“I like the vibrations on my feet!”
Picture this: a massive lake covering 116 square km’s at an altitude of 2,900 feet, home to thousands of people who literally live ON the lake, getting around by boat, living in stilt houses and even growing their veggies in floating farms on the water itself. That’s Inle Lake.
HOW WE GOT AROUND
Not a great place for people who can’t swim (I’ll admit to considering the need to wear a life jacket the entire time we were at Inle Lake – and yes, Jai laughed at me). There is a lot of clambering in and out of tiny, low boats and balancing on little plastic chairs with the lakes edge skimming past right beside you. Boat is definitely the way to go and allows for the most amazing views of this picturesque lake and an insight into the way of life for the different tribes inhabiting the lake region. Gliding through villages constructed completely above water was fascinating, as was seeing even the smallest of children guiding their own boats through the canals, piled high with produce from a days work.
We got to Inle Lake by flying to Heho from Mandalay, which was only about 30 minutes in the air followed by about an hour drive to the jetty at Inle Lake. This was all easily organised at One Stop Travel in Yangon: https://onestopmyanmar.com/
WHAT WE DID
We stayed in a beautiful stilt room above the lake, which is well worth the experience. There are cheaper hostels on land available nearby but I think it is much cooler to stay in a stilt house like one of the Intha people.
Exploring the lake by boat is amazing, you must visit the floating vegetable gardens. Walking on them in the middle of the lake is a very bizarre feeling but a great experience and is a true example of how innovative the Myanmar people are.
Coasting through the villages and exploring the different traders is fascinating, visiting the silversmith, the weavers, the boatmakers, the blacksmith and more to witness the old style techniques in action.
Visit the Inn Thein Market and try some local produce, explore the wares for sale and get familiar with the funky headwear worn by the people of the Shan state.
Nyaung Ohak – a must see whilst in Inle. Walk through these amazing ruins and see how the trees have literally taken over and grown through the temples, now integral in keeping them standing. Walk to the top of the hill and take in the impressive views of the pagodas and the waterways leading into the lakes.
Watch the famed one-legged fishermen of the lake and learn about their unique fishing technique.
Learn about the Kayan Lahwi people, the ‘longneck’ tribe and the fascinating process the women go through as the amount of rings they wear are added to over time.
WHAT WE ATE
Think the best of Indian, Chinese and Thai cuisine. With an emphasis on the fish sauce. It’s fairly healthy with rice and veggies always on the menu and an interesting array of dried/salted/pickled/curried fish options. Mohinga is the traditional breakfast food, a refreshing fish soup, which might take some getting used to in the morning.
It’s common practice to eat solely with the right hand or with the aid of noodle-soup spoon when eating soup or salad. Western cutlery is given in hotels and restaurants but it’s always fun to give the local way of eating a good go!
WHAT TO PACK
Warm clothes! It gets super cold at night on the lake and being on the low boats even during the day is pretty chilly. A lightweight water resistant jacket is a good idea as you’re likely to a little wet from the spray whilst the boat is in motion.
Get your longyi on! The people of Myanmar loved it when we adopted their traditional dress and wore it daily on our trip. We both got lots of very positive comments and beaming smiles from the locals when they saw us and felt very welcomed by these amazingly friendly people.
Thanaka – you’ll notice the yellow paint on our faces. This is a very important part of the Myanmar culture. Stay tuned for our next blog post when we cover it in detail 🙂
CAPTURED ON THE LAKE
PS. Are you thinking of going to Myanmar? Have questions? Ask us in the comments section below.
Have you been to Myanmar? We would love to hear your travel stories also!