In Myanmar/Burma’s Shan State, Inle Lake is an iconic destination – and for good reason. Despite hosting large numbers of tourists, the lake’s rural charms remain authentic and alluring. Intha fisherman row flat-ended canoes with
one leg while using both hands to fish; floating gardens burst with tomatoes, beans and other produce; and oxcarts packed with the day’s harvest create the only traffic jam you will find. Wooden homes stand above the water on rickety stilts in villages that sustain generations-old cottage industries.
Other significant scenery that one can expect to see in the Inle Lake region include
￼￼￼￼floating tomatoes fields around the lake and gardens of flowers properly anchored to the lake bed with bamboo poles. The friendliness of the local people and their unique daily life activities spice things up a bit for visitors and they can enjoy a pleasant time alongside the lake and also witness activities of the local community. Spend a few days here to appreciate the area’s appeal. Here are the best ways to experience it.
On the bridge in Nyaung Shwe, Inle Lake’s main tourist town, touts constantly be- leaguer tourists with the phrase ‘Hello, boat trip?’ At some point, you should take them up on it. A day trip on the lake costs around 15,000 to 18,000 kyat (about US$17 to $20), which you can divide between the number of other participants: the long, narrow boats fit five or six tourists, who sit in wooden chairs.
You can tailor your day (we said ‘no thanks’ to viewing the Karen long-neck women and the touristy floating market), and the rate is slightly negotiable. Hiring a pri- vate guide and boat for the day will increase the cost but you will be able to decide when and where you want to travel, and be able to skip some of the more crowded locations.
Most boat tours include time on the lake to observe and photograph the Inle fish- ermen (most beautiful at dawn), as well as a visit to the rotating five-day market. There will be several stops at villages with cottage industries, including lotus silk weaving, silver smiths, cheroot-making and boat-building.
Many trips start at dawn, when mist covers the lake and it is at its most photogenic. Sunset trips are also popular; but note, it can get chilly on the water. Most boats provide blankets but you will want a jacket and hat.
After you have taken in Inle’s inner delights, explore the perimeter of the lake on bicycle. Many sights are clustered around the lake’s borders, including hot springs and more cottage industries.
Begin in Nyaung Shwe, where a six-gear bike will cost you 1500 kyat for 24 hours. Peddle west along an unpaved, bumpy road through farmland. Take a left at the T-junction and head south, following the mountains. After about five miles you will reach hot springs, where the water is piped into a series of swimming pools. A soak costs adults 7000 kyat for mixed – genter pools and 3000 for the segregated ones. Continue pedalling south until you reach Kaung Daing, an Intha village producing Shan state’s famous tofu. Made with split yellow lentil flour, Shan tofu is made by boiling water and the flour, stirring vigorously and then pouring into a mould to