There are some beautiful places to go in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. From river cruises down the Ayeyarwady river, the beautiful temples of Bagan and the lesser known destination of Inle Lake in central Myanmar. We had the pleasure of spending a few days in this beautiful part of the word thanks to our partners Selective Asia who are the experts in holidays in Myanmar as well as lots of other Asian destinations.
The Lake is a wonderfully unique experience, a vast area of shallow water where many locals live on houses raised above the lake on stilts. Covering 44.9 square kilometers, this fresh-water lake is some 2,900 feet (880m) above sea level, one of the highest in lakes Asia. It’s teeming with local activities, villages, beautiful temples and even some hotels perched over the calm waters. The views are idyllic, very Burmese and with guided tours from the hotels it’s easy to explore the lake and surrounding areas. Here’s our pick of the best things to do at Inle Lake in Myanmar.
Nyaung Shwe town
On your way to the floating villages and hotels on Inle Lake you’ll pass through the township of Nyaung Shwe, most just continue on to the lake but it’s worth stopping here and exploring more. Nyaung Shwe is a prime example of a rural town in Myanmar so you’ll get to experience local life up close. There are some great markets here where you can see daily business played out with locals and sellers. You can also pick up a few bargains here and sample local food too. Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery is well worth a visit to see the novice Buddhist monks inside this beautiful teak wood building. It’s ornate carvings are quite spectacular and the monks are often friendly and like to exercise their English too. Wander around a few of the side streets off of the main road in town and you’ll be greeted with daily life of Burmese families. Kids playing, mothers washing, fathers building and old men smoking Cheroots.
Workshops on the lake
Inle Lake is filled with local activities and if you’re staying on the lake you’ll be sure to see fishermen paddling their boats with their leg, women washing clothes in the water and Buddhist temples dotting the landscape. For me one of the best experiences was visiting the workshops where the local people were hard at work on all sorts of crafts. The women at the weaving factories, creating thread from lotus stems and silks of all colours, using old looms to create ornate Burmese patterns. The boat manufacturer near the floating market was a particular highlight with men busy fitting new long boats and cutting wood with a huge saw that took two men to handle. The people are friendly and welcome you in to take a look. Many have shops you can browse. The Burmese umbrella workshop was very interesting, creating paper from rice straw, left to dry in the sun while other workers create the umbrella frame. The paper is waterproof and finished with beautiful lotus flower designs. They make a wonderful and authentic souvenir.
While tours are common on the lake, few people know about the beautiful Vineyards in the area. Just a short journey from the Lake is the picturesque hillside vineyards of Myanmar. The Taung Che vineyard is relative new, starting in 2002 but with big dreams to produce high quality wine, they employ local people from around the Nyaungshwe Township and university graduates from around Myanmar too. By 2009 they are producing over 60,000 bottles of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. You can take a tour of the vineyards, see how the wine is produced and also have dinner there too. Sample some local dishes and enjoy a glass or bottle of Taung Che’s finest vino.
Where to stay on Inle Lake
There are some wonderful hotels on Inle Lake that offer either beautiful views of the landscape or unrivalled quality and service. Our pick is the Inle Princess Resort with its beautiful thatched cottages along the eastern lake side. With stunning views across the lake from every cottage and ample room to relax and unwind. The Pristine Lotus is another highly recommend resort with a natural hot spring nearby providing hot water to the split level cottages in a secluded and luxurious setting. For more accommodation ideas in Myanmar check out this page.
Our thanks to Selective Asia for their support on our travels in Myanmar. For more information on Selective Asia visit www.selectiveasia.com. Watch our video guide to too for a quick tour of things to do on the lake.