Generally included in any standard Inle Lake tour itinerary we reckon this fascinating site, located slightly up river at the southwestern corner of the Lake, is one of the highlights of the region. The boat trip is picturesque, the surrounding scenery buccolic, the ancient pagodas highly photogenic and the friendly local Pa-O people welcoming and fun. In Dein is a village, a weekly market, the name of a river but what it’s most famous for is the forest of ancient stupas, some restored some crumbling, scattered across the hillside overlooking the river and village. The site is sometimes known as the ‘Shan Bagan’.
The main Buddhist pagoda is located on the hill’s summit and a long covered walkway filled with souvenir stalls leads up to it but many of the m0st photogenic old stupas lie to the left and right of this arcade so you’ll need to criss-cross the walkway by side tracks rather than walk straight up it. The majority of the stupas crowded around the summit in a kind of pagoda forest have been, (for better or worse), restored, but these old brick ones near the foot are covered with vines and roots and also still house the best murals and carvings. The freshly gilded ones higher up are impressive by their sheer numbers but again your best views of these is from lower down.
A great place to poke around, (well not literally, snakes like these old stones too), and you’ll avoid most of the cowds by keeping to these side tracks.
The site is sandwiched between the Lake and the high hills behind so though the main hill-top pagoda isn’t the most interesting it will provide you with great views in every direction. Heading back down a side path to your left, at around halfway down the main walkway, takes you back to the villge and the boat moorings by way of a picturesque path along a stream through a small bamboo forest and this is where many of the local Pa-O girls are selling their wares. They sell forest products; natural medicines and so on as well as scarves and sarongs and it’s not really a hard sell so a good spot to stop and chat to the friendly locals.
Bear in mind also that paths follow both riverbanks on the way back to the lake so you could do a scenic hike if time permits and ask your boat driver to pick you up further down stream. Allow a good couple of hours – not to be missed!