We had two days at Inle Lake and had a great time visiting temples, local craft workshops and village markets. We flew into Heho International Airport which was about 27 km from the lake and stayed in a resort by the lake about 1/3 length down the northern-most of the lake. The most memorable attraction of Inle Lake was “Shwe Indein Pagodas”, it was definitely a ‘must visit” attraction. We found that two days were just good enough to see the many attractions and still had time to relax by the pool of our resort!
Domestic flight from Yangon to HeHo
Inle Lake was our 2nd destination in Myanmar and to get there from Yangon we could either travelled by car/bus or plane. The road journey would need about 8.5 hours while a flight would take 1 hour 10 mins. We had done our research and the flight cost (one way between Yangon and Heho) was SGD$100 person. This cost was definitely more expensive than that of a bus ticket but the extra amount spent would definitely outweigh the many hours lost in a road trip resulting in needing an additional day/night at InleLake to explore its attractions.
Heho Airport was the nearest airport to get to Inle Lake. It was a smaller airport compared to Yangon airport. As usual our “new guide” was already waiting in the arrival hall for us when we touched down. We were guided to a “carpark” next to the airport, there we met our driver waiting beside a golden colored MPV, a good size vehicle for four of us. Once we were seated our guide handed us each a bottle of mineral water. We felt so well taken care of!
Arriving at Inle Lake
From airport it was a 27 km south/east drive to the town Nyaungshwe. Nyaungshwe was where one could find the best budget and mid-range accommodations in the Inle Lake area and it was where many restaurant and bars were located.
Just before arriving at the town, there was a Inle Zone Entrance Ticketing Booth. Our guide got down to purchase the entrance tickets for each of us. Unlike in Yangon where entrance fees were based on individual attractions, at Inle Lake the ticket was based on the entire Inle Lake Region.
Soon we came to a river (Nyaungshwe Canal) and boarded a “long boat”. The boat man loaded our bags/luggage in the front of the boat and covered them with a green sheet of plastics, probably to prevent them from getting wet when the boat “rode” through the water.
All four of us and our guide piled into the boat, sitting one in front of the other. Getting into the boat was quite easy even for mum who was 80 years old. The boatman moved the boat forward/backward beside the pier so that each of us stepped directly into the boat at the position of an empty seat and sat down safely. In the boat there were several neatly folded blankets and umbrellas. The blanket was for protection again the strong wind and the umbrella for shading against the hot sun. Very thoughtful!
It was interesting to ride down the canal which was about 6 to 7 km long. On both sides of the canal were buildings. There were simple wooden houses, multistorey hotels and “temple like structures”.
The canal was rather busy with many boats going up and down the waterway. At one section of he canal we saw something amazing. It first appeared as a group of “mysterious weird looking” floating objects crossing the river. At a closer distance we saw that the “weird” objects had horns. Oh mine! Our boat was going to clash into a herd of water buffaloes crossing the canal! Fortunately our boatman was an expert and steered the long boat away from the buffaloes.
We were not sure if animals were swimming in the water or walking on the bed of the canal. Their snorts were definitely below water! Could buffuloes swim?
Inle Lake was a freshwater lake, it was the second largest lake in Myanmar and had a area of 116 km2. During dry season the average water depth was 2.1 m and the deepest point being 3.7 m and during rainy season this could increase by 1.5 m. Basically Inle Lake was a shallow lake.
Near the mouth of the canal where water emptied into the vast lake, we saw “locals” working on island of floating “grass/vegetation”. Our guide informed us that these locals were breaking out the “grass island” that blocked the entrance of the canal.
Soon we saw a fisherman! He had this conical fish net that he held in one leg as got ready to “net” the fish in the water.
Our hotel was situated on the east bank about one third length down the most northern point of Inle lake. It was a 30 minutes boat ride from Nyaungshwe Canal to the jetty of our hotel. The boat ride to our hotel was a lovely short “introductory” exploration of Inle lake.
As we were near to our hotel our boatman navigated the boat through some tall overgrown “lake plant forest” down an “invisible water route” to the east side of the lake. After some distance we spotted a jetty. From the jetty was a long beautiful board walk to our hotel!
A clear water village
On the first day on Inle Lake we had several boat trips, the first trip was from Nyaungshwe Canal to our hotel. We checked into our hotel at about 1 pm and after a short rest we were ready for the 2nd boat trip. The 2nd trip was to the southern tip of the lake to visit a floating village. This village was very different from the many I had seen before. It was “sparkingly lovely”. The wooden houses were built on stilts, the lake water was calm and with the strong noon light every house was clearly reflected in the water.
The village was so quiet, so serene and so unreal. The clear reflections of the entire place gave the village a “clean and quiet” ambience. Instead of muddy lanes between houses, the lanes were “mirror-like smooth”. Our boatman paddled the boat very slowly as he too tried to create minimum ripples to the water.
Surprisingly, we did not see any signs of lives. There was no sight of villagers outside or inside their houses as we drifted from one “floating” house to the next. At last we saw some youngsters in a boat. The older boy was expertly one-leg-paddling his boat as he and two younger boys “moved” past.
“One leg paddling”
local crafts : Boat Making
Our guide brought us to a “local boat making” workshop, The boats were customized based on customers’ requirements and they were labouriously handmade. We looked around and we did not see any electrical carpentry machine.
At the workshop were also many woodcraft sovenirs for sale but we did not find any that caught our interest. So we left empty handed.
local crafts : Clothes weaving
Clothes weaving was nothing new to us, but at Inle Lake, the material that went into making the thread for the clothes was something we could not imagine.
The material for the thread were fibres from the stems of lotus flower and it must be pink lotus flower! These lotus plants were grown in Inle Lake and only the stems of the pink lotus flowers had fibres.
At the workshop, a local lady sat on the wooden floor with a bunch of lotus flower stems beside her. She held a few stems in one hand and in the other hand a sharp blade that she used to cut and break a short section of the stems. Then she pulled the stems apart and we saw fibres being pulled out.
These fibres were rolled by another lady to into long “string”.. Each “roll” attached fibres to the end of the string extending it. The next stage was the weaving stage, where a weaver turned a hand-wheel to spin the raw strings neatly into spools.The original color of the lotus string/thread was cream.
At the final stage, the spools of thread were mounted on a looming machine, series of threads were pulled through “levers” which were operated by a weaver using her feet and hands to interweave the threads into clothes!
Besides the weavers working in the workshop, there was a “special” old lady sitting at one side of a wall with bowls, hot water flasks and a stack of huge crackers around her. Our guide told us that she was the “tea lady” and supplied “beverages and snacks” to the workers in the workshop.
We were curious so we sat down on the floor around the “tea lady” and had our first “Myanmar tea break”. The tea tasted salty not my “style” but the rice crackers were nice. It tasted plain but definitely crisply. At the end of the teabeak we left a tip of 2000 kyat (USD$1.50, USD$2) as advised by our guide. This worked out to only 500kyat per person which was definitely a very inexpensive cultural “tea experience”.
local crafts : Knife blacksmith
Another local craft workshop we visited was a knife blacksmith place. In the middle of the room was some sort of a fire place. One worker sat on a platform built on top of the fire place. He operated a “bag fan” which controlled “wind flow” into the fire place, this “turn up” or “turn down” the fire. A short while later another worker pulled out a long strip of red-heated metal from the fire-place and put it on a round table. Four other workers, each holding a sledge hammer beat the metal in sucessive sequence over and over again. The blacksmith place was not very interesting and we were only too happy to leave.
inn Thein Market
Inn Thein Market was a morning market in a small village, Indein, south west of Inle Lake. We reached the village by boat throught the “Inn Thein creek”, a long narrow canal. It was an hour boat ride from our hotel to the market, the ride was interesting as we moved across the vast lake and then into narrow river/tributary. There were many things to see along the way.
Near the market were shops and stores. We went to the outdoor stores where the local produces were sold. There were many varieties of vegetables, daily food and household wares. We moved slowly through the stores, looking and feeling the “local ambience” and absorbing the village scene around us.
This was a 5-day market – Indein Village hosted the market for one day of the five days and another 4 villages would host the other days. Basically the storeholders/farmers would move their produces to five markets located in five villages through a five day cycle.
In the market we looked around for fruits but did not find any that we could buy. We walked further and found some “trinket” stores which captivated our interests. The cost of the trinkets were cheap but the the prices reflected the quality. We bought some accessories to bring home as souvenirs.
There were some interesting silver jewellery but we did not buy any as our guide advised us to buy silver jewellery at authentic silversmith shop.
Karen’s Weaving Houses
At the morning market there was a weaving house. Unlike the day before where the weaving house left the lotus-fibre threads in their original natural color, this weaving house colored the threads before weaving them into clothes. It was a colourful place.
The woman weavers were the “long neck” tribe. They were manually weaving the colourful cloth without using a “loom”. Lin Ying took some photos along side the “long neck” ladies and as appreciation we gave them some tips (500kyats) as advised by our guide.
local crafts : Silversmith
Lin Ying had a Myanmese friend who told her that Inle Lake was also famous for its Silversmith craft. So on the second day we got our guide to bring us to a Silversmith workshop. At the workshop we were given a demonstration on the extraction of pure silver before it was made into thin strips and turned into jewellery.
We visited the jewellery showroom at the workshop and Lin Ying “tried out” several ear rings. Finally the one that caught our eyes was a pair of exquisite ear-rings made in the form of 5 strings of “lotus flowers” hanging together in a strip. The workmanship looked good and Lin Ying paid 37500 Kyat (USD$29, SGD$39) for the pair of ear-rings. We thought since it was pure silver we did not mind paying the high price. We were no expert of silver jewellery so we could only trust the shop staff when she emphasize the “true” quality of the silver.
Shwe indein Pagodas
There were many temples on Inle Lake and around Inle Lake. We were not “temple crazy” so when we planned our itinerary with the “tour agent” we omitted several suggested “temple visits” which we felt were similar. At Inle Lake our “must visit” temple was “Shwe Indein Pagodas”! This temple was sited near Indein village.
There were actually two “Pagodas” sites at Indein village, Nyaung Ohak Pagodas and Shwe Indein Pagodas. Our boat took us to a jetty and from there was a short walk to the start of a long “roofed corridor” that led up a slope and at the top was Shwe Indein Pagodas. Nyaung Ohak Pagodas was at the start of the corridor.
Nyaung Ohak Pagodas was a site full of stupas in different stages of ruin. Many of the stupas were crumbling down and the place was total deserted except for us and our guide.
After Nyaung Ohak Pagodas we were back to the roof corridor, it gently went up a slope and on both sides of the corridor were stalls selling all sorts of local products. Jewellerys, clothes, housewares were repeated over and over again. Each stall holder stating a price lower than the other.
Before we reached the top end of the corridor, our guide led us out by the side and brought us to a “magical place”. It was full of stupas, thousands of them and they came in a variety of colours, from various shades of mud colors to gold color. This was part of Shwe Indein Pagodas compound.
It was amazing to stand so tiny among these stupas and “travelled back in time.”These structures dated from the 14th to the 18th centuries and are typical of Burmese zedi, The first stupas at Indein were likely commissioned during the reign of King Narapatisithu.
We spent 30 minutes exploring the stupas before returning to the roofed corridor and continued our walk up slope still we reached a flight of steps. The steps into what looked like a main hall. In the main hall were more glittering, intricate ornaments, mounted the walls.
Or guide brought us to the back of the prayer hall where there were more golden stupas glittering brightly under the hot sun. These stupas were all about the same size and looked very well maintained. We would love to stay longer unfortunately under the hot sun, the tiled floor was very hot to step on and we were all bared footed!
Phaung Daw Oo Paya Pagoda
Our guide informed us that “Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda” was the most highly revered monastery in the Inle Lake area. According to him it was a “must visit”. We were very “okay” with just looking at the temple from the lake, but due to the insistence of our guide we left our boat, stepped onto the landing pier and walked up a long flight of step into the temple.
This was another “golden” temple inside and out.
According to our guide, in the temple there were five ancient statues of Buddha and behind them was a mysterious “story”. In the mid1960 during the annual Phaung Daw Oo Paya Pagoda Festival, these five statues were carried around the lake on the Karaweik Barge. Unfortunately the barge capsized and all five statues fell into the lake. Four were recovered but the 5th remained lost. Mysteriously the fifth statue was miraculously back in the temple.
Since then, only four of the statues were carried around the lake during the annual festivals. Outside the festival timing, these five images (statues) of Buddha were placed in a “pavillion looking” pedestal in the center of the temple.
We saw the pavillion but we could not see the statues, all we saw were five roundish golden objects. We were surprised when our guide informed us that these were the five statues. These statues were rounded and did not look like any statues. Apparently for more than 800 years when Buddhist devotees came and paid their respects to Buddha they applied gold leaf on the statues. The many layers and layers of gold leafs had “rounded” the statues into globes.
It was close to sunset time when we left the temple, we requested our boatman to station our boat opposite the temple so as to see the golden rays of the setting sun lighting up the temple. It was a beautiful sight.
What else we saw On INLE LAKE
We enjoyed our many boat rides on Inle lake. There were always many things to see. Each boat rides took about an hour. We saw many temples by the lakes, some “goldish” some “woodish”. We visited only two temples which were Shwe Indein Pagodas and Phaung Daw Oo Paya Pogoda and as for the rest we were fine with seeing them from afar, from our boat as we past by them.
Our guide brought us to a floating vegetable farm on Inle lake. The farm had patches of small islands and vegetable were grown on them.
One of the most fascinating sights on the lake was fisherman at work. We saw them often when we “boated” out in the morning, afternoon on going back to our hotel in the evening.
Or several occassions we saw fishermen practising the traditional unique form of fishing. At times we wondered if they were truly still using that form of fishing or demonstrating the “art” for the benefit of “tourists” as we saw tourists dishing out “tips” after the fishermen’s performance”.
Lunching and eating at hotel
We had all our meals during our stay at the one and only restaurant in our hotel. Our hotel was Ananta Inlay Resort and it had a pretty nice restaurant with a great view.
We had two dinners at the hotel, the first dinner costed USD23.70 while the 2nd dinner costed US$26.25. Both dinners were delicious and we thought the prices were pretty inexpensive for four persons. We liked our first dinner very much and did not think twice about having dinner at the same restaurant again. It was great that we did not have to travel out to town for meals which gave us plentiful of time to rest and relax by our hotel pool.
Our breakfasts at the hotel were lovely too. Breakfast was also served in the same restaurant -and it was covered in our hotel-stay-prices.There was a nice spread of food both mornings and we enjoyed eating a bit of everything until we were full.
We booked two rooms at Ananta Inlay Resort. Both rooms were on the 2nd level and had an open balcony that looked out to the hotel pool and lake. During booking we intentionally selected rooms with “lake view” and paid more for them. The cost per twin/double room was USD$130 for two nights.
Though the cost of the two room was the same, one room had the pool and lake view while the view of the second room was “terrible”!
The balcony of the 2nd room opened out to a blocked view! Standing at the balcony we could only see the wall and roof of another hotel structure. There was no pool view or lake view. We went back to the reception to request for a change of room but was told that there were no room available!
We felt so “cheated” as we paid premium price for the rooms with lake view. Unfortunately there were nothing we could do as the staff seemed unable to help us. We were left with no other choice but to take up the issue with booking.com when the trip was over and hopefully we would be compensated in some ways.
Hotels on Inle Lake