Inle's Evening

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This magnificent  Inle Lake ranks among Myanmar’s top five tourist attractions, which ensures that visitors come here in droves. The once-sleepy village of Nyaungshwe at the north end of the lake has grown into a bustling traveller centre, with dozens of guesthouses and hotels, a surfeit of restaurants serving pancakes and pasta, and a pleasantly relaxed traveller vibe. If Myanmar could be said to have a backpacker scene at all, it can be found here.

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Inle’s Evening

On paper Inle Lake is 13.5 miles long and 7 miles wide but up close it’s hard to tell where the lake finishes and the marshes start. Looking down over the lake from the Taunggyi road, Inle sits like a puddle on an enormous carpet of greenery. Dotted around the lake are the stilt-house villages and floating gardens of the Intha tribe. You may also encounter Shan, Pa-O, Taung Yo, Danu, Kayah and Danaw tribal people at the markets that hopscotch around the lake on a five-day cycle.

 

 

Getting Around

 

Boats are the main means of transport around the lake –  travellers tend to explore on motorised canoes (a little like Thai long-tail boats) but most Intha people get around using traditional flat-bottomed skiffs propelled by a single wooden paddle. The Intha technique of leg rowing – where one leg is wrapped around the paddle to drive the blade through the water in a snake-like motion – is unique.

Bicycles are available for about $2 per day. Pick-ups from Shwenyaung, 13km away, to Nyaungshwe run from 6am to 6pm. Buses also come and go. You can catch buses leaving Taunggyi at the Shwenyaung junction: the bus to Bagan (K11,000, 12 hours) passes by at 5am; buses to Mandalay.

 

Tips

 

The waters cool the surrounding air considerably. A pall of mist hangs over the lake before sunrise and during the morning, and evenings can be surprisingly cold. Bring a coat or buy a blanket in the market to keep off the wind chill on boat tours around the lake.

 

Things to do

 

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Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda

This is located in Ywama,  an important religious site in the Shan State. The five  Buddha images in the central shrine have been covered with so many gold leaves that it is impossible to see their original structure.

Ywama

Ywama was the first village to be developed for tourism and, as a result, it has the greatest number of souvenir shops and restaurants. It’s still a very pretty village, with winding channels lined with tall teak houses, but the charm can be diminished by the crowds of tourist boats and paddling souvenir vendors.

Inthein (Indein)

West of Ywama, a narrow, foliage-cloaked canal winds through the reeds to the lakeside village of Inthein (Indein). As the channel leaves the reed beds, the jungle grows denser and denser on either side, before the village appears suddenly among the vegetation. The Apocalypse Now ambience evaporates somewhat when you see the waiting tourist boats and souvenir stalls, but no matter – the pagodas on the hilltop are still incredibly atmospheric despite the crowds.

Nga Hpe Kyaung ( Jumping Cat Monastery )

On the eastern side of the lake, the Nga Hpe Kyaung is famous for its jumping cats, trained to leap through hoops by the monks during the slow hours between scripture recitals. The monks seem happy to put on a cat-jumping show for visiting tourists and the cats get treats for their efforts, so they seem fairly happy too.

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2 Comments

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