Located in Burma’s western Shan State and famous for mountain scenery, floating gardens and the unusual rowing techniques of local fishermen Lake Inle is certainly one of Burma’s top tourist destinations. Either a very long drive from Mandalay or Bagan – or even longer from Rangoon – most visitors inevitably arrive by Heho Airport, an hour or so from the Lake’s ‘gateway town’ of Nyaungshwe, (or Nyaung Shwe). Much of the accommodation for Lake Inle is located in this town though you’ll also see several mid to up range resorts built on stilts scattered across the Lake itself. They may look tempting and are great for sunset and sunrise views but otherwise bear in mind you’re stuck there and will have to rely on expensive boat taxis to get to anywhere else but, wherever you elect to stay, do not turn up in without prior booking or you may find yourself sleeping on a temple floor.
Small, 5 or 6 seater, motorboats then take you on tours of Lake Inle where standard visits will include the fishing villages, floating vegetable gardens, local handicrafts and cottage industries, maybe a temple or two and a lakeside market The unique and photogenic fishermen who use a one-legged rowing technique, (allowing both hands free for fishing), can be found early mornings at the Lake entrance posing for photos in return for tips. Some of these guys put on spectacular shows – we’d classify this as busking as much as anything else – so that’ll be your opportunity to get those iconic fishing shots.
Maybe your best photo possibilities are whilst cruising around the lake and through the villages but the plentiful handicrafts, of varying interest levels to different people, do provide convenient punctuation marks for your tour, opportunities for interaction with the locals as well as a chance for a bit of souvenir shopping, though some are highly commercial. (Ditto the local markets which these days see more tourists shopping at souvenir stalls than locals buying fruit and veg.) Note for those with a wildlife bent the Lake’s birdlife is pretty good too.
Apart from the overall beauty of the scenery and picturesque villages, a particular highlight for us is a visit to In Dein, a lakeside village home to ancient Shan pagodas; a fascinating and highly photogenic side trip which is usually included in most lake itineraries.
Note to cover all these sites without rushing as well as having a chance to explore Nyaungshwe Town itself then we’d recommend a minimum of 3 days up here and bear in mind that some of the neighbouring towns and sites are well worth visits too such as Kalaw, Pindaya and its cave temples or Aung Ban with a fantastic local market.