Blessed with warm, sunny days in Yangon over Christmas, the weather dropped as we went up north to the Shan State to visit Inle Lake. After a long debate, we decided to book bus tickets from Yangon to Inle Lake, which meant a 12-hour ride on Myanmar’s roads, but was worth it as it was cheap and comfortable. Luckily, the Emperor Hotel we had booked for Nyaung Shwe, the township at Inle lake, turned out to be our favourite one as we had delicious Shan Noodles (famous for that region) every morning on their rooftop terrace restaurant and the staff was welcoming and helpful.
As we arrived groggily and were in need of sleep after that long bus journey, we only started mid-day to explore Nyaung Shwe on our first day. The hotel staff recommended to do the famous boat tour around Inle Lake the next day as you have to start early to make the most of it and see all the sights. Upon their recommendations, we rented bicycles and made our way to a nearby hot spring bath. The route was certainly challenging on those city bikes, cycling on rough roads past water buffaloes and trucks. We made a quick stop for some refreshments at a small ‘tea shop’ and were entertained by a little puppy that strayed into the café.
Alas, as we reached the hot spring (that did not look as good as I hoped), he had a flat bicycle tire and someone from the hotel had to come out to pick us up. Feeling a little embarrassed, we set off to the vineyards in the mountains in time for sunset (yes, there are vineyards in Myanmar!) and were rewarded with amazing mountain views.
The second morning, we got up early and ready for our private long boat tour around Inle Lake. Unfortunately, it was cloudy and chilly that day and we had to wear jackets to keep ourselves warm on the lake. Overall, it was a unique experience seeing the floating houses, a market by the lake, shops displaying traditional Burmese crafts and at the end, Indein Village with ancient pagodas.
The downside of the accessibility of all those places on the lake is that our guide took us to more touristy shops that we would have liked to and we also stopped at a place where there are some long-necked women on display to be photographed. We felt really uncomfortable and didn’t want those women suffering for us to take photos. The whole boat tour lasts 9 hours and was very inexpensive.
On our last day at Inle Lake, the weather turned for blue skies and sunshine and we enjoyed a last cycle through Nyaung Shwe up to the old monastery and one last lunch with views over the mountains in the vineyards. In the afternoon, we set off to Heho Airport to fly to Bagan. As we arrived, the staff only verbally asked for our names and destination and then hand-wrote us a boarding pass and passed our suitcases to a pile of luggage for that flight. There were small propeller machines landing and taking off, about every 30 minutes and there were no flight announcements made. Needless to say, I was a little nervous, but as we took off it was actually a smooth and well organised flight.
I hope our story about Inle Lake helps you decide to plan your trip to Myanmar. Next time, we’ll write about our best destination yet – Bagan – an archaelogical area with more than 2,000 ancient Buddhist monuments.