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In and around Inle lake (Burma)

Around Inle Lake in BurmaLocated in the Nyaungshwe Township of Taunggyi District of Shan State, Inle is the second largest lake in Burma with a surface area of about 120 km squared and with thriving communities (complete with floating gardens) located in the villages along the lake’s shore (population of the lake – the people are known as the Intha – is around 70 000).  We spent two blissful days at Inle (in the fabulous Golden Island Cottages and we saw in the New Year “Gangnam Style” with the most epic New Years’ Even party ever (6+ hours!) and apart from checking out the Nampan markets and the cat sanctury and Jumping Cat Monastery located around Inle, we found there was a LOT to see. The sheer size of the lake means you need to get going early in the morning on your longtail boat to make sure you are back before sunset (around 5pm when we were there) because you certainly don’t want to be out in the middle of the lake in the velvety black darkness!

I’m not much one for boats but I found tootling around the lake in the longtails quite relaxing. There’s so much to see and do – if you do your reading you can plan a pretty full day with your driver who will most likely have some stops to suggest along the way too (you’ll grow to recognise the tourists you encounter at many of the stops if you spend more than a day on the lake…).

Almost everywhere you look, you can see glistening gold stupas of pagodas shimmering in the sunshine…

Early in the morning and late in the afternoon, the lake is a hive of activity…

The locals make an art form of living on the water. Loading and unloading boats is a carefully choreographed affair, as is the boat traffic management itself…

Market mornings are busiest of all…

But there are many peaceful scenes on the lake too…

You’ll most definitely want to check out some of the weaving workshops dotted around the Lake, notably in the Phaw Khone village where you’ll get to see some lotus root/ reed being woven into thin, colourful fabrics on clattery old looms made of bamboo. It’s fascinating to watch the “thread” being extracted and spooled onto the spindles – all manually as is the weaving process itself.  The fabrics and clothes/ scarves are expensive (decent pieces start around $50US) but when you see the work that goes into them, you’ll understand why.  The workshop we visited also sold cotton woven pieces for much less.

Enjoy the beautiful deep blue of the lake as you head out to explore more…

You might want to head to Ywa-ma village to buy some silver from the local silversmiths…

Or just admire the “everyday life” on the Lake…

A must-see is, of course Phaung Daw Oo Paya – the holiest religious site in southern Shan State.  Within the huge tiered pagoda, you’ll find five Buddha statues that have turned into unrecognisable-as-Buddha blobs simply because of the amount of gold leaf that has been applied by (male) local and visiting worshipers alike…

If you read the Lonely Planet guide, you’ll be keen to check out Inthein – described as having an “Apocalypse Now ambiance” and which requires a trip through dense jungle… Weeeelllll…. not quite…. (the jolly children on the lake edge kind of take away from any creepy undertones too!)

But Inthein, despite the hordes of tourists, is a must for any visitor to the lake and the home to some of the most beautiful and atmospheric pagodas we saw throughout our trip…

Heading through the village of Nyaung Ohak, you’ll see crumbling ancient stupas, half-covered in greenery but still visibly stunning.  Climbing the covered walkway (and ignoring the stalls of souvenirs), you’ll soon come to Shwe Inn Thein Paya – where you’ll find over 1000 17th and 18th century zedi (stupas). Some are “original” whilst others have been reconstructed with the help of donations but all of them are beautiful in their own right…

What you can’t possibly pick up from these pictures is the sound of wind chimes echoing through the site – often the only sound you can hear if you keep quiet yourself (go towards the end of the afternoon and there will be less people!). It’s supremely beautiful and so peaceful.

Cat at Shwe Inn Thein Paya Burma

This guy, on the floor Shwe Inn Thein Paya thought it was peaceful anyway…

Long story short, Inle Lake is a majestic place full of great big beautiful scenery and smaller, charming experiences. If it’s not on your list when you are travelling to Burma, make it happen.  A highlight for sure.

You might also like:

The cats of Inle Lake (Burma)
NamPan Market (Inle Lake, Burma)

A trip to Thandwe Market (Burma)
Ngapali Beach (Burma)

*** Canadian readers – have you entered my Nigella Lawson “Nigellissima” book giveaway yet? Closes on Wednesday March 6th at 6pm EST.

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11 Responses to In and around Inle lake (Burma)

  1. Geoff March 5, 2013 at 22:23 #

    Lovely travel piece, Mardi. Very persuasive.

  2. Stephanie March 6, 2013 at 14:08 #

    Your bright and sunny travel pictures were just what i needed on this foggy, grey, snowy day! Beautiful shots

  3. yummychunklet March 7, 2013 at 12:48 #

    Fantastic photos!

  4. K A B L O O E Y March 8, 2013 at 13:55 #

    Exceptional travelogue, Mardi. I could completely sink into them and transport myself, that is, until the “ladies not allowed” sign. That injected a dose of reality. Great job.

  5. jill March 13, 2013 at 21:38 #

    Oh, this brings back so many good memories of Inle Lake. We went bike riding to a german owned winery up on the hill after exploring the lake – it was so surreal!

  6. Jenny July 2, 2013 at 11:07 #

    I was searching for Burmese recipes when I stumbled upon your blog. Really enjoying it this morning as it’s a trip down memory lane for me. I spent the entire summer in Burma last year, and a good portion of it at Inle Lake. I have such fond memories of my time there!

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