Visit The Floating Village On Inle Lake, Myanmar
In the hilly state of Shan in Myanmar, seventeen villages live perennially on the Inle lake which spans 22 kilometres long and 11 kilometres wide. Appearing like the Venice of the East, a visit to Inle Lake will turn the clock back to the early 1900s with its small motor boats, stilt houses and a very unique method of farming!
In this blog post, you’ll find everything you need to know to plan a visit to Inle Lake including how to reach Inle Lake, taking a boat tour, meeting the locals and where to stay in NyuangShwe. Inle Lake can be visited at anytime during the year, and it is best to stay for atleast one night and two days in the region.
Begin the morning with a walk in NyaungShwe
If you are up before 6 am, then you’ll see this beautiful sight! The locals gather on the street waiting to give alms to the young monks who make their way through the town of NyaungShwe, the gateway to Inle Lake.
Walk along the city’s colourful streets and you’ll notice that most tourists there are Burmese. Inle Lake is one of the favourite weekend getaways for people from the bigger cities like Yangon. At the Western jetty, you can ride a boat to Inle Lake.
Tip: Buy a traditional Inle Lake straw hat at the stores near the Jetty entrance – its very useful when the sun comes out.
Take a full day boat tour on Inle Lake
The most important experience in Inle Lake is doing a boat tour through the villages and open expanses of the lake. For about MMK 20,000 (USD 15 or INR 1,000), rent a boat that can seat up to 5 people and set off on a ride through the Venice of Myanmar. It is best to start the seven hour boat tour before 8 am in the morning.
The boat takes 15 minutes to reach Inle Lake through the northern canals from NyaungShwe. Stilt fishermen, traditional stilt houses of the Shan People and floating markets are the main attractions on Inle lake. The most impressive floating markets are the umbrella factory, handmade cigars workshop, silversmiths and the traditional textile workshops, where they make cloth from Lotus fibres.
Everything at Inle Lake is interesting to see – a school on stilts where parents pick their children in the boats, restaurants having a parking lot for the boats and even in-house garages!
The most unique feature of the Inle Lake stilt fishermen is how then tilt on their side and throw in the triangular fishnet into the shallow lake (average depth of Inle Lake is 5 ft) using one hand and row the boat with one foot!
The other equally impressive thing about Inle Lake and its floating villages is how they farm. Using flat panels made made of bamboo as an artificial ground, the farmers grow so many varities of vegetables like tomatos, paddy and even some fruits. It is very interesting to see them planting and harvesting the farm produce everyday.
Where to eat lunch
Inle Lake has many floating restaurans where you can find authentic burmese dishes like noodles, rice and curry, fresh fruit juices and more. The boatsmen generally take visitors to the ones nearest to them around noon time. For dinner, you can feast on the local cuisine at the Diamond Star kitchen – Mrs. Ida Sao makes the best noodles and curry in NyaungShwe!
Pray at the magnificent golden Pagodas in Inle
Inle Lake has a few small islands on which many Buddhist pagodas have been built over centuries! The grandest pagoda is the Hpaung Daw U Pagoda, a massive shrine that houses gilded Buddha statues. Many people visit the Ppaung Daw Pagoda during the annual festival held in late September. The most unique feature is the procession that is carried out on boats. We’ve seen rowing with both feet in Vietnam, but these men row with just one foot!
The village of Nyaung Ohak is known for its mysterious jungle of crumbling temples, some of which are still well maintained and worshipped at.
Visit an old monastery and participate in traditional festivals
The Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery is one of the oldest on Inle Lake and is worth a stopover on the way back from the southside of the lake zone. Occassionally, the festivities on the lake can be very fun to engage in. Most families are out, dressed in their best tradiional attire and decorations are everywhere – temples, houses, bridges, boat jetties and more!
Tip: There are no entrance tickets to the monasteries. You may have to pay a small tip to leave your shoes at the gate.
Important tip on dressing:
It is very important to dress right in Inle Lake. Myanmar, much like other Asian countries, has its own conserative style. That extends to visiting temples and pagodas, houses, public spots, amongst other places. It is best to dress modestly by avoiding short-shorts, small dresses and tops that do not cover shoulders. Also, it might be convenient to wear flip-flops or gliders over shoes as you will find yourself taking them off very often.
Meet some of the nicest people in the World!
If you have met the locals in Myanmar, you’ll quickly agree that they are very nice! And its no different in Inle. The Shan People are a tribe thats called the hilly Shan state their home for centuries and are exceptionally kind hosts!
The tribal Kayans also made Inle Lake their home and you can still find women with the traditional neck rings. For a courteous tip, the women oblige photography.
How to travel to Inle Lake
Although Inle has connectivity by road, rail and air (through nearby towns), it is best visited using a bus service. An overnight bus from Yangon to Inle Lake takes 8 hours. The bus ride costs USD 12 (INR 850) for a foreigner and drop is in NyaungShwe. Another alternative is to fly into Heho Airport and then take a taxi to NyaungShwe.
A Zone Fee is collected at the entrance of NyaungShwe for travellers visiting Inle Lake. The permit costs MMK 20,000 (INR 1,000 or USD 15).
Book your bus ticket here
Where to stay in Inle Lake
You can stay in NyaungShwe in one of the many BnBs and homestays or spend the night in the luxurious resorts on Inle Lake in a romantic room on stilts! We stayed at the Diamond Star guest house run by a very friendly Burmese couple Sao and Ida for MMK 15,000 (about USD 10 or INR 700) including yummy breakfast.
See the best accommodation in Inle Lake here
Inle Lake is probably one of those offbeat places in Myanmar for foreign travellers, but has been gaining popularity in the recent past! We hope this post inspires you to visit the floating villages and experience what life is like on one of the largest lakes in the country.
If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask us!
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