Inle Lake is a very tranquil region of Myanmar and not the most desired scene for the die-hard urbanities. But, this is a prefect place to visit for the travellers that want to get a break from the more traditional sightseeing trips on the Myanmar tour packages.
This lake is the second-largest in the entire country, and located in Shan State and part of the Nyaung Shwe Township. This region of Myanmar is bordered to the south by Thailand, to the east by Laos, and to the north by China.
There are nearly 100 ethnic groups spread across the country with many of the local residents to Inle Lake referred to as Intha who are the majority self-sufficient farmers.
One of the most travelled villages in the local area is Nyaung Shwe, which is the location of the airport. Similar to the town in Bagan, the many tiny villages around Inle Lake have been able to evolve and adapt to the regular influx of travellers. The local area has plenty of small wooden huts on stilts and regular activity includes boating on the local style of wooden canoe. Many areas of the lake are completely peaceful by sunset when the boatmen stop for the day.
Inle Lake has a monsoonal climate with the wettest period lasting from May to September - there is an estimated 1,370 mm of rainfall for the entire year. But, there is also quite a lot of rain during the dry season, especially near the Shan Plateau. The preferred time to visit on the Indochina tour packages is late September to October when the weather is most desirable to explore the lake and the local area. The coolest months in the region are January to February when the early morning and evening can get very chilly and practical for the tourist to wear extra layers of jackets, sweaters and socks.
Also, the Phaungdawoo Festival takes place throughout September to early October and can last for a period of up to 3 weeks.
How to get there
Travelling by air is convenient with the closest airport at Heho which is approx 46 km NW of Inle Lake. The taxi ride from Heho to the local town of Nyaung Shwe takes in the region of 45 minutes and costs about $25, but savings are possible by booking in advance. Alternative travel options include buses and pick-up trucks, but these forms of transport aren’t as convenient.
There is a train service from Yangon to Inle Lake but this journey is quite uncomfortable, slow and long, so not one of the most recommended options. But, for those that like to experience the train rides, the most acceptable part to do by train is the Kalaw-Inle Lake section which can take about 5 hours to complete.
Also, the bus service from Yangon is acceptable with the VIP buses able to give the most comfort and quite affordable at $18 per person. The travel time by bus is in the region of 10 hours.
Where to stay
There are plenty of guesthouses and hotels listed in the Myanmar travel guide that relates to the local Inle Lake area and available within the different price brackets.
A stay at the Golden Island Cottages gives a perfect opportunity to life like the locals in cottages that have been built on stilts. Plus, there is even a local restaurant that serves the high-quality food and is suspended over the lake. The cottages are built with wicker walls, thatched-roof and include comfortable public areas. All basic features are included with Wi-Fi and ample electricity.
The Hotel Amazing Nyaung Shwe is a short distance from the Inle Lake jetty and in a great position for those wishing to explore the local lake and attractions. Most of the rooms are tastefully designed with wooden furniture while also spacious and clean. The upper level rooms are practical for the light sleeper to get away from any noise, while the on-site restaurant serves up a very descent breakfast.
Eat and drink
Even though Inle Lake is a rural destination, there are still a few decent places on the Indochina tour packages to eat and drink. With the increase in the tourist trade, the choice of good eateries continues to expand.
A great place to try is the Inn Thar Lay Restaurant, which serves some first class Chinese and Shan dishes. The eatery has an authentic look with its wooden structure on stilts and situated close to the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda.
The Golden Kite is perfect for the tourist that loves the authentic Italian food. While pasta and pizza are most common, there are also several other European dishes on the menu. This place is appreciated for its great atmosphere and fair prices.
The Mingala Market is a perfect place to shop on the Myanmar tour packages for handicrafts, home goods (occasional knife, bowls, fishing supplies, etc.) and groceries and produce. It is packed every morning with locals when it is the best time to visit.
For the travellers in search of souvenirs, a visit to Ywama is certain to appeal. This is one of the small villages in the Inle Lake region, and a popular destination for the tourist. But, it has still retained its authenticity and offers a very diverse range of goods to both locals and tourists.
Things to see and do
One of the main things to do around Inle Lake is to get involved in the boat trips. The lake is in the region of 44.9 sq miles and the second largest in the country. There are plenty of places near the jetty close to Nyaung Shwe village to organize boat trips. A typical half day trip can cost approx $15 while a full day tour costs slightly more at $20. Also, it is necessary to use the hire boat to get to certain hotels based on the lake.
The floating gardens are great to see and created with the ingenuity of the local Inle Lake villagers. Most of the gardens at found at the southern edge of the lake where the villagers build the colourful displays with the help of floating mats and wooden trellises. A varied mixture of flowers and vegetables are grown on the trellises which are left to grow and tended by the locals.