Inlay BurmaInlaid Burma
Locomotion at the lakeside
To the west of Shan State is the scenic Inle Sea, renowned for its swimming hamlets and parks and the Intha' unparalleled way of being, whose biocoenoses are entirely water-based. 22km long and 10km broad, located in a basin between two mountains, the pond is like a different kind of land from the remainder of Myanmar: in small cities and cities on the other side of the pond, timber homes are erected on stilt beams, and fishers control their one-man vessels with a typical rudder that wraps a foot around their rudder.
Besides the fishery, craftsmanship is an important part of the town' s economic activity, and you will see silksweavers and blacksmiths doing their craft on the lakes. And, as throughout Myanmar, religious belief is an important part of community living, with countless marshes and convents along the water.
One of Myanmar's most favourite tourist attractions, so if you are traveling around the beautiful scenery, part of what you see will invariably be tourist attractions. They can be taken to too many craft factories, as most guidebooks receive commissions for sale, and adverse instances of tourist growth can be seen in everything from the destruction of the environment to the Kayan woman who sell objects in some local stores and wear the old ring that extends her throat. Photography is promoted by them, but in fact the trunk is not native to the area - her own home is in the southwest of Loikaw Mountains.
But in many places the genuine lakeside lifestyle seems to be over, and it is so large - and the locations are sufficiently distributed - that you can always find peaceful, untouristic places outside the towns and market towns. Measures are also being taken to prevent man-made damages to the area, such as the designation of Inle as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Watch our YouTube movie from Inle lake near Maing Thauk and for a larger variety of pictures from the area, check out our Flickr photoset. The majority of boating around Lakes Inle starts in the Nyaung Shwe city, a few kilometres just off (where most cheap and medium sized accommodations are located), although some guests can stay in a hotel on the shore of the lakeshore (mostly luxury).
Entrance to the Inle Lakes area is 12,500 K, which you will have to cover on arrival in Nyaung Shwe. Boarder area is around the west end of Yone Gyi Road in Nyaung Shwe, where locals and guide fight for the dock. You will start your journey around the pond early in the mornings.
There' s a great deal to see on Inle Lakes and in the surrounding towns, so if you don't spend three or more nights in the area, you have to be selective about what you want to see and do. Boaters, who also act as tourist guide, will be able to give you advice on many of the best places of interest on the lakes and its banks, but you will find some of the best things to see below.
In Nyaung Shwe you can rent a bike for about 1500 K per night to discover the wonderful landscape on the east side of the lakeside, which includes Maing Thauk and the Red Mountain Estate winery. Ask your tour leader if you want to bathe in the sea, as the waters can be very flat (in most cases about 1.5 to 3 metres) and contamination can be a problem at certain seasons.
Do not forget to wrap your sun cream on the shore of the pond one or two days ago, as there is no shadow between the stations. You can book a tour of Lac Inle and the surroundings through this website and it is also possible to take a scenic float (balloon ride from mid-November to late March, US$325 per person); to learn more or make a reservation, please fill out this contact sheet or send an e-mail (email protected).
There are also a wide range of Myanmar land trips that includes Lake Inle - learn more here. The Ywama is a classic example of a village on the Inle Lake and is best known for its swimming school. There are also several craft businesses, a convent and the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, one of the most sacred places in Shan State, which is frequented by Buddhist worshipers from all over Myanmar.
Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Feast is held in October and shows the passing of four venerated Buddha pictures through the Inle Lake towns on the ship, which take 18 nights to finish their voyage. You can also find the famous Istrian rudder sport between the towns.
As nice as it is, Ywama has become a tourist centre on Inle Lake and can sometimes be overcrowded - if you want to get out of the crowd, get there early in the mornings. On the Ywama Channel there are a number of great places to eat Shan and other Chinese and Myanmar cuisine, directly opposite the pit, Mr. Toe's place is located, offering a variety of newly catched seafood and traditional Shan cookery courses in a nearby cottage (courses must be reserved in advance, email[email protected] to learn more).
Have a look at our YouTube movie of the Phaung Daw Oo and Ywama-Ville. Nampan is another outstanding example of a typical swimming town with its timber buildings which are all constructed on stelt. There are handmade smoke plants in the town and the oldest cigars on the shores of the town, the Alodaw Pauk Pirates, a large gold treasure chest set with precious stones.
In the northern part of the town there are swimming yards where the Intha cultivate a wide range of crops and plants, both for their own use and for exports throughout the area. It is another of the most peculiar aspects of living on the water, as the inhabitants of the villages use the natural environment to create these parks for many years.
Situated on the east bank of Isel, half of the Maing Thauk is on the shores of the sea and the other half on dry ground, the two parts being connected by a long timber footbridge. You will find a lively open-air museum and, further up the hill, the Maing Thauk Forest Monastery, from where you have a magnificent view of the lakes.
You can reach Maing Thauk either by boating or by bike or from Nyaung Shwe. Indein town ( "Inn Thein") is known for its fracturing and atmospherical groups of old rafts, some of which are now being renovated (sometimes in somewhat too original ways).
Included are Nyaung Oak, just behind the town, with its mythological sculptures, and Shwe Inn Thein Paya, at the top of a long and scenic roofed path that leads up the hillside; the pagodas offer several hundred dense Stupa to explore.
Shwe Inthein Paya also offers a beautiful view over the beautiful Lakes. The town of Indein also has a lively fair near the pier. From Ywama, the town and the Pagoda can be accessed by ferry via a beautiful, winding channel, although this is normally inaccessible during the arid period, as the waters are too flat.
Notice that Indein is a little further away from Inle Lake's major stretch, so a cruise here will make your cruise a little longer and more costly. The Nga Hpe Kyaung convent on the shores of the pond is built of timber and has a lovely room for prayer. In the past it was known for its hopping cat; the native friars used to train them to leap through tires.
Inle Heritage House, a wonderful wooden building in the centre of the lakeside, is a dining room, arts centre and feline reserve. If you want a completely different adventure, visit the Red Mountain Estate winery in the hilly area just south of Inle to taste the wines.
Taste the reasonably priced wine degustation meal (with wine from four different varieties ) and enjoy the breathtaking sundown over the lakes. You can reach the vineyards by cab or bike from Nyaung Shwe or the hotel on the eastern side of the lakes.