Expedition Myanmar: A Day on Inle Lake

One of the most popular tourist attractions in all of Myanmar is Inle Lake, settled 660 km from Yangon and 330 km away from Mandalay.  This may seem pretty far from the either of the country’s airports, but the drive was worth it and we had plenty to see along the way!


The best part about having our driver and getting from place to place by car was everything we were able to stop and get photos of!


Some of the coolest stops we made were on the side of the road near farm land.  Seeing the differences in agricultural techniques was incredible.

rj8a0211 rj8a0237 Along with the way crops were sold, by the hundreds!


There were also tons of monasteries…


filled with beautiful architecture…


…and adorable little monks.


Speaking of adorable… We also got to meet some of the sweetest families during our rest stops, in their fantasticly woven bamboo homes.

On our way to the lake we stopped for a couple of nights in the mountains in the town of Kalaw, which had a very nice marketplace.

rj8a0116 rj8a0025

We recommend the hotel we stayed at called the Dream Mountain Resort.  The rooms were nice, we had an amazing view, but best of all- we were taken care of by a great staff!  We really appreciated everyone there, especially our friends in the restaurant.  I’ll never forget how they all stood on the porch to see us off when we left.  They were all waving as our car drove away, such kindhearted people.

While we stayed in the mountains, our favorite attraction was a cavern FULL of Buddhas, called Pindaya Cave.


We saw a whole lot of Buddhas during our stay in Myanmar, and this cave alone holds over 8,000 images of him!  Some of these statues date as far back as the 18th century.  This cave holds lots of significance to the Burmese people.  There’s even a legend of a giant spider holding seven princesses hostage here until they were rescued by Prince Kummabhya; which is why a huge sculpture of a spider greets you at the entrance to the caves.


The small town below the caverns is very nice and welcoming to tourists.  We had fun running through the formation of stupas we found nearby.


Okay, I know I promised you an article about a lake, so let’s finally talk about getting to Inle.  When we arrived we were surprised to see how touristic this area had already become… But once we experienced what it had to offer we understood why it was so popular.


We were able to rent a boat (all day) from our hotel, called Thanaka, for only $25 dollars!  Of course it came with a driver who knew the lake very well and took us to all of its shops.  We were able to see how people made everything they were selling too, which were items such as jewelry and textiles.


The most impressive sight, though, had to be the Kayan women, whose necks are stretched and collar bones are depressed by brass coils.  They start wearing these rings at a very young age and continue to adorn them on their necks for the rest of their lives.


After learning about these women as far back as grade school, seeing some of them in person was a crazy feeling.


Another beloved sight of Inle Lake is its fishermen.  They are known to paddle their longtail boats with one leg due to the long reeds in the water.  If they were to sit in their boats rowing with their arms, they wouldn’t be able to see these water plants, this is why they use the standing, one footed technique.  For more information on how exactly this is done check out this great article at Myanmar Travel Essentials!

If you plan to come to the lake for photographs, be warned that there are many actors posing in their boats, waiting for tourists to take their pictures and pay them.  Most of the men on the lake are actually fishing and it is easy to tell the difference, for example…

This is an actor:rj8a0866

This is a real fisherman: rj8a0474


Real fishermen: rj8a0515

As you can see, the actors are wearing more of a costume, with the tunics, baggy orange pants, and pointy hats.  If you want to avoid actors, you’ll be able to… But you may just give in for the perfect shot by the end of the day.  The actors know what they’re doing and they’re good at it.

There’s also the floating gardens, which were nice to see… But not quite in bloom during our visit.


I think one of my favorite parts of our boat ride was seeing the neighborhoods.  All the houses were lifted high above the water on stilts, with boats parked out front like cars in a driveway.


This experience is a must!  So if you plan on making your way to Myanmar anytime soon, make sure to reserve a spot at Inle, it was definitely a highlight of our entire trip.


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