Inle Lake is a watery world unlike anyplace I’d seen before. On the lake proper lie stilted villages, and the only transport is by boat. The lake also has several high end hotels away from the village. As these were well out of my price range, I stayed in the town of Nyanugshwe like every other backpacker. My trek from Kalaw to Inle ended with a boat ride across the lake and to Nyaungshwe. The guesthouse that our bags were sent to seemed nice enough, so my fellow trekkers and I all opted to lodge there.
I stayed in the Inle region for three nights, longer than I’d planned as the Lonely Planet warned. I mainly stuck around because I got on well with the four others in my Trekking party, and we spent most of that time hanging out around town before we inevitably split in three directions.
On my first evening in town, I went out for a few drinks and pizza with my new friends. As we walked back to our hotel to call it a night, I ran into the group of people I had met at a bar on my first night in Yangon, so I joined their party. The following day when I was biking to a winery with my friends, we ran into the French girls with whom I’d taken the bus to Kalaw. I suddenly felt like I knew everyone in town.
The winery itself (Red Mountain Winery) was a fine place to spend an afternoon. Reasonably priced and delicious local wine and a mountain setting created a chill atmosphere, and the rare-for-Burma free wifi put it over the top. If you visit Inle, the winery is well worth the 20-30 minute bicycle ride through the country.
Following the winery, we went for food and then ended up hosting Nyaungshwe’s premier hotel party. Several other trekkers that we had met in Kalaw were now at the hotel, so we had a bit of a boozy blowout, complete with music and slingshot target practice. The hotel staff gave us their blessing for the party, and even let us keep beer in the lobby fridge.The Nandawun Hotel proved to be a good pick.
The next day, I set off on the boat tour alone, as my friends had already been. The boat tour is pretty much an automatic must for anybody visiting the lake, and it’s a trip were the journey is easily better than the destination. The stops that the boat driver delivers tourists too are mainly “craft demonstrations” that are thinly veiled shops that give the boatman a kickback for all purchases. The real highlight is the trip itself, through the villages and floating gardens. I passed a school as it was letting out. Some school kids were tightly packed into a “school boat,” which was a larger longtail operation, but most kids just paddled tiny canoes.
On to the pics –
Dark and early the next morning, I set off for what in many ways is the tourist highlight of Myanmar and really on of the great sights of the world – Bagan.