It was a wonderful feeling to step off the train and actually stand up. I ached so much that I felt as if I’d done a major workout. From Shwenyeung, it’s about a 20 minute taxi ride to Nyaungshwe, the main tourist hub for Inle Lake. The ride should cost 8000 kyats and I was immediately quoted this when I stepped off the train. It’s so nice not to have to argue with taxi drivers in Myanmar.
After paying the $10 entrance fee to Nyaungshwe, I was driven through the town and to my wonderful guesthouse, Zawgi Inn. This place was exactly what I needed after my train journey. The staff were friendly, the room was large and clean and for $20 a night I felt as if I was living in luxury though, to be honest, I felt so disgusting and tired that I was just overjoyed to have running water again.
The town is quaint and easy to navigate with a nice market in the middle. Rather than jumping straight into a boat ride, I arranged my ride with the guesthouse for a couple of days later and decided to spend my first day acclimatising and relaxing in Nyaungshwe. There are some great places to eat here (I followed the TripAdvisor) recommendations and wasn’t disappointed and the market is worth a browse.
On top of that, I took a walk to Inle Heart View which is a small restaurant/bar literally in the middle of nowhere, about halfway between Nyaungshwe and Inle Lake. You can cycle or walk to it and get spectacular views over the hills. I decided to walk so I could photograph the stunning landscapes on the way there. It’s not on any of the maps but if you head towards the Red Mountain vineyard (which you could also stop at but I’ve heard it’s not great) and then keep going, head past Bamboo Hut (another supposedly fantastic restaurant though it was being renovated when I walked past) and you’ll eventually see a sign for the place. The owner is friendly and on hand with a cold beer and complimentary snacks, as well as food which I didn’t try but is supposed to be good. Nobody else was there so I got the amazing views all to myself. If you’re at a loose end then definitely check it out. It took me just over an hour to walk there and I really enjoyed it.
The next day it was time for the big one. I booked my Inle Lake tour through my guesthouse for 18,000 kyat which I think is a little more expensive than some other trips, though it did include visits to places to the south of the lake which other tours don’t include, plus I had some comeback if anything went wrong.
Another plus point was that I started early in the morning. My driver came to collect me at 5.45am and we headed to the nearby boat pier to the west of Nyaungshwe. The sky was a brilliant shade of blues and greys and the lake was incredibly peaceful as we were there so early. The scenery around the lake is absolutely stunning and my camera was having a whale of a time. The early morning fisherman provided some great shots and it was a perfect time to be out on the lake.
The tour itself basically involved hopping between various workshops. It’s a basically an attempt to get you to buy various overpriced goods, though the people at the workshops aren’t very pushy about it. The rotating market was full of life even this early and was good to walk around and some of the workshops such as the welding and silk factories wee quite interesting. Others were a complete waste of time. The umbrella workshop literally involved a man opened about a dozen umbrellas in front of me. That guy must have seriously bad luck.
One thing you should definitely make sure is on your itinerary is In Dein. Again, my early start meant I had the whole place to myself with no other tourists and I spent a good hour or so getting lost amongst the pagodas and crumbling temples here. There are some stunning views to be had too. It normally costs a bit extra to include a stop here but, other than the lake itself, it was definitely the highlight of my trip.
By midday, my tour was winding down and the sun was out in full force. In what seems to be a recurring theme for me, I forgot my sun cream so got a little burnt (though a lot less than I deserved) so taking some along is advisable. Other than that, the morning was great and, though sharing a boat would have been cheaper, I really liked having a boat to myself to explore the lake.
The next day and a half in Nyaungshwe just involved chilling, drinking and eating. If you want some decent Indian grub, definitely try the Diamond restaurant opposite Lucky Star near the town’s entrance. It definitely took me back to my time in India. I arranged my bus to Mandalay (try Odyssey travel who sell 8pm overnight bus tickets for 14,000 kyats including free pick-up) and just relaxed some more in this truly stunning location. Even better? The weather held out. Monsoon season, pah!