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I backpacked Myanmar recently and as a part of it I took a solo trip to Inle lake. I arrive Inle lake from Bagan by an overnight bus, which helped me save a day. Here in this Inle Lake travel blog, I have put together the things you need to know to create an itinerary of Inle Lake boat trip. I will say, you can go and see Inle lake in about 2 days. But, I will recommend you to keep 3 days in Inle lake, so that you can use an extra day to explore other places around the lake.
1. Go on a boat trip of Inle Lake
Well, when you are at Inle Lake the biggest attraction is Inle Lake itself. Take a boat and wave to the locals as you pass them through the narrow channels, see the floating farms where vegetables are grown, appreciate the wooden houses standing on the stilts, and be prepared to be mesmerized as you row through the beautiful flower beds.
What makes the whole Inle lake experience so special is that the local life goes on still unspoiled by the tourism.
Another popular Inle activity is to bike along the shores. Though it is almost impossible (unless you are a tour de france champion or something) to go around the entire lake, you can go up to a point and cross to the other side by boat.
The motor boat rental will cost you somewhere around 15,000-20,000 Kyat depending on your negotiation skill. Add an additional 5000 Kyat if you want to go to Indein, more on this attraction later. If you want to save money from the boat rental I suggest you head to the boat jetty in Nyaungshwe rather than booking at your hotel or a tourist shop. GPS coordinates of the boat jetty: 20.660438, 96.925205
It can get really hot and humid under the Sun, so pack up a few things before your ride: Sunscreen, raincoat, waterproof pouch and an umbrella to beat the Sun. It was quite stormy the day I took the ride, and thank goodness for the umbrella I was carrying I would have been completely drenched otherwise.
2. Inle Wetland Bird Sanctuary
The bird sanctuary is not part of the boat trip and you can either ride a bike or use tuk-tuk to get there. The Inle lake is not just a lake it’s an entire ecosystem. Since the lake is shallow there is lot of marshlands around the edges of the lake. You can spot a whole range of species of birds here, including cranes and cormorants. A lot of species migrate here for breeding in Dec-Jan season which makes it the best time to get to Inle Wetland Bird Sanctuary. My favorite are the Jacanas, these ‘elegant’ birds are spotted widely around the rainy season.
3. Red Mountain Winery – Inle
Who’d have thought you will find a fine winery in Myanmar, well I didn’t, and I was really surprised accidentally bumped on to this one. Red Mountain Winery is located some 3 km from the Nyaungshwe town and can be easily reached on the bike by simply following the main road going around the Inle Lake.
Even if you are not into wine particularly go here for the beautiful Sunset. The outside seating of the winery restaurant gives you a sweeping view of the valley. You can join the free tours of the red mountain winery at 12pm, 2pm and 4pm.
4. Hikes around Inle lake
Being a hilly region there are a no. of hikes you can take in the area. I’d advise if you are there in the summer, go easy on your body as they heat and humidity can drench you of energy very quickly.
5. The Inle Lake Boat Ride Itinerary
The boat follows a fixed itinerary taking you through Mingala Market, local workshops, making a stop for lunch, floating gardens, and finally jumping cats monastery.
Since time is of essence I suggest you decide beforehand where you want to go and where you don’t. You’ll save enough time skipping few of the local workshops and if you can carry your lunch, save the time spent on lunch as well.
6. Silversmith workshop
On display are the beautiful hand crafted silver jewelry and decoration pieces. You can also see the artisan in action.
Weaving workshop: I really loved this one, you get to see the entire process from creating a thread from lotus roots to weaving together the final piece in the manually operated looms. Not to mention, if you like something you can buy from attached shop.
Handmade cigars or “cheroot” workshop: Watch the locals roll these famous Burmese cigars. You can pick and choose from a variety of ‘flavors’, ingredient include rice flour, banana and honey among other things. A box of handmade cigars with the box will cost you about 10,000 Kyat.
7. Mingala Market and the weekly rotating market
It could be quite an experience to watch the locals shop, and yeah you can buy something for yourself as well, after-all the locals trust it so should you.
The weekly market rotates on a daily basis and shifts to the nearby villages.
8. Indein Pagoda
This is not a part of regular itinerary and you have to take a detour and be prepared to pay a little extra as well. The area contains a group of 1054 pagodas (dating back to 13th century), which though lie in ruins but are very serene to look at.