Inle lake was another highlight of our trip to Myanmar. It is a pretty large lake (22km long) and is situated in the Shan state. It was a hell of a lot cooler than both Yangon and Bagan, giving us a welcome respite from the endless sweating. The journey to Nyaungshwe, a town close to the lake, had been in a comfortable minibus however the driver was not a fan of braking so Pinion and I were feeling a bit sick by the time we arrived. The scenery had been a dramatic change from the dusty roads of Mandalay and Bagan. It was lush green, cloudy and very hilly. We passed by small restaurants and shops selling the fruit that grow nearby.
After rising late, we rarely do early mornings if we don’t have to, we wandered down to the area where you can catch a boat tour of the lake. We bargained lazily with the boat man, US$15 seemed like a reasonable amount for a boat to ourselves for 5 hours. I think you can get the boat men down more on the price but our guy was super friendly, stopped for ages near the fishermen and wherever else we wanted to take a photo. He was also really smiley when I asked for a photo of him.
Our boat driver for the day:
Yes of course we went to the ‘tourist traps’ of the lotus weavers, jewellers and cigarette makers. We didn’t mind, it was interesting to see how the locals have adjusted to tourism in their villages and what they do to make some money. We bought some of the hand rolled cigarettes for presents (although we can’t seem to post them home so I have no idea if they will go off like normal cigarettes?). The driver asked if we were hungry, a question that is rarely answered with a no, and so off we went to a large but empty restaurant. Empty except for the Scottish/ Australian lady and her husband who we had met a week earlier on our day trip to Mount Popa, it really is a small world (or the tourist path in Myanmar is already becoming well used).
The highlight of the lake for me was passing through the villages with their houses on stilts and the floating gardens. Even in a village in the middle of a lake were there signs for the Myanmar beer that is so popular, and quite drinkable, here.
After the village we ventured to a pagoda and then later to the famous jumping cat monastery, where the local monk who used to train the cats to jump through hoops has retired and left a large collection of very sleepy cats.
We were also pretty tired by this point, I was also sporting a very red nose due to my inability to apply enough suncream ever. The trip ended but not without more stops to see the local fishermen at work.
Not a career I would be good at:
Our day on Inle lake was the only sunny day of our visit to this area. We spent the rest of the time relaxing, riding bikes and discovering that Myanmar wine is drinkable if not exactly delicious.
Red Mountain winery:
We stayed at the lovely Zawgi Inn whilst we were in Nyaungshwe, it was cheaper to book directly with them rather than Agoda. The rooms were spacious, they had bikes to rent (we got them for free cause we only took them in the afternoon), the breakfasts were good (lots of fresh fruit) and it was in a good location.