Our next stop was one that we really debated quite a bit about visiting. After much thought and reading, Kim and I decided that we couldn’t visit Myanmar and skip Inle Lake.
We’ve been to some other spectacular lakes around the world (Lake Titicaca in Peru, Lake Atitlan in Guatemala) so we needed to see what the famous Inle was like.
(For those of you that haven’t done so already- check out my post 14 Things We Learned From Visiting Myanmar (Burma).)
To save time we chose to fly from Mandalay to Inle Lake. If you choose to fly to Inle, you’ll be flying into Heho Airport (HEH), about a 30 minute or so cab ride to Nyaungshwe.
Nyaungshwe is a small town which is basically the jumping off point for Inle Lake visits. We chose to stay in Nyaungshwe and take a couple of trips onto the lake. This allowed us to be able to walk to stores and restaurants without issue. Others stay at places on the lake. We didn’t choose this option since we didn’t want to feel stuck at a place surrounded by water, always needing a boat ride to get anywhere.
There are some minor sites to visit in Nyaungshwe which we did while waiting to take a sunset tour on Inle Lake during our first day. (It was advised not to first head out onto the lake mid-day when the sun was at its hottest.) The following day we arranged for a tour of the lake and some surrounding temples and workshops.
Here is a recap of some of the things we did during our first day around Inle Lake.
After a delicious lunch at Inle Pancake Kingdom we stopped by the Mingala Market. Kim and I love visiting local markets and this I’d have to say felt very local!
The market was a pretty decent size. It’s covered by tarp pretty much throughout which was great since it blocked the hot rays from the sun. Too bad it didn’t block some of the heat which helped to cause some pretty bad smells from some of the stands!
This is a market where locals shop. We saw colorful flowers for sale as well as clothes & accessories, a wide array of fruits & vegetables, spices, fresh fish (although it didn’t look very sanitary), meat and more.
The Mingala Market, while not a must visit made for a good place to stop to check out local life in Nyaungshwe before heading out to see Inle Lake.
We then walked a few minutes away to Yadana Man Aung Paya, “the oldest and most important Buddhist shrine in Nyaungshwe” according to Lonely Planet.
Besides some locals sitting by the entrance and a couple of people praying inside, we were the only ones there.
While inside, it seemed like I walked in a huge circle for quite some time before getting back to where I started out. (I may have also been a bit confused since some of the areas that I passed looked quite similar.)
As I walked from room to room it felt like I was in a museum. There were old cabinets filled with trinkets, costumes, carvings and more. While there was no information in English, my guidebook mentioned that these items were collected by monks over centuries.
I was glad that we stopped by to see this shrine but again, this is not a must-visit kind of place.
We then went back to our hotel to get ready for our Sunset Tour on Inle Lake.
Our sunset tour took us first for a ride through one of the over-water villages. The homes are all built up high on stilts for good reason. I’m pretty sure during different times of he year, the water rises up quite close to the homes!
We got off of our boat for a quick visit to wander around one of the connecting walkway- bridges. It was an interesting first glimpse to see what it’s like to live on the lake. The homes look to be not too sturdy and more or less just open rooms with a roof. In my opinion this definitely looks to be a tough way to live.
We then headed out into the massive open area of the lake to get some views of the sunset. Not so surprisingly, this 15- 20 minutes of time would be the highlight of our time in Inle and the reason we came here to visit.
The fisherman on Inle Lake get around using a pretty unique style of paddling.
They stand at the front of the boat on one leg, using the other to hold the boat’s oar and gently row. This allows for their hands to be free to fish. While reading into this custom, I found out that only men row in this way and it is actually done to give the men a better view by standing.
Many of these so-called fisherman make their rowing into a performance, using their fishing net as an amazing-looking prop. While some might call this a staged and tacky performance, Kim, Lucas and I found it to be a pretty amazing sight to see in person.
The fisherman aren’t doing this performance to just to be nice or demonstrate Burmese fishing culture- of course not… They’re looking for a tip!
The one fisherman above made his way over to our boat and showed us a fish or two that he had caught, along with his net. I don’t remember what we tipped but I want to say it was either $1 or $2 which we had read was acceptable. He seemed happy with what we gave so I’m sure it was all good.
This show, brief as it was will not be forgotten any time soon.
The next morning we got up relatively early to beat the heat for our day tour on Inle Lake.
Make sure to keep checking back to find out about our day spent visiting Inle Lake in an upcoming post!