In the Western Shan State, you will find the picturesque Inle Lake. This lake is 22 kilometers by 10 kilometers and sits in a valley between two mountain ranges. It is truly beautiful and completely different from the rest of Myanmar. You will see the houses on stilts, the typical fishermen with their characteristic rowing style, floating villages and gardens and you will feel relaxed like we did as soon as you see the lake.
We came by foot from the city of Kalaw. Something we never expected te say about going from one city to another, but this time we did. On this 3 day trekking from Kalaw to Inle Lake, you walk around 55 km though a scenic landscape. You can read all about this journey here.
There are several small restaurants, scattered around town. Some a bit more expensive and others quite cheap. We enjoyed some meals at the restaurant next to our guesthouse. The name is Nyaung Shwe Restaurant and the owner is really friendly. We were always the only guests there, and don’t understand why. The service is good, the prices are fair, the food is tasteful and they have lassies, cheese pancakes and homemade Tagliatelle with meatballs, which is always nice. Besides this restaurant we did have a good burger at the Golden Fish.
We weren’t sure how busy it would be so thought it would be safer to book something in advance. We only wish we did this before we started the trekking. Our guesthouse, The Bright Hotel, was quite close to the point where they drop you of with the boat at the end of the trekking. However, the bags are brought to another guesthouse (Lady Princess Hotel) at the other side of town. It’s not really that far but you don’t feel like walking an extra mile after 3 days of hiking. You are tired! So our tip is to book a room before you start the trekking, because then they will bring your bag(s) to your own guesthouse. At The Bright Hotel we booked a fan-room with own bathroom for 21.000 Kyat, the room comes with a very good breakfast and free coffee and tea during the day. Besides this the Wifi in our room was strong, which is not always the case in Myanmar. They do bike rental for 1500 Kyat a day.
** You can find them on booking.com
The main focus in this town is the lake and its surroundings. Besides this, you can rent a bike and drive around a bit. We tried to rent a motorbike but that’s just impossible, no motorbike rentals here! We saw a photo on Instagram of a real nice wooden monastery called Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung, where they teach novice monks, and it is accessible for tourists. We really liked the photo and since we had some extra time, decided to go there. You can reach this by taking the main way north out of the city pass the market. About 10 minutes by bike, you won’t miss it, and it does look really nice, both from the out- and the inside. When we entered the little monastery, a group of 15 novice monks was sitting/standing there. Some of them were chanting, but most were just talking to each other and not really doing anything. Until one them saw an older monk coming. All of a sudden they all started chanting really loudly and were behaving at their best. Boys will be boys, even if they are novice monks. After this we wanted to do the wine tasting at the Red Mountain Winery (Marije was really looking forward to this), but it started pouring down rain, and we quickly biked back to our hotel.
Even though we already did a boat trip at the end of our hike, we wanted to do it again. We asked around a bit about prices, and then met a guy at the pharmacy who gave us a good price. We paid 12.000 Kyat for about 4 hours. We left at 05.45 am because we wanted to see the sunrise on the lake. Unfortunately, the sunrise wasn’t really good but it was great to be on the lake this early. There were no other tourists (yet) and we found 2 fishermen who would not stop posing for photos (we gave them each 2.000 Kyat for their efforts). The lake is famous for its fishermen, who use one leg to peddle while they keep their balance with the other, standing on the end of the boat. This way they have a better view over the lake. Amazing how they can do that. We thought they don’t really do this anymore and that it is something they do for the tourists, but we did see quite some fishermen still using this tactic. Pretty sweet to see.
The boatman wanted to stop at a goldsmith and other workshops but we said no to that. He would probably get some money when bringing us (same as the tuktuk drivers in Bangkok who make you stop at shops for petrol coupons), but we didn’t feel like wasting our time there. We did stop at one shop to see the Karen Longneck women but this didn’t feel authentic. They are in the shop to attract tourists and to sell them the scarfs they’ve woven.
Our last stop was at the colorful morning market in Heyar Yawrma Village. We loved it here! There weren’t that many other tourists and we saw the locals doing their grocery shopping which is great to see. It’s all really colorful, the foods are fresh and you can buy almost anything. There are quite some tourist stalls as well so we did buy a souvenir. But the best thing about visiting this market, was seeing 3 young Karen Longnecks walking around, just doing their thing. We read that more often young girls leave this tradition behind so that made it extra special to see them. And they look stunning!
After the market, we went back to the guesthouse. On the way we saw people working in their floating gardens, boats filled with fruits and vegetables, a lot of tourists coming towards us (so go early because you will have lake to yourself, sort of) and locals washing themselves at the riverside, brushing their teeth and waving at us. A great morning and the best is, we were back in time for our breakfast at the guesthouse and had the whole day ahead of us.