When we first heard about the lake, we were told about locals living in water villages, friendly people and beautiful nature, so we were quick to add the stop to our list. More recently, just before we made our way to Nyaungshwe, we heard mixed opinions about the lake, so we were eager to find out what’s what!
By VIP bus to Inle Lake
We hopped on a VIP-bus from Bagan, to get to Inle Lake ten hours later. Read about our Bagan experiences here! The bus-seats were large and comfortable, so it uwas actually not as bad as it sounds.
We checked into our small but cozy double room. Our hotel is located a bit further out of town but offers free bikes to get to the city centre.
A floating village and sunset at a winery
We got up early to have breakfast before nine (not a fan). The weather is very different from Bagan & Mandalay. At Inle Lake you can really feel the Burmese winter, with nights of near freezing temperatures and days of twenty-five degrees and sunshine. A real strain on our bodies.
At noon we hopped on our less than ideal (but free) bikes for a little side excursion to the Maing Thauk floating village. We drove down the eastern shoreline of the Lake, frequently seeing locals hanging out, giving us a little insight into their lives. Bathing buffaloes, farmers planting their crops and people being out and about. It was a really relaxed ride of twenty kilometers (return) that was really worth the effort. As we approached the village, we parked our bikes and walked over the wooden docks to see the village and its floating gardens. Twelve hundred villagers live in houses, mainly out of wood, suspended above the water. The only way to get around is by boat. The owner of a small restaurant at the end of the dock offered to show us the town. We didn’t hesitate and hopped aboard the small wobbly looking dingy. What followed was something out of a fairytale, a picture perfect ride through the reeds from home to home, hidden away from plain view. Our host talked about the town and the daily life of its inhabitants. It’s an art how they use their legs instead of their arms to paddle.
As we headed back to shore, the sun was getting low, we made our way to the Red Mountain Estate winery. High above the lake, with an array of tasty Myanmar wines, we enjoyed the sunset.
Exploring the river banks of Inle Lake.
The following morning we rented two mountain bikes as the muscle ache of the day before would make our new excursion next to impossible. Fifteen kilometers of hilly terrain passing more (floating) villages, local temples and impeccable views. Only a couple of miles in I started to regret taking the bike instead of a tuc-tuc, but we made it! We were rewarded with stunning views of the lake from a small temple on a slope. The way back to Nyaungshwe was far more comfortable as we arranged a local boatsman to take us and the bikes back to town. A really relaxing experience that gave us a good feel of the lake.
The longboat to other villages
Early morning a friendly boatsman awaited us at the hotel. A big smile on his face and a warm winter coat to fight the freezing temperatures. We had planned a whole day on the lake and prepped with water, sunscreen and all the clothes we packed for our trip! With our loud longboat we made our way south to the town of Ywama, where they had the floating market that day. The market rotates every five days among just as many towns hence the name “five floating markets“.
Just before we arrived at the town the boatsman “pulled over” into one of the floating gardens, this particular one was growing tomatoes. Floating in seven meter-deep water these plants grow bright red tomatoes. Once in town we made a quick stop at the silver workshop and a traditional weaver. At the weaver people from the longneck tribe make beautiful clothes. In town we strolled over the cozy floating-market on the lockout for souvenirs. Unlike the name, its not actually in boats but on docks around the town’s biggest temple.
We went for lunch in one of the towns and headed up river. On the slope of a hill not far from the river are the Inthein Pagodas. Beautiful golden and stone pagodas, numbering in the thousands on a small patch of land, create an otherworldly sight. We wandered along the Buddha statues admiring the ever changing views. Although not as grand as the Ananda Temple in Bagan it is an amazing place with a genuine rustic feel. As it was getting late, we made our way back in direction of town, stopping on the way for an incredible sunset with local fishermen. A memorable experience we will not forget any time soon.