Nyaungshwe & around Inle Lake
The massiveness of Inle lake is not one to be underestimated. Like most, I thought this was just another regular small lake but in fact, this shallow lake stretches 22km long and densely houses many villages. Living in stilt houses and resorts lined along the lake can make one feel absolutely isolated from civilization. This is perfect for those seeking serenity and solidarity. However due to the lack of transport and food options being situated in the middle of the lake, most people opt to stay in the villages or the town of Nyaungshwe.
Nyaungshwe would be considered one of the most popular spots for visitors who stop to visit the Inle lake region. Densely covered with shops, tourist agencies, guesthouses and restaurants, there’s no lack of places to eat, drink and stay. After being to other parts of Myanmar, I’d say that this small town is indeed a shopping haven for unique knick-knacks.
Here are a couple of things to do in and around Nyaungshwe:
1. Rent a Bicycle to explore
For the explorers, bicycles are available for rental at 1000 kyats onwards, and a bicycle trip can be done to get to the surroundings outside of town. Boats can also take bicycles across the lake for those who don’t have the time or energy to go all around the lake !
2. Visit surrounding floating villages
With a bicycle, I visited Maing Tauk, a super peaceful and picturesque floating village that was half on stilts. In order to get across the lake to this village, we had to take a boat from Khaung Daing. Finding a boat in Khaung Daing sure wasn’t an easy task because everyone was charging exorbitant prices ! But we managed to find a humble boat man eventually 🙂
It was a short but beautiful ride across to the other side of the lake!
Arriving at the jetty of Maing Tauk, wooden planks on stilts went on forever and right across the river we noticed a cozy floating restaurant. We waved at them and a short game of charades after, a tiny wooden row boat came over to get us across to the other side.
We took a well needed rest with some tea and avocado salad before continuing the bike trip.
Through the village and past corn fields, with the settings of the mountains as a backdrop to the beautiful landscape, we continued on and cycled to the winery.
3. Enjoy wine and sunset at the Red Mountain Winery
Yes, there is a winery in Myanmar! I wouldn’t say it’s the best and I’m the type who doesn’t really give a hoot when it comes to wine quality (unlike wine snobs). Either way, the company and the view at sunset is worth drinking some glasses of mediocre wine for!
Look at us with Papa being all fancy. Little did we know that a set of tasting wine turned into 2 more bottles. :S
By the end of the evening, our little group of 4 grew into a massive one when Eyal & Mona came with a whole bunch of amazing humans! Such merry moments 😀
Oh did I mention they also gave us some local tobacco to sample? Sabina-the-moose couldn’t have looked more bad-ass.
4. Go on a boat tour* to see Inle Lake
Taking a boat tour to see the lake is also one of the most memorable thing I did. Imagine the calmness of the waters early in the morning before the sun rises, whooshing through the misty fog and watching the clouds move past the mountains, waiting for the world to wake up as the sun slowly rises from the horizon.
*But heed this: take the RIGHT boat tour and I promise you it will be fulfilling. Because majority of the tours take people on a joyride ton tourist traps, which is a shame because there’s so much to see and experience on this vast lake !
5. Eat, drink, shop & be merry in downtown Nyaung Shwe
Back in the town of Nyaungshwe, the gang and I have stayed longer than we planned to. With nightly $1 mojitos and free flow peanuts at Evergreen bar, and a wonderful spread of food at the night market (the Shan Tofu was to die for), it seemed like the perfect place to relax after our trek from Kalaw. There’s even a roller derby ring for those who are looking for fun activity time and interaction with the locals!
A chilli challenge between Alex & Mike one night at the food market. They must have devoured a whole tub of chilli and paid for it the next day, suffering a ring of fire in the washroom. Rami was the mediator/shit stirrer of the night.
7. Last but not least, go for a traditional village massage
One evening,we decided to follow a little wooden painted sign that advertised traditional Inle massage. We followed the strategically placed signs for a long time and got led deeper and deeper into the outskirts of town. It was so secluded that it was scary. We were about to give up and head back when a boy noticed us and asked “massage?”, he led us another 5 minutes in the dark with no street lamps anywhere. With only dim glimmer of lights from fireflies, we skeptically follow the kid. But in our time here we’ve learnt that the Burmese are really nice so we had faith in him. We finally finally arrive at what looks like a wooden hut/home. And there we were served homemade rice crackers and sesame tea while waiting for the owner to call her army of masseuse for all of us. During this waiting time we beget eaten alive by mosquitoes. Aside from the adventure that it took to locate this place, that was one of the best massage I’ve had. Not only was it authentic, it was very different from a traditional Thai or Balinese massage. Trust me, I’ve had many good massages in this lifetime since I live in Asia, but this – this was something else altogether.
With so much to do in the area, I’d recommend taking a little more time to explore around Inle Lake. Many people drop by for a day and leave the day after because there’s so much to see in Myanmar, but give it a couple of days more and you might just see much more than a lake.