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Published: March 24th 2018
He Ho was a nice little airport to arrive at and we got some stunning views over Inle Lake as we approached at sunset. We were a bit worried as our bags were last off the plane and there was no information at all about how to get to Nyaungshwe, where we were staying. Luckily there were plenty of taxis around, although the journey from the airport was a little more hair raising than we had expected. The road from the airport has major construction works in progress and that meant driving perilously close to what must be breathtaking views during daylight hours! Once you leave the main road, there is little or no street lighting as you get towards the lake, until you pass a little booth where you have to pay your National Park entry fee. On a friend's recommendation, we stayed at the Inle Cherry Queen Hotel
and we are so pleased that we did. Ask for a room at the back and you'll even avoid the noise of any late night unannounced concerts which may be taking place elsewhere in town!
The main reason for visiting Inle Lake is to do a tour of the lake. Wherever you go in town
boatmen will hassle you and try to get you to take a tour with them. Sometimes they even approach you on their bike, quite some distance from the water! The price they ask is a little less than the tour agencies, but not substantially so, although there is obviously room for bartering when it's not so busy. We used an agency specifically so that we could give our boatman instructions to slow down when Russ wanted to take photos, and to stop the commercial visits when we asked to. This proved to be a very good tactic.
It's a full day out on the lake, and even if it is cloudy when you begin, make sure you take plenty of water and sunscreen. The weather changes quickly so it's easy to get caught out. We loved just chilling out in the boat and being taken to places. Despite the bad light, it was a photographer's paradise. Once you enter the lake itself from the entrance channel, every boatman will take you to see his mate the fisherman. These guys are so much fun as they balance at ridiculous angles on the edge of their boats and dangle "freshly caught"
fish in front of your face. Give them a small tip and you'll be rewarded with an enormous smile.
There are lots of stops on a trip around the lake. There is silk weaving by long necked women but it felt quite intrusive and we wondered if they were really there of their own volition. There were various crafts on display but for us the highlight was the lotus silk. We had no idea this product even existed so to see a yarn being made from the fine threads inside the stem of the lotus plant was a real surprise. It is incredibly soft and strong, and fetches a far higher price than silk, which is one of the reasons we didn't buy any!
There were temples, churches, birds and fishermen galore, but as with any wonderful sight it all wears thin after a while. We were grateful for the stop at a riverside restaurant close to Shwe Inn Dein Pagoda. Lunch was fabulous and then we had an hour or so to explore by ourselves. There was a local sports day at the village school where parents wore all manner of colours and traditional tribal costumes to
cheer on their children. Then we turned right and found ourselves alone on a hilltop surrounded by crumbling stupas. It was an incredible discovery, as we should have turned left! We eventually retraced our steps and went the way we were supposed to have gone. The pagoda has an amazing colonnaded entrance which is full of souvenir stands for a good couple of kilometres! The temple itself was stunning, especially the part with the thousand golden stupas.
There were so many highlights from that day on the lake. Browse through the photos to see just how picturesque the whole experience was.
We thoroughly enjoyed our few days in Nyaungshwe. It would be easy to stay for longer. One day we hired bikes to get out to some of the museums. Our main aim that day was to visit the Red Mountain vineyard
about 5km away. The road was easy to negotiate and not too hilly until the final approach to the vineyard where we had to get off and push. Along the way we stopped off to admire the sunflower fields and the stunning scenery. The vineyard is in the perfect location with gorgeous views over the lake. The wine
tasting was cheap enough to not hesitate over, but the wines sadly were not really to our taste. Living in Spain has spoiled us!!! Still, it's a highly recommended day trip when you are in the area.
Inle Lake is indeed one of Myanmar's treasures. We were surprised that there were not more tourists around. Perhaps tourism has peaked which is a shame for those who are still investing in hotels and infrastructure. Perhaps we visited during a lull in numbers, in which case we were the lucky ones. We don't know if we will ever be back, but if the opportunity presents itself, we wouldn't hesitate to return.
We would like to end this blog with a special restaurant recommendation. Inle Pancake Kingdom
have a great marketing catchphrase - "Are You Tired of Rice?" Never has there been a more welcome addition to a town's dining scene. We love rice, noodles and curries, but sometimes you just need a break from it. Their crepes and pancakes served here are amazing, and some customers return day after day rather than eating local staples!
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