Inle Lake is one of the most beautiful places on Earth and a photographers dream, in our view. Inle Lake is Myanmar’s second largest waterway and is truly stunning, with colorful floating villages and amazing agriculture growing out of the water.
We boarded a private motorboat, accompanied by our guide, a female, and head off for Inle Lake. The boat was very long and narrow, powered by a powerful outboard, very fast and probably not that stable. We were sitting on our life-jackets (as cushions), the boat sits quite low in the water and we had spectacular panoramic views. We soon learned that this was the common transport on Inle Lake.
We left the village of Nyaung Shwe and traveled along the river that eventually opens out onto Inle Lake, passing picture postcard villages, built on stilts, sitting above the lake – they were inhabited by the local Intha people. We soon observed the famous, leg-rowing, fishermen, who are fascinating to watch, as they row their boats, standing up, with a long wooden pole, that is plunged into the water and by using one leg that is wrapped around the pole and one arm, the other arm and leg are free for fishing. We then spotted the floating gardens – these were built up from strips of water hyacinth and mud, anchored to the lake bed with bamboo poles.
We checked-in to our hotel and were shown to our chalet that was made of wood and built above the water, with a lovely view of the lake. It was an imposing resort , overlooking Inle Lake, set-off against mountains in the background. It was completely isolated but very beautiful.
We spent three glorious nights and days at Inle Lake, never to be forgotten.
We had two days touring the lake and viewing the amazing sights, travelling by long-boat. We visited the village of Inpawkhone and observed the traditional silk weaving techniques of the Inthar people. It was interesting to contrast this to what we had observed in China. Inpawkhone is also famous for its fabric weaving using the stems of lotus flowers – this is a particularly time consuming process but the end result is excellent quality fabric that is much prized throughout Myanmar, with a look and feel of fine linen. We made a stop at a cheroot factory where we saw cigars being rolled by hand. We also visited Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, the lake’s main sanctuary, which contains five sacred Buddha images and the royal barges used during the pagoda’s annual festival. We spent some time looking at the cultivated crops, growing out of the water – there were thousands and thousands of tomato plants, all in neat rows, supported by bamboo, and anchored in the waters of the lake that is quite shallow at this point – a truly unbelievable site.
Each day we returned to our delightful hotel on the lake and at about 5.30 viewed the amazing spectacle of sunset over Inle Lake.
We left on the hotel jetty in the morning, headed out on the lake, and were immediately focused on amazing beauty of Inle Lake. First thing in the morning, it was very cold on the lake and along with life-vests, we were provided colorful local blankets that we were really pleased to have at our disposal. We were in shorts and T/shirts and our guide and the boatman were in padded coats and woolly hats. We slowed down for the fishermen, amazed the strange techniques of catching fish, including beating the water to get the fish moving towards the traps and nets. Our cameras were incredibly busy capturing one stunning site after the next. We passed the tomato farms sitting above the water and made our way to our first stop, a visit to the morning market, which rotates locations on a five-day basis. The daily market attracts people from all over the lake’s shores, who gather to buy and sell their wares, including the local minorities, Pa-Oh, Inthar and Shan people, all in their traditional colorful outfits.
After the market, we headed back to the open water of Inle Lake, then we continued down a small canal leading to the Pa-oh village of In Dein. We explored the area on foot, strolling around the village, visiting a local school. We climbed the covered stair way to the top which is filled with picturesque ancient white stupas and has magnificent views of the lake. By now, it was midday and extremely hot and it was a good time to break for a cold drink and time to people watch. Some local men offered to share their lunch with us. We thanked them but politely declined. There was a group of six men who were sharing their food with each other, a mix of curries, vegetables, rice etc. Nearby there seemed to be all the neighborhood stray dogs, waiting patiently in the wings for some scraps. Many of the dogs in Myanmar are strays, living on the streets – we observed that by and large they were in reasonable condition.
We headed back to the boat, entered the main waterway and stopped at a popular, typical, local restaurant for lunch, with wonderful views over the lake. We ordered a fish curry, with fresh river fish and steamed rice. The Burmese are under the impression that Western visitors do not like their food too spicy, so they remove the hot spices and serve a rather bland curry! However, on balance it was a good experience. We were in the shade of the strong sun, with wonderful views, chatted to other customers and enjoyed the experience in our restaurant built on wooden stilts, above Inle Lake.
We returned to our hotel mid-afternoon, with the rest of our day at leisure, biding our time until sunset which we eagerly awaited. Sunset over Inle Lake we shall remember for the rest of our lives (open the link for some amazingly beautiful photos).
Because Inle Lake is such a photographers dream, we have made a special effort to share some truly stunning photographs – please remember to open all the hyperlinks embedded in the text, as many contain photos, as well as other data.
Next day we went trekking at Inle Lake but that’s another blog, coming soon.
Anyway, let us know what you think of Inle Lake?