit the water with their paddles to scare the fishes into their nets.
3. The floating villages
All the houses are built on poles and the only way to get from one house to the next is by boat. In those villages you can observe the daily life of the inhabitants and the kids never get tired of waving to you.
4. The floating gardens
Because of the water level changes, the gardens are floating. The farmers collect plants from the lake to build the floating ground of the garden. They then connect it to poles, to make sure that their garden is not floating away overnight. They grow thousands of tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins and even chilies.
5. Shwe Inn Dein Pagoda
Already the way to the pagoda is breathtaking as you are driving in a narrow river through forests and rice paddies. When the river ends there is a twenty minutes footpath through endless sales stands until you reach the stunningly beautiful pagoda. As with most of the Burmese pagodas the outer part is more interesting than the inner part. There are countless white and golden stupas surrounding the main building and they offer a perfect scenery for a photo shooting.
6. Tharkong Pagoda
From the south end of the lake it is about another 2h with the boat to reach this pagoda but it is absolutely worth the trip. As this part of the lake is less touristy you get a more authentic insight into the daily life of the inhabitants. The golden and white stupas surrounding the main building are stunning and the ones that are left for decay give you a jungle book feeling. When the river carries more water some of those stupas are even standing in the water.
7. Taw Mwe Khaung Pagoda
When you really want to go off the beaten path then this pagoda is perfect. The path is so unbeaten, that when we left the boat Daniela sank knee deep into the mud and had to be rescued. The pagoda itself is half decayed but maybe this makes her even more interesting.
8. Nga Phe Kyaun Monastery
This wooden monastery is perfect to relax for a view minutes simply by sitting down on the floor and looking at the beautiful wood carvings. Or by trying to understand the life story of the first buddha that is displayed on paintings at the wall.
9. Alodaw Pauk Pagoda
One of the less known pagodas at the south end of the lake but a nice change after all the workshops your boat driver has already brought you to. It is more of a local place but therefore also a good place to connect with the locals.
10. Silk/Silver/Cigar/Rice spirit/Pottery workshops
When you are in the shopping mood, then these workshops are great. Everything is hand made and the designs are beautiful. As soon as your boat arrives a personal sales person greets you and brings you to the show room for a shorter or longer demonstration of their handcraft before she brings you to the sales room. Daytrips that include those workshops are cheaper as the boat drivers probably receive a commission.
Long Necked women
There is a tribe of long necked women in Myanmar, but they actually don’t life at the Inle Lake. They life about a 12h drive north in the mountains. And even tough it is fascinating to see their long necks covered in a copper helix it feels like being in a human zoo. This left a bitter aftertaste and we therefore decided that this item will not be part of our top 10.
Even though not everything felt real and there was a constant selling approach towards us we enjoyed our time at Inle Lake a lot and would for sure come back.