Myanmar Highlight: Inle Lake
Set in the heart of Myanmar (Burma), Inle Lake is a body of fresh water that stretches 13.5 miles north and 7 miles wide. Against a backdrop of the beautiful Shan Hills that link to the foothills of the Himalyas, this is a lake on an awe-inspiring scale. And, as an attraction to visit with a travel companion, it delivers on many more levels.
Now part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, Inle Lake is home to various native fish and other fresh water creatures that are found nowhere else in the world. Home to a further 70,000 people who live in four cities bordering the lake, and this is a fully fledged ecosystem. Various tribes live and die here, maintaining the lake and living off the resources it provides. Local fishermen practice the distinctive technique of leg rowing in order to stand while boating, and impressive garden beds that are resistant to flooding have been perfected here. This is a beautiful, must-see example of human and environment co-existing, so make sure that you and your travel companion take all of this in.
The best of Inle Lake and beyond
Travelling around the lake is by commuter tourist motorboats. It’s best to give in, split the cost with a travel partner and take one of the many lake tours that will be presented to you. Here, you’ll encounter a lake teeming with life: one scattered with tiny villages that stand in the water itself, Buddhist temples that are dotted along the banks and channels of water hemmed in by those unique floating gardens.
The land surrounding the lake also has plenty to offer. Stupas are astounding, some comparable to the wonders seen in Bagan. Many are crammed together on an overgrown hillside, and many reclaimed from local jungle. They represent an area easily explored on foot, and an intimate one at that. Dining together is always a beautiful affair, with many hotel restaurants that extend over the water and have different takes on the local cuisine depending on which tribe may have set it up. Hundreds of monasteries are present here, and Nga Phe Kyaung, also known as the Jumping Cat monastery (literally because of trained jumping cats present), is one of the most unique on the western side of the lake. Cats aside, this is worth a look solely because of its collection of ancient Buddha images. Hiring a private boat that includes a tour guide for the day with a travel buddy is the best and cheapest way to pick and choose your favourite locations, and skip some of the more tourist-crowded spots. If you need more time on land, try hiring bikes together and cycle west along the unpaved, bumpy roads. The exercise will be worth it when reaching a series of swimming pools filled directly from the nearby hot springs. Gender-specific pools are also available for female travellers.
For unique souvenirs, the locals of the Inn Paw Khon village are well known for their loom-made textiles. From sarongs to scarfs, everything is hand-crafted here by women of all ages, and they also boast lotus fabric made from the flowers that bloom in the peak tourist season (October to February). Purchase directly and take home a piece of Myanmar heritage.
Inle Lake is beautiful part of Myanmar. It blends together an array of village cultures with local beauty and wildlife, and presents it in a charming and accessible way to tourists. Make the most of it by downloading Tourlina and exploring it safely and more economically with a female travel companion.
An Inle Lake photo tour: