As we stated in a previous post, we booked our trip to Myanmar without any actual plans in place. We discussed making Myanmar part of our original itinerary and then it got dropped because we didn’t want to deal with the hassle of visa issues in advance of our departure from the U.S. However, while in Bali we realized Myanmar opened up an online e-visa option that made getting there much easier, so we booked roundtrip tickets and added it back in to our trip! Perfect, but…we now have two weeks in Myanmar without the slightest hint of a plan.
We are generally ok with not having absolute plans in place before arriving somewhere, but we knew internet was going to be an issue in Myanmar (and it was!) and make planning difficult. After a few days in Yangon, we realized we needed to add another city other than Bagan, which we absolutely loved. So, we decided on Inle Lake over Mandalay after some conversations with our guesthouse.
Inle Lake is known for its lake (pretty obvious I think) and specifically the long boat cruise for tourists around the lake. We heard mixed reviews about the cruise itself; stunning scenery, but the drivers take tourists to multiple stops where locals try and sell you various handmade goods. We weren’t thrilled with the prospect of all the stops. so we were extremely happy to have found a cooking class hosted by Sue, as she helped set us up with a driver who would skip whatever we wanted. And it worked out great!
The lake was gorgeous as we thought it might be, with mountains surrounding us and fisherman paddling with only one leg while fishing with their hands (very impressive). You can find entire floating villages, restaurants, bars and even a post office on the lake. We stopped at a temple and market that floats (rotates) locations daily and browsed the stalls, which is where we found a ‘parking lot’ full of boats.
We still wanted to make a few stops where locals might try selling items, because we were interested in seeing how some of the goods were made. We saw silver jewelry being produced, weavers making silk and lotus scarfs, and even cigarettes. I’m not a smoker, but I had to try the sweet cigarettes as they looked more like a mini-cigar. I wasn’t a huge fan, but they definitely had a sweet black licorice taste.
One stop we made was at Indein Village, where you can walk around and see many stupas, both old and new. Some of these are in very poor shape and are falling apart and in some cases having trees growing right through them. If you decide to make a trip to Inle Lake and head out on a long boat for a day, this is a recommended stop for sure.
One place we stopped, which is not noted in the pictures above was the Nga Phe ‘Jumping Cat’ monastery. With Alana being a cat lover, this was a must do while on the lake. This is a monastery where cats used to be trained by monks to jump, but we did not see anything happening during our stop. We heard the monks no longer are involved with the cats, but we did notice a few cats roaming about the place. If you are going to see the cats, we might say skip it, but the place is pretty interesting and has some good views of the lake too.
Overall, we enjoyed our day on Inle Lake and would say go for it if you are in the area for a holiday. There are always going to be touristy areas, but the locals are trying to make a living, so I don’t hold it against them for trying to sell items. If you can look beyond the tourist traps, the place is quite a sight and we were in awe more than a few times when gazing out at the mountains and lake.