Pagoda near Inle Lake

Things to do in Inle Lake

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If you love Thailand, you will also love Myanmar. Myanmar is like Thailand 20 years back! That’s what I thought while exploring Myanmar. From the busy capital of Yangon to out-of-the-world pagodas of Bagan, calm and serene Inle lake, and some sublime coastal lines, Myanmar should be on your itinerary during a trip to Southeast Asia. Let’s explore a list of things to do in Inle Lake in Myanmar.

Boat ride in Inle Lake – Top Thing to Do

Fisherman in Inle Lake
The Intha fisherman in traditional style in Inle Lake.

Inle lake is the place where everyone comes to visit! So, the first top thing to do in Inle lake is to take a boat ride in Inle Lake :-). To give you a heads up, Inle lake is the second largest lake in Myanmar covering about 115 square kilometers of area. It’s located at a high altitude – about 880 meters from sea level.

Boat Jetty Inle Lake
The boat pier in Inle lake named Tai Nan bridge.

There is no way to walk along the way in Inle Lake or visible lakefront. So, the best way to explore the lake is by hiring a boat Instead of going through any tour operator, I decided to rent a boat by myself. However, you can find tons of tour operators offering you a bot trip to Inle lake while you are walking on the street of Nyaung Shwe. I headed towards Tai Nan bridge from where you can rent a boat.

Boats waiting in Inle Lake
The boats are waiting to take you around the Inle lake.

You will find narrow and long-tail boats waiting in the pier. Open up your sleeve and unveil your negotiation skill, you will need them if you wanna save some bucks. Each of the boats contains chairs where you can have a sit. However, make sure to keep your balance, if you are too much careless, you might discover yourself in the water.

Boatman on a boat in Inle Lake
Aye aye captain!

Although I would have preferred to rent a boat without an engine, I could not find any. Later, the sound of the engine was an annoyance amidst the calm and serene environment. I wish I were there 10 or 15 years back when humans were not so dependent on the engine.

Canals in Inle Lake
This narrow passage was enigmatic.

The good news is, there are patches of narrow passages in the lake and they turn off the engine while passing such places. While most of the people become busy taking photos of the Intha fishermen with one leg on the oar, I thoroughly enjoyed these narrow passages and found them photogenic. If an Intha fisherman asks for money while taking their photos, you know that they are fake, and posing for money instead of fishing.

Inle Lake Canal
You are heading towards vastness.

The narrow passage of the canal contains green grasses and hyacinth. It does not last long. You will start seeing houses on both sides of the canal.

Inle Lake in Myanamar
Inle lake is big!

This canal leads to the vast expanse of Inle lake. That is the point when the calmness hits me with immense pleasure. I realized why so many people visit this place every year. You won’t be able to understand it if you do not visit there in person.

Pagoda near Inle Lake
Can you think of Myanmar without a pagoda? There is one on the hilltop as seen from the Inle lake.

The boat took me to different parts and I got a different kind of view. The greeneries along with the clouds were simply mesmerizing. One of the most impressive of them was two mountain passes. I even saw a beautiful golden pagoda the far on top of a hill.

Lady and kids on a boat in Inle Lake
A mother is taking his kid to somewhere – in Inle lake.

The last leg of the journey will take you to a floating village. You will see a brimming life on the water where the boat is the vehicle instead of the bus and car. The houses are built on water with a series of bases made of woods. People live there happily. The life of the people in that area largely depends on the Inle lake, be it the tourism or fishes.

Kid enjoying in Inle Lake
That’s their house and they are happy.

The overall journey lasted for about 5 hours and costs me around US$10. I suggest you look for a partner who can share the boat with you as well as the cost. The best time for visiting this place is during sunrise when the light is soft and mellow. The second best is during sunset.

Riding a bicycle in the Village

Cycling around Inle Lake - Things to do in Inle Lake
At last I found someone who took my photo!

The villages surrounded by Nyaung Shwe are absolutely beautiful. The best way to explore those villages is by renting a bicycle and get lost in nature. You will hardly find any traffic inside, so, riding a bike will be a breeze! Keep in mind that, you need to ride to the right in Myanmar.

Inle Lake and Surroundings
The greeneries at their best – rolling hills and paddy field near Inle Lake.

The villages are surrounded by layers of mountains. The greeneries are multiplied by the green fields mostly paddies, cornfields, and banana trees.

Villages in Inle Lake
A family is taking care of their field – they cultivate lands so that we can eat.

I stopped in several places, whenever and wherever I felt like. The villagers were active in places, mostly was cultivating the land. It’s their magic touches that help us to eat.

Green Nyaung Shwe in Myanmar
Another green field – eye soothing!

Interestingly weather changes its color rapidly in this place. Maybe, this is the effect of large water bodies surrounded by it? Whatever is the reason, riding a bicycle surrounded by the villages near Inle Lake is an absolute must.

Enjoying a puppet Show

Puppetry in Inle - Things to do in Inle Lake
Aung’s Marionette Puppet Show is a popular thing to do in Inle lake.

When you will be tired of exploring the beautiful areas, take a breathe and get into the indoor to enjoy Aung’s marionette puppet show. Aung, a Burmese gentleman runs this puppet show twice a day, one at 7:00 PM and the other at 8:30 PM and each lasts for half an hour.

Puppet Show in Myanmar
A king in action during Aung’s puppet show.

Aung is a fantastic performer, he tells stories through his shows, he is funny and the ups and downs of his voice were astonishing. The puppet show is in his blood, their parents and grandfather were also puppeteered. The stages and puppets in his shows are made by his family.

Puppet Characters of Aung
Kings, queens, farmers, monkeys – puppets with string – Aung has a fantastic collection of puppets.

After the show, when we were clapping, Aung gave the most authentic smile I saw for a while. I didn’t know that the puppet show takes a lot of effort, I realized it by seeing the sweats on Aung’s face. Ask anyone about his place, they will show the venue, it was near the Golden Kite Restaurant. The show costs a little over US$3, a stellar compared to what you get!

Walking Around

Street of Inle Lake
A glimpse of the local life in the Inle lake.

Nyaung Shwe is a small town. You should spend some time walking around. This is the best way to see the lifestyle of the urban people of Myanmar. I loved how the young girls were going to the schools and farmers to their field wearing a hat using their bicycles.

Enjoying Pagodas

Pagoda in Nyaung Shwe Myanmar
You can’t miss pagodas in Myanmar.

I saw one of the best pagodas in my life in Yangon, Myanmar. The pagodas in Bagan in out of the world. Wherever you go in Myanmar, you will come across pagodas. Inle lake is no exception to this. The most visited of them all is Phaung Daw U Pagoda. Besides, Shwe Indein Pagoda is worth a visit.

How to Get to Inle Lake?

Heho Airport in Myanmar
Heho airport is the nearest airport for visiting Inle lake.

The base of Inle Lake is a town named Nyaung Shwe. From Nyaung Shwe, you can explore different places. The nearest airport for reaching Nyaung Shwe is Heho Airport. The distance between Nyaung Shwe and Heho airport is about 35 Kilometers and takes an hour to reach there. There is no public transport, so, you have to take a taxi to reach the town.

Fuad Omar

Fuad loves to travel! A lot! Carrying a Bangladeshi passport means he needs a prior visa for visiting most of the countries. He got detained in many borders because of his nationality but; he didn’t give up - he set his foot to 37 countries. He believes, if he could travel the world despite all the odds, you can, too. Fuad is a Computer Engineer by profession, and author of a travelogue in Bangla. He currently lives in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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