Myanmar Nyaung Shwe 2002.01.22 - 01.24

Inle Lake

The 15 km long Inle Lake has pagodas, floating gardens, and villages on stilts. Whether trekking, boating, or both, the experience is enjoyable and educational. Several kilometers North of the lake is Nyaung Shwe with a wide selection of hotels and restaurants.

One bus per day departs Yangon and Bago in the early afternoon and stops in Shwe Nyaung 18 hours later. From Mandalay, one night bus and one daytime minivan stop in Shwe Nyaung (8 hours) en route to Taunggyi. From Shwe Nyaung, pickup trucks service Nyaung Shwe (11 km, 100 Kyat) from mid morning to 16:30. Otherwise, taxis charge 2000 Kyat.

By plane, 3 flights per week fly from Yangon to Heho (US$90), and 5 flights per week fly from Mandalay to Heho (US$45). Heho is 19 km West of Shwe Nyaung.


Arriving early in the morning by night bus from Bago and departing by night bus to Mandalay, we had 3 full days in Inle with 2 overnights. 3 days is the minimum time we recommend.

After an 18-hour bus ride, most people need a relaxing recovery day. That's what we did. Between walking around Nyaung Shwe, writing a postcard, eating, and taking a nap, the day was over. Had we had more energy, we would have rented bicycles (300 Kyat per day) to explore pagodas on the town limit. The Bawrithat Pagoda between Shwe Nyaung and Nyaung Shwe looked especially interesting from the taxi window. That night, a Czech couple at our hotel recommended the full-day trek with Ni Ni Win. We arranged the trek for 07:00 the next morning.

Up at 06:00 for our trek, we reached Ni Ni Win's family's teahouse at 07:00. The other trekkers hadn't arrived yet. At 07:30, the group of 5 tourists, Ni Ni Win, and her sister-in-law were assembled. 2 horse carriages took our group to the trailhead.

The trail meanders through farming villages and rises 800 meters above the lake. We stopped frequently for explanations about caves, vegetation, and bamboo, tobacco, and sugarcane production. At a viewpoint above Inle Lake, the group of tourists were fed a substantial lunch. Descending down to the lake, an awaiting motorboat carried us back to Nyaung Shwe. Ni Ni Win's full day tour lasts 11 hours. Participants should be fit and carry at least 1.5 liters of water.

The next day, we arranged a ½ day boat trip with Ni Ni Win's cousin, Tintsen. Tintsen charges the standard rate of US$5 for the boat. Up to 5 passengers can split the fare. Passing numerous villages erected on stilts in the lake, we saw floating gardens, pagodas, and local production. The floating gardens are especially unique. Buoyant vegetation is collected in rows. Upon these rows is spread soil. Lastly, bamboo poles are speared through the floating garden and anchored in the lake bed. As the water level rises or falls with the season, the garden beds move up and down the bamboo poles. On the floating gardens, villagers grow a wide variety of vegetables. Plantation and harvest is by canoe.

After the boat trip, a night bus took us to Mandalay, Myanmar's second largest city.

Villages in the middle of the lake are only reached by boat. Stilts supporting the structures rise one meter above water to prevent flooding during the rainy season.
Houses with floating gardens dot the lake. Villagers move about by canoe.
Children in the hill villages above Inle Lake come running to greet us as we trek with Ni Ni Win. Remarkably, none begged for pens, candy, or money.
A monk trained monastery cats to jump through a hoop. Consequently, the monastery is known as the "Jumping Cat Monastery".
A boy propells his canoe with the strength of his leg against an oar.

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