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Inle Lake Myanmar

Surprising Inle Lake in Myanmar…but without Jumping Cats

by Emiel Van Den Boomen

Congestion of boats near Inle Lake

Inle Lake is one of the major tourist attractions in Myanmar. The lake itself is really beautiful where we loved navigating through the floating gardens the most. More about that later…

But how come that somehow we felt the Inle Lake can easily become the next big tourist trap? For example, do you really believe the Jumping Cat Monastery offers you what its name so clearly promises? Or do you think you these boats will forget to bring you to some handicraft stores?

OK, this post starts a bit different from what you might expect…..don’t worry though, but I just want to get something off my chest first.

Inle Lake entry fee

I don’t like when so-called government officials (young kids not older than 20) make your taxi stop upon arriving at Inle Lake and have you pay 10 USD each just to enter the town of Nyaungshwe.

A barrier across the road with a stopping sign. They boy smiles showing his teeth stained red from chewing beetle nut for years and years…. “What if we just don’t pay?” I asked the boy. “Well, then you cannot enter the town“.

End of story. Because there is only one road leading into town.

It’s a ridiculous tax, going directly to the government (which for sure doesn’t have a very good reputation). I hope they spend it to preserve the lake. But I doubt it.

Fisherman on boat Inle Lake

Or what about this one. This fishermen is the first one you see when you arrive at the actual lake. But he is not fishing at all. He does his balancing act just for tourists and afterwards asks for a bit of money.

Long neck

Longnecks. Yes, they came down to Inle Lake in Myanmar to show their weaving skills (and to show their famous long necks to everyone interested). It’s quite sad to be honest, don’t you think?

Cigar factory Inle Lake

When you book a tour of the lake your ‘captain’ will bring you to various handicraft factories and adjacent stores: silk, jewelry, wood carvings and yes, cigars. It’s almost like Cuba! You will be shown how cigars are made here at Inle Lake, and yes, it does look extremely easy to do. The ladies will for sure light one for you, no problem. “Wanna buy?”

Woman at cigar factory smoking

The boat tour will surely also bring you to the famous Jumping Cat Monastery. OK, it’s a beautiful wooden monastery on poles and it does have cats…but they are not jumping. Not at all! Some story from the past where and old monk trained his cats to jump. These were cute little cats (kids loved them; not me, I hate cats) at the monastery but I couldn’t catch them doing any kind of trick…

Two kittens

Is it all that bad? Not at all!

Luckily there is always another side to the coin. It was honestly speaking quite interesting to see how fishing boats are being made from wood, or how lotus fiber is being extracted from the plant to create silk. Or just to watch life on and around the lake for that matter!

View from bridge on man in boat

And there is indeed a lot to discover at Inle Lake. The beauty of a country is found in its people. And you will encounter a lot of interesting looking ones!

One legged fisherman Inle Lake

The guy who was really fishing. They call them the one-legged fishermen because they can maneuver the boat with one leg while keeping their hands free to do the actual fishing. This guy was extremely busy with his net but was still able to smile to us.

Inle Lake Myanmar

The women at the local market (with or without sigar) who probably have seen a lot in their lifetime already. Local markets are the best place to just hang around and watch the activity so make sure your ‘captain’ brings you to one.

Houses on Inle Lake

Man on boat near floating house

Or the local people living on the lake. Their houses on wooden poles. Main source of income is fish and sometimes vegetables. Vegetables like tomatoes are grown on floating pieces of land. These floating gardens are really a must-see!

The floating gardens where small boats gracefully maneuver in order not to damage anything. People waving when you pass by. Some smoking a cigar of course…

Old woman with cigar on boat Inle Lake

Boats and floating gardens Inle Lake

Inle Lake Myanmar

Rent a boat at Inle Lake, Myanmar

Inle Lake is a great place and you should go there when you are in Myanmar. You can rent a boat for a day and of course that’s a must. There are enough people offering you trips and you can negotiate; prices between 15,000-20,000 kyat most probably. And just tell your ‘captain’ which places you want or don’t want to visit.

Kids on boat Inle Lake

Town of Nyaungshwe

The town of Nyaungshwe however is as nice as the Inle Lake itself! We spend 5 full days in Nyaungshwe exploring the lake, the town and some temples in the area. Nyaungshwe offers a great central market, lovely restaurants and shops, but also some monasteries that are definitily worth visiting. More about that in my next post. Here’s a picture of me and my son at our favorite restaurant.

Us at our favorite restaurant Inle Lake

Hotel Queen Inn Inle Lake

Most of the hotels are situated in Nyaungshwe. We decided not to book a hotel on the lake itself; you don’t have anywhere to go when night falls. Our first hotel was the Queen Inn, an interesting option close to where the action is. Make sure to bring ear plugs as the boats start to pass by your room as from 05.00am … and they make lots of noise!

During the second part of our stay we booked a lovely hotel with a great swimming pool: Mingalar Inn.

Closest airport is Heho airport (13,000 Kyat for a taxi from Heho to Nyaungshwe). You can fly directly from Yangon to Heho for around USD 100.
We came from Kalaw by bus. The bus dropped us off at the main road where you have to grab a taxi for the last miles or so to Nyaungshwe. From Heho we took a plane to Yangon, our final destination in Myanmar.

So what do you think? Would Inle Lake be part of your Myanmar itinerary?

Kalaw Myanmar

There are more stories on this blog about other destinations in Myanmar! What about the temples in Mandalay, the surreal Buddha figures in Monywa or the famous pagodas of Bagan?

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hikebiketravel January 25, 2015 - 16:24

Great post; I would definitely visit. Your photos really capture the area but can’t imagine living here.

Emiel van den Boomen January 25, 2015 - 18:05

Thanks Leigh! Myanmar really surprised us in many ways. We love Asia and return almost every year. This year probably Thailand again, taking it a bit more slowly compared to our Myanmar trip.


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