Inle Lake is a freshwater lake located in the heart of the Shan plateau in Myanmar. The second largest lake in Myanmar, the lake has people of many different ethnicities inhabited around the lake. A very fascinating sight is to watch the people of Inle known as Intha who are fishermen row their boats with their legs while using their hands to fish. This style emerged out of necessity because the floating plants on the lake make it extremely difficult to see above them while sitting.
Explore the Place by Boat
A famous touristy thing to do, but still feel the solitude or get the feeling of an unexplored place. A full day trip starting at 07:30 am, the first stop is Ywama floating market. The Floating Market, held once every five days, is full of tourist boats and souvenir hawkers with a few local farmers peddling vegetables in among the crowds. Another place you visit is the Shwe Inn Thein Paya and its 1054 Pagodas. While a large number of pagodas have crumbled over time, a few have been reconstructed and some even covered with shimmering gold. A ten minute boat ride ahead of Inn Thein is the holy Pagoda of Phaung Daw Oo. It consists of a very large Pagoda that houses what I refer to as the stumpy Buddhas. To attain merit, Buddhists apply gold leaf to the statues, deforming their pristine and serene looking shape into unrecognizable blobs of gold.
Moving beyond the commercial and cultural aspects of the journey, as you go ahead, you spend time observing the Intha fishermen. You pass by the little floating villages where the houses sit on stilts lined into an organized yet semi chaotic maze, and people navigate and move between houses in small canoes etched out of logs. Not only are there floating villages, but you also come across some floating gardens adjacent to the floating villages.
The mix of pagodas, floating markets, floating villages and witnessing the Intha lifestyle gives you a perfect blend of culture and beauty at Inle Lake.
Cycle your way around
An interesting way to explore area around Inle is to go bicycling along the perimeter of the lake. On your tour, you can see hot water springs, picturesque scenery and get to experience the Intha culture closely. You can taste the locally made tofu at a village named Kaung Daing. Cycling through sugarcane plantations, you may even reach a winery where you get a free winery tour and free local wine to taste.
Indulge in festivities
The most celebrated festival in Inle are Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival and Hot- Air Balloon Festival.
Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the largest Buddhist festivals in Myanmar. It is held somewhere around the months of September to October as per the Western calendar. Buddha’s images are paraded around the lake in traditional long boats well decorated and manned by several rowers. Festivities continue for more than a fortnight and include rowing competitions too.
Hot- Air Balloon Festival (Not like the one we know): Thinking of a Hot air balloon festival would bring images of a ride in the hot air balloon. However, this is not what it is. Also know as the Taunggyi Tazaungdaing Festival, it is held every November in the nearby Taunggyi township. Hot air balloons made of paper in various forms including animal shapes are inflated and floated in the sky. The competitions run during the day and at night when the sky is colorfully illuminated with hot-air balloons. The festival held on full moon day marks the end of the rainy season in Myanmar.
Go the Religious Way
Monasteries and Pagodas are a common sight in the area with Alodaw Pauk Pagoda, Nga Phe Chaung Monastery, Pawri That Pagoda, Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda and Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery being just a few of the many. You can also visit Kyauk Phyu Gyi Buddha image in nearby Nyaung Shwe.
Other sightseeing options in and around Inle Lake area include Khaung Daing natural hot water springs , workshops of silversmiths, blacksmiths, potters and weavers and Nyaung Shwe Cultural Museum. Another interesting sight is of floating gardens on which locals grow vegetables. These collections of floating weeds and water hyacinth are found mostly in Kaylar, Inchan and Zayatgyi villages.
Image Credits: www.inlelake-myanmar.com, www.debonairtravels.com, balloonfestival.metro.co.uk, www.imaginetravel.com, www.balloonteam.net www.triposo.com, www.flashpackatforty.com