Inle Lake is one of the must visit destinations in Myanmar, at least that what I had read when planning my trip to the golden land. Firstly, I didn’t have much interest in this body of water but was more fond of the romantic and historical cities like Yangon, Bagan or Mandalay. Inle Lake is just simply one of my stopping points in the way from Mandalay to Yangon
So, on the way from Mandalay to Inle, I have no expectations about this place. I thought it was just like any other lakes in Nainital or Ooty and even the Hussain Sagar lake in Hyderabad where I spent a day hiking or cycling around and complete the lake tour. Hence, the lake was a huge surprise for me when I got there. I fell in love with it just within few hours. It was the place that I didn’t want to leave.
“Venice of the east” is what they use to call lake Inle. In my opinion, Inle’s waterways are far more incredible. The scale of the lake is outstanding with plenty of canals stretching miles away creating an enormous waterway network. It is funny that the name of the lake in the local language means “small lake”. But the actually scale is huge. Inle Lake has the length of 22km and the widest point of 11km.
Located in Shan State, the freshwater lake Inle is surrounded by mountain ranges and is one of the most sublime natural landscapes in Myanmar. The lake is about 350 km from Mandalay and 660km from Yangon. We actually took a road trip from Bagan to Inle (340 km) for 9 hours of driving with several stops along the way. You can also choose to fly to Inle through Heho airport which is an hour’s drive from the lake. After spent a couple of days here, we drove 13 hours to Yangon (with stops).
Once you arrived at the shores of the lake, the car is not needed anymore. Your visit is done by the boat in the huge waterway network of Lake Inle. We were carried in a narrow outboard engine boat with a joyful captain. The boat is colorful and slender, just like the Kashmiri Shikara in Dal lake, India. As we floated on the waterways, there were plenty of similar boats also taking the visitors around.
Our Inle lake tour started with a visit to an outdoor vibrant market filled with stunning carved items and souvenirs. After that, we headed to Inthein, where lied a great number of ruins and ancient stupas. Next, we went to the cigar – making village, where I was shown the way to make a hand rolled cigars. I really enjoyed this experience as they made the unique flavors from rum to banana and many thing else. Then we visited the mulberry paper making and silk weaving villages. The people of Shan province are well – known for the cottage industries considered as the common jobs of the region.
We experienced the local food at one of the floating restaurant on the lake where the fish was freshly caught and turned into a delicious dish. Then, we continued to explore floating markets and farms. The products that they grow here are incredible. As we checked out our “to – do list”, the local fishermen move the boat around with the unique technique of one leg rowing.
Inle Lake is a perfect place to watch the sunrise and sunset. The experience is so amazing and worth waiting for. The atmosphere here is other worldly. Life on the lake slowly goes with a different pace creating a chance for you to relax and find your balance. If you have a chance, don’t miss this paradise on earth.