The main base for visiting Inle Lake is the small, relaxed town of Nyaung Shwe which is the gateway. The town itself is rustic with a small-town feel. Inle Lake is the country’s second largest lake and features floating villages, floating gardens, various tribes nearby and fishermen who row with their legs. It’s a really cool/scenic area and is one of Burma’s must-see travel destinations. What I enjoyed most about the relaxed pace in Nyaung Shwe was being able to ride a bike around the town and surrounding neighborhoods and simply taking in the colorful scene. While riding around, I did notice many small hotels in construction and I see the writing on the wall that Nyaung Shwe/Inle Lake will inevitably be flooded with tourists in short time. Just glad we were able to visit this little gem now before the floodgates open.
The 25 kilometer lake is surrounded by about 500 villages. The big activity is to hire a wooden long tail boat for the day to visit floating markets, temples, stilt house villages and watching the ‘one-legged’ fishermen on the lake fishing old school style. The fishermen balance on one leg on the end of their canoes and use the other leg to paddle the boat, leaving their hands free to cast their nets (Check out pix below). How they managed to balance was a pretty amazing feet considering Big Doug could barely balance standing up on the long wooden boat. We enjoyed seeing how everyday life is carried out on and around the lake. The lake is where children play, people bathe, do their laundry, and wash everything from buffaloes to motorbikes. It was an eye opening insight into rural life. Arguably, one of the top day trips of this journey at a cost of $14 on a private wooden long tail boat for 9 hrs. (Just gotta love the value in Myanmar)
The boat trip we took is the most popular way to explore Inle Lake but this area deserves more than just a day on a boat and a bike ride is another interesting way to explore the town. We spent a day cycling thru local villages on the outskirts of town and it was a lot of fun. The locals are super friendly and welcoming. Everyone says hello and sometimes, it is as if the children have seen ghosts when we rolled thru town.
You can bike much further afield around Inle Lake past rice paddy fields, canals, and villages of stilted houses, hot springs, colourful markets and even a local winery. We were on tap to do this full day bike trip but I came down with a cough/sore throat that kicked my ass and did not want to press it.
The other big activity is the hike to get to Inle Lake. Kalaw is often the starting point for three-day treks thru the mountains to Nyaung Shwe and Inle Lake. Kalaw is about 50 kilometres to the east and the trek is very popular with travelers and has gotten real good reviews. My 3 day overnight hiking days are over so without my enthusiasm to partake, then no way in the world I could sell Flashpacking Barbie on this. We passed and opted for the hike to our $6 per hr. massage parlor.
We really enjoyed Inle Lake and it is a must visit on any trip to Myanmar. We especially liked the creatively named two hotels we stayed in…..Hotel Brilliant and Amazing Hotel. So far, the guest houses/hotels in Myanmar have all been real good but way overpriced. For example, a room that would normally cost $40 – 50 in other Asian countries would go for $70 – $100 in Myanmar. It has not been a complete surprise as I knew going in that current supply in this country was lacking. As tourism continues to grow at its current rapid pace, supply should catch up to demand. At least that is what they taught me in Economics in college….one of the few things I did retain from college class. Us Flashpackers, had our first hotel turndown service of the trip in our way most overpriced hotel of the trip. Turndown service is a crock of shit and is just one of those things I don’t get or want.
The real value in Myanmar is the food. Two people can eat like a king for about $10 and the food is some of the tastiest in all of SE Asia. I will go on record and say we have had some of the best food in Nyaung Shwe in all of SE Asia.
We are now off to the beaches in Myanmar. I am excited to visit Ngapali Beach as it’s a new beach area, in a completely new country mostly off the radar to the herds of tourists. That in itself, sounds appealing. I will provide all the beach scoop in my next post.
Pwe Tawwin Nature’s Restaurant, The French Touch, Linn Htet, One Owl Grill, Live Dim Sum, Sin Yaw, Ngwe Zin Yaw, The Golden Kite.
LOOSE STOOLS INDEX – 6
The over indulgent gorging on the Shan noodle soup with its numerous spices has taken a toll. In this case, I am willing to take a hit to the index if it allows me to scoff down heaps of sticky Shan Noodles everyday. Life is just too short to deprive oneself of multiple daily bowls of Shan Noodles.
THRU THE BINOCS –
The mysterious smell of mothballs continues unabated. An older Burmese lady briskly walked by me while I was slurping down my Shan Noodle soup. The overpowering pungent smell of mothballs shot thru my nostrils and overwhelmed my taste buds, whereby disturbing my entire Shan Noodle soup experience. I have narrowed down my mothball conclusion. The Burmese are not using mothballs as their perfume of choice. It’s their clothing that reeks. They must be storing their clothing and linens in mothballs. The fresh bath towels in our hotel even smelled like mothballs as well as the pillowcases. (BTW, I was staying at a classy joint @ $60 per night). I have begun to accept the smell of mothballs and have learned to appreciate it. As a nomadic traveler in SE Asian countries, acceptance is a vital trait to possess.