Inle Lake is one of the most famous destinations in Myanmar, special for being a natural and unpolluted place, “a free chemical zone” as they announce at the entry in this area. Aaaa…by the way, you should know that they have an entry ticket for this place of 15.000 Kyat. The lake, 22 km long and 10 km across, has a population of some 150,000, many of whom live on floating islands of vegetation.
The main attraction of the area is the lake but the main access point to Inle Lake, where usually tourists are staying, is Nyaungshwe. So I came to Nyaungshwe from Loikaw by a local bus, for 7000 kyats. This bus is going to Taunggyi, it will leave at an intersection from where I had to take a motorbike until my accommodation. From Nyaungshwe to Inle Lake, I recommend you to take a boat tour to enjoy the beautiful scenery and to learn more about the things that are making Inle Lake such a special place.
I booked my boat tour at my hostel, I chose the half a day tour by a long tail boat having 6 stops on our way. The price of the tour depends on how many persons are going, we were three, so we paid 6000 Kyat per person.
At 08.00h, the tour guide came to our guesthouse and took us to the boat, being stocked with comfortable chairs and life vests. We started our journey excited on the river to the lake, there were many boats having the same tour even though march it’s not a high season for tourism in Myanmar.
One of Inle Lake’s highlights is spotting the “one-legged” fisherman that balance at the end of their long-tail boat on one leg while using the other to manipulate the oar. I didn’t take it as a touristic attraction, seeing these fishermen made me feel like a witness of simplicity.
1. New Sin Tun – Inle Traditional Silversmith Workshop. During our first stop, we could have seen how talented craftsmen are doing different silver objects from jewelry to water bowls. They are extracting the silver from silver stones brought from the north of the country and using special techniques they make an alloy of 98% silver and 2% copper. You’ll have the chance there to understand all this process and to see young people with a lot of patience making silver jewelry.
2. Kayan Hand Weaving Center. The second stop allowed me to see again some Kayan women, “the long neck tribe”, weaving and presenting their customs. I felt happy to salute them in Kayan language as I’ve learned from Panpet village.
3. Inle Treasure – Cotton, Silk and Lotus Hand Weaving. One of the most interesting activities that I’ve seen during this tour was about the special Lotus of Inle Lake. Here is the only place in the world where they can use the lotus plant to make fabric. The sticky, elastic lotus fibers are pulled out of the stem while simultaneously being hand-rolled to other fibers to create a long thread. They use it to make scarfs and other small items, but the work is really slow and hard. For one scarf, they have to use around 4000 lotus plants, that’s why it’s the price is around 100$.
4. Cheroot Factory. I had a lot of fun during this visit because as a non-smoker, I was curious to try all the different flavored cigarettes made there. The Inle Lake area, in particular, is known for its flavored cheroots like coconut, anise, pineapple, mint and even banana wrapped in dried thatched leaves. I couldn’t stop myself buying a box with ten different flavored cigarettes for 6000 Kyat.
5. Floating Gardens. I’m still amazed by the different ways of gardening that could exist. Inle Lake is also popular for its unique floating gardens that remembered me how big the ability to adapt to human beings if the plants can adapt so well to all this different environment.
6. Buddhist Monastery. Our last stop was at a Buddhist Monastery, which is a school too. I was surprised to see all these kids having a meditation class. They were different ages from 7 to 14 years old but they were trying all their best to focus and connect with themselves during meditation. I also liked all the cats, Myanmar cats, sleeping in the temple like owners of the place.
It was an intense half of the day, we saw so many new things so, after the last visit, all three of us felt that it’s time to go back for having a rest. We arrived back around 13.30h, but the hour it’s depending on your group. On my way back from the lake, I smiled at the sun rays reflected on the water saying again to myself that I’m grateful for everything I’m learning from my travels. Let’s be safe and happy during our travels!