Inle Lake

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Inle Lake is a shallow lake in the middle of Myanmar, southeast of Mandalay. The lake is 22 km long, and is densely inhabited by many different tribes.

Traditional boat on Inle Lake

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

The closest airport is in Heho, about 45 minutes away by taxi from the main town by Lake Nyaungshwe (walk down the road towards the main highway to negotiate a better rate). Taking a taxi from the airport can be quite expensive, from 25,000-40,000 kyat. A good way to save money is to book a taxi in advance with your guesthouse for about 15,000 kyat.

There are winter and summer rates for flights through all major airlines in the country.

Bus[edit]

Buses depart daily from Yangon and take about 13 hours. Buses take 10 hours from Mandalay. Air conditioned buses from Bagan take 9 hours and cost USD11-12 (2 hours from Kalaw). From Bago MYK15,000, 14hr. Bring warmer clothing on the bus as air-con temperatures can get low. If you are looking to sleep, earplugs are a good idea as music will be playing on the video screen in front of the bus.

Pick-Up / Line-ka[edit]

A very cheap option from Taunggyi is a pick-up (1 hour and around USD0.40).

Get around[edit]

You can walk around town easily or rent a bike for about 1,500 kyat per day, which you also use for touring the surroundings.

See[edit]

Do[edit]

There is a USD10 entry fee per person to the lake, charged by the government. This fee is often collected at the bus or at the airport when you arrive.

  • Birdwatching. Another worthwhile experience that most tourists miss is to see some of the thousands of waterbirds that use Inle Lake either as a breeding site or on migration. Some are rare species difficult to see anywhere else. December and January are the best times, although some birds, like the spectacular pheasant-tailed Jacana, are best seen in their breeding plumage during the rainy season. The lake is a wildlife sanctuary and the local warden can arrange a knowledgeable guide who knows the English names and can show you where the birds are for a reasonable fee of about 12,000 kyat, not including boat and boatman. This fee goes to support the staff of the cash-strapped sanctuary. Bring your own binoculars and get out early when the birds are most active. Ask at your lodging to make arrangements.
  • Bicycling. Take a day to ride through surrounding villages. Just check your rental bike carefully before leaving.
  • Hiking. Day hikes in the surrounding hills, or 3 day hikes to Kalaw are available, and are highly recommended. Seek out Than The, a local guide who knows the area very well and comes highly recommended. Ask for him at Win's Massage. Another excellent guide is Dante, who you can hire from the agency called Thu-Thu, on the main street near the market. He and Mr. Cook will provide you the best information on the area and the best food you'll eat in Myanmar. A typical day hike usually costs about 10,000 kyat per person and starts at 08:00 and ends at 16:00-18:00. Be warned that the hikes can be very exhausting as they involve a lot of walking (typically 20 km, but you can ask the guide to shorten the trip if you are tired), walking up steep paths and the heat (especially in April) can make it quite tiring too. Bring plenty of water, 2-3 litres per person, as it can be difficult to buy clean water since you won't pass any shops, and good hiking shoes or boots. On a typical trip one will walk through mountains, forests and many villages inhabited by hill tribes, but don't expect to see them dressed in fancy hill tribe costumes as this is real life and not set up for tourists. Even if a hike is tiring, it gives the opportunity to get a glimpse of real life around Inle Lake and see some nice scenery too. It's usually not a tourist trap like the boat trip on the lake often is.
  • Hot Springs. Rent a bike for the day (around USD2) and cycle the bumpy road towards the mountains for 45 minutes to visit the hot springs for a relaxing afternoon. The hot springs are actually 3 swimming pools in a big concrete spa centre, so you do not go there for the natural surroundings. The bike ride to the spa however is very scenic and worthwhile. The private pools have a full bar. USD8 per person for the private pools including a towel.
  • The Lake. A boat trip on the lake is a must do. Unfortunately, it is also one of the biggest tourist traps in Myanmar, because you will visit 3-6 workshops (lotus/silk, cigar, jewellery, etc.) selling items for Western prices. Most of the workshops are only set up for tourists. You can ask your driver to skip some of them. Because of these visits, the trip is relatively inexpensive. Full day trip takes about 7 hours and costs 15,000-20,000 kyat. Any guesthouse or travel agency can arrange this trip for you. You may have a better experience by chartering a boat directly, clearly agreeing on the planned stops, and starting very early in the morning before most other tour boats, and also allowing you to arrive at market while it's busy.
  • Red Mountain Estate Vineyard (A few kilometres from town and easily reachable by bicycle). Visit the vineyard and taste 4 different wines. 2,000 kyat.

Buy[edit]

  • Massage @ Phyu Phyu's Bamboo HutYone Gyi Rd (Near bridge). Visit Phyu Phyu's Bamboo Hut for traditional Burmese massage by one of Phyu Phyu's family members. This wonderful young woman (with the nicest family) can also book boat trips (and guide you), canoes or trekking.
  • Mr A Tun (Mu Kyi), Nyaungshwe (On the big road if you come from the market/jetty area, just half a block past the pizzeria (Golden Kite) on the left side). Great little tour company, run only by Mu Kyi, that tries to differentiate himself from the many other tour companies in Nyaungshwe. She speaks fluent English and doesn't rip off tourists like some dodgier places in town. The bus ticket to Yangon is also 1,000 kyat cheaper than elsewhere (14,000 kyat).
  • Sunny Day Tour ServicesWest of market, Nyang Shwe Township (Follow the road down from the bridge. You will be able to see this on your left on one of the crossing streets), e-mail: . From this place you can hire a hiking guide for a very reasonable price. The guide Ko Thwe speaks excellent English and is able to organise hikes flexibly, depending on where you want to go. He can also guide you to Kalaw. Approximately 10,000 kyat.

Eat[edit]

  • Aurora Restaurant1 Yonegyi Rd, Nandawunn Quarter, Nyaung Shwe (Opposite Hotel Amazing, east end of town, direction cave and wineries). Burmese-run restaurant with traditional Burmese, Chinese, and pasta dishes. The portions are large. The handmade noodles are worth a try. 2,000 kyat.
  • Golden KiteYone Gyi and Myawaddy Rd +95 81 29327. One of the best restaurants in Inle (Yaungshwe). Owner Mio personally makes the pasta and wood-oven pizza. A great experience.
  • Unique Superb Food3 Myawady Rd, Nyaung Shwe Township (Near Remember Guesthouse and Buddha Museum). The name is rather cheesy and the restaurant is small and doesn't look very promising. They are slow at cooking too. However, they make superb food, and it is fairly cheap. Around 3,000 kyat for a main dish.

Try the freshly made Shan tofu salads in the Market You will see women preparing these meals to go (or to eat from tiny plastic stools) in the market area. Other local spots are located across from the market where you can get good Shan noodle soups, tea leaf salads, etc., for around USD1.25.

Drink[edit]

  • Smiling Moon RestaurantYone Gyi Rd. Great price on milkshakes and lassi. The food is another story, eat somewhere else. Owner also changes money.

Sleep[edit]

  • Aquarius Inn +95 81209352, +95 81209615. Near the lake, very friendly family-owned inn with a fantastic breakfast. USD5-20.
  • Gypsy InnNo. 82, Kann Nar Rd, Win Quarter, NyaungShwe (On the canal, to the west of town),  +95 08129084. Check-out: 12:00. A growing guesthouse, with a new building (with more expensive rooms, featuring TV & fridge) and an older building (with some rooms without bathroom, shared shower block outside). Includes breakfast. Friendly staff. USD4-20.
  • Joy HotelJetty Rd (On the canal). Friendly staff, clean, with nice view of busy canal each morning. Less touristy end of town, but still pleasant and close to cheap local restaurants. USD15-20.
  • May Guesthouse85, Myawaddy Rd, NyaungShwe +95 08129417. Very friendly, clean and comfortable family-run hotel. Amidst many monasteries. USD12.
  • Min Ga Lar InnPhuang Daw Pyan Rd, Mingalar Quarter, Nyaungshwe (Next to the main pagoda in town),  +95 81 209198, +95 21 6278 (Mobile), e-mail: . Super friendly staff, excellent English and very helpful if you need information or to arrange excursions. Rooms are large and clean with hot water showers. Huge breakfasts and their daily welcome fresh lemon juice is also excellent. Staff can organise boat trips and travel arrangements. A recommendation is a canoe trip around the local villages and attractions on the lake and canals. It's a different experience to the motorboat tour of Inle Lake tour that the guesthouse can also arrange. USD10-15.
  • Remember Inn (In the north of town). Fairly clean but old rooms and a lovely rooftop relaxation area. Nice breakfast and they are happy to help with organising flights, boats and hikes. The owner is very nice and helpful. USD5-25.

Connect[edit]

  • The phone numbers in Nyaungshwe have changed recently. For example: +95 8129352 has become +95 81209352
  • Internet @ iNetAhletaung Kyaung Rd (First right past Smiling Moon restaurant). Cheapest Internet in town (400 kyat per hr) but still fast. Don't pay the rude people at Comet (more than double the price) for Internet.
  • Internet @ Pancake Kingdom (Follow the signs from the bridge at the canal). Inexpensive Internet (and good food). 300 kyat per hr for Wi-Fi and 500 kyat per hr for computers.

Go next[edit]

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