With the growing popularity of Myanmar and more frequent flights to their international airport, Yangon, it was finally my turn to explore the Golden Land. There are just too many cities that I wish I can explore – temple-hopping in Bagan, cruising along the Inle Lake and more! While the country is not as developed as I’ve thought it would be, I really enjoyed my adventure – especially the Inle Lake.
While I can’t be certain that I’ve tried everything, here are the exciting activites that I’ve enjoyed very much! Whether or not you have already booked your flight, here are 10 things you must do in Inle Lake, Myanmar! 😉
1. Cuddle Burmese Cats at the Inle Heritage House
Calling out to all cat lovers, this is probably the purr-fect place for all your meow-fies. Housing 35 Burmese cats, the Inle Heritage House along the Inle Lake aims to preserve pure breed Burmese cats. These pure breed cats disappeared before the second world war but fret not, they’re back again!
All of the Burmese cats there were very friendly. When I visited, some of the cats were distinctively more energetic that the others, approaching us immediately when we enter the room. Others were just taking their hourly naps~ The cats were not at all camera-shy, so snap away!
Address: Inle Heritage, Innpawkhon Village, Inle Lake, Shan State, Myanmar (Burma)
Pro-tip: Visitors are only allowed in during visiting hours, or “guided tours” which are 10.30am, 11.30am, 12.30pm, 1.30pm and 2.30pm. Each slot lasts for 30 minutes.
2. Enjoy the breezy boat ride on the Inle Lake
How else would you explore Inle Lake other than jetting into the calm waters on a motor boat? Friendly marine pilots gather at jetties along the Inle Lake to offer their boats for the entire day. Cushioned metal seats are placed on board and life jackets are provided! (No worries, I didn’t see any boat capsize.) We were blessed with great weather – mostly cloudy with little sunshine. The ride was extremely breezy and I enjoyed every moment of it.
Address: Any jetty along Inle Lake
Pro-tip: Hotels also provide boat rides at a fee, but they tend to be alot more expensive than approaching the pilots themselves. Prices can range from 20,000 Ks to 30,000 Ks but don’t go too low as pilots may skimp on fuel if you overdo the haggling!
3. Watch Intha Fishermen in Action (you will not be disappointed)
Photo credits: John Lander
With one leg on the boat and another pivoting the boat oar, the Intha Fishermen display their extraordinary skill in maneouvering the boat with one hand. Some can even free up both hands to pull their nets! It was really amazing seeing how they balanced themselves as their boats cruised along Inle Lake and we were thoroughly impressed. Intha fishermen can be sighted in the Inle Lake, there is no particular spot they’d be at. However, do note that they will not be out when it’s raining!
Address: Inle Lake, Myanmar (Burma)
Pro-tip: Photograph them at work during dusk or dawn for amazing shots! As motor boats are unlikely to steer right next to the fishermen (unless requested), you will probably need a better camera to capture them in action, from a distance away.
4. Be impressed by the Floating Gardens on the Lake
Photo credits: Quentin K
With such a huge water body, it’s no doubt that farmers or villagers living along the waters would brainstorm ways to make a living. They’ve come up with floating gardens, allowing for crops to be planted on the surface of Inle Lake. The most common plantation we spotted were tomatoes and it was really interesting how they organised the gardens neatly in rows that boats could make their ways through.
Address: Taunggyi, Myanmar (Burma)
5. Try a New Cigarette Flavour – entirely handcrafted
At Nam Pan village, raw materials were rolled by hand to become cigarettes. We were so impressed with the ladies that were rolling cigarettes in front of our very eyes. They are so fast and skilful – churning out about 600-700 sticks everyday!
Fancy some banana flavoured cigarettes for your holiday? The fragrance of the banana tabacco sticks were simply irresistible and I found myself paying 4,000 Ks for a packet of twelve. The owner told me that the cigarettes were flavoured with dried banana powder and palm sugar… which honestly sounded like breakfast… Cigarettes come in honey, mint and original flavours too!
Address: Ywa Ma Village, Myanmar (Burma)
6. Enjoy the Therapeutic process of Lotus and Silk Scarfs Weaving
Breaking the lotus stems into 2 inch pieces, the Burmese ladies extract the fibres from the stems, which eventually gets spun into balls of lotus thread. They are then dyed in different colours and weaved by hand into gorgeous pieces of scarves, clothings and pouches.
I was so intrigued by their weaving machine, and how fast the Burmese ladies were able to create the intricate and beautiful designs. They made it seem so easy (but I’m 100% certain I wouldn’t have been able to do it haha) and the process was very rhythmic and therapeutic.
Address: Inn Paw Khone Village, Myanmar (Burma)
7. Squeeze with the Locals in the Five Day Market
Don’t be turned off by the touristy stalls near the entrance of the market… the real deal is inside. Sitting on rattan mats, locals place their goods neatly in front of them. Vegetables, meats and even flowers were up for sale.
The place was bustling with life – young children running around, adults bargaining for lower prices as well as the laughters of everyone. Everything just seems so simple and happy there, so do head down to experience it!
Address: Changes according to their really complex calendar…
Pro-tip: The location of the five-day markets change periodically (which is how its name came about), ask your pilot about it and he would be more than happy to update you with the location.
8. Sip Wine at the Red Mountain Vineyard near the Inle Lake
Photo credits: Jessica Muddit
If you’re looking for a place to relax with good wine and scenery, do drop by the Red Mountain Vineyard. Located on higher grounds, the vineyard offers a dramatic view overlooking part of the Inle Lake and the mountains behind it. It may get hazy occasionally but the view remains perfect! The Red Mountain Vineyard offers a variety of wine (both red and white). They are priced at around 6,000 – 7,000 Ks per glass and you can purchase them in bottles too. If you just want to try a little of everything, wine tasting samplers are also available at 5,000 Ks. You will get 4 samplers of wine – 2 red and 2 white 😉
Photo credits: Jessica Muddit
However, do note that you will have to cycle or walk (the latter being recommended) up a slope to reach Red Mountain Vineyard. Although it is not a tough hike, I wouldn’t recommend it for people with knee or leg injuries.
Address: Nyaungshwe, Myanmar (Burma)
Pro-tip: If you’re looking for vineyards and mini tours explaining how wine is made, you may want to skip this place.
9. See Skilled Craftsmen Build Boats from Scratch
It was interesting to see the craftsmen hard at work, transforming large teak trunks to uniform teak pieces and eventually forming a transport vehicle for fishermen, Inle residents and even tourists. The craftsmen would file and smoothen the wood all by hand, and then waterproof the boats with layers of lacquer and ash mixture. These waterproof finishings can last up to 25 years and boat owners will have to return for maintenance after!
Address: Nam Pan Village, Myanmar (Burma)
10. Eat Like a Local at the Bamboo Hut
As a foodie, searching for local delicacies in every city is top priority. After a couple of turns and many confusing signages, we arrived at the Bamboo Hut and were not disappointed with their Burmese food selection. Just a note that Burmese food are generally more strong-flavoured compared to Singapore dishes, so no the chef did not add extra salt into your food.
After trying their traditional curry dishes in Yangon, we went for Shan dishes such as the Mashed Rice with Fish. I was expecting a fishy version of glutinous rice and although it was nothing as imagined, I enjoyed the dish.
The rice was mashed with tomatoes and was slightly sticky, but tasty with a tinge of tang. Fish meat flakes were sprinkled on the top of the rice (I would totally appreciate it if they had been more generous with these). Thankfully, there was more to this dish. Fried rice crackers, accompanied by garlic oil, chilli oil and pickled onions were also served.
Address: War Daw Village, Nyaung Shwe Township (Inle.), Myanmar (Burma)
Pro-tip: The Bamboo Hut also offers cooking classess, if you are interested to learn your favourite Burmese dish!
With so many exciting things to do in Inle Lake, I wouldn’t deny that Inle Lake is definitely one of my favourite places in Myanmar. The boat adventures and small stops along the way was truly an eye-opening experience for me. However, do note that Inle Lake is indeed more pricey as compared to other parts of Myanmar such as Bagan and Yangon.
What are you waiting for? Pack your bags and escape to Inle Lake! 😉