With the year coming to an end, isn’t it a great time to do some reflections/ meditation about how the year has been so far about what you have achieved, setbacks you have faced and some thoughts how to better face the coming year.
And on that note, there is a beautiful quieter part in Myanmar ( or reviously known as Burma) that came to my mind when I think about a good whimsical place to escape to for some quiet moments to reflect. And this is none other than…Inle Lake..
Melting Golden Sunsets at Inle Lake
One incredible reason for loving this destination is the breathtaking sunsets that you witness over the rice fields. You can just take a short 15-30 minutes walk from the main central area to one of these rice fields and drink in the sunset.
Bring a camera along, a book or some music to listen to and just take the time to enjoy the moment and see the silhouette of people and cattle working in the water knee-deep rice fields.
Must-Do Day Tours to see the best of Inle
Whether you are in Inle for 1 week or just 2 days, you should still grab the opportunity to go for a day tour boat excursion to see the surrounding floating attractions in the area. We paid less than US$60 per person but have the entire boat all to ourselves to explore a list of different stops at our own time and leisure.
Some of the best recaps of the tour include:
Long Neck Women Tribe
We visited a little museum where they shared some history and stories about the tribe of the long neck women. It was fascinating as Cez and I didn’t know that they were also present in Myanmar, not just Thailand.
The golden metal rings they wear are a mark of beauty and grace, and the more rings you have, the more beautiful and graceful you are. We also come to realise that the rings are very heavy and the ladies actually carry this weight on their shoulders/ body all these years. It is only removed on the occasion to bath or sleep.
We got to interact with 2 of the ladies from the tribe who were sitting there in the museum and allowing tourists to take photos with them. Really sweet ladies and though we couldn’t speak much, we had a few moments together and I think – secretly in our heads, we are trying to understand what life would be like in the shoes of the other.
Shwe Indein Pagoda
One of the highlights of the tour will be the stop at Shwe Indein Pagoda, where a thousand over stupas and pagodas in the village of Indein resides.
To get to this place, it is a detour off the main river body and the boat goes slightly upstream through a narrow little river bank to this lovely hidden area. The experience to get there is truly delightful and you get to see some interesting sights along the way, like kids bathing in the river, people washing their laundry, fisherman and even dogs/ cows coming to the riverbank for a drink.
To reach the temple, one needs to do a 20 minutes walk through the dirt path, passing through bamboo forests, a row of shops selling shawls/ goodies/ souvenirs, another stretch of shops along the temple entrance selling wooden art and crafts/ vintage or traditional things. And then hidden behind these shops will be the start of the sprawling expanse of stupas and pagodas. To be exact, almost 1,600 of them, in many colours from reddish brown/ coated in golden plate/ brown/ grey and so on. A stupa is a sacred structure containing relics related to Buddhism, while a pagoda is slightly different, and quite a number of pagodas allow for you to climb up it.
The entire area had an air of secrecy and mystery, and I tried so carefully not to damage any of the structures as we walked through it carefully. Its also very quiet and peaceful and you can really feel very relax here away from the rowdy tourists/ kids or traffic.
Reminder: as like all places of worship/ temples/ mosques around the world, do come prepared not underdressed showing your shoulders or legs in order to not be denied entry into some of these sacred places the locals come to. A little tip is always to carry a shawl/ scarf with you.
Floating villages and fields
Nyaung Shwe, which Inle lake is positioned in the south of it, is the main hub for visiting Inle Lake and the wetland sanctuary. Here is the main street and area to start off your boat ride to see the surrounding village, shops and monasteries.
Some places that are popular with people would be the floating market in Ywama village, the Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery on wooden stilts, the golden Bawrithat Pagoda. And lastly, if you are into museums and craft work, there are plenty of craft shops here like silk and cotton weavers, cooper makers, jewellery makers etc. It’s good and heartening to see that there have been some external influence/ mission trips that have come to this part of Myanmar to teach and educate these villagers to learning these useful skills to try to make a living for themselves.
If you have a bit of time to just relax and chill during the tour, just sit down at a comfortable spot to unwind, look at the fields and just watch the people go about their daily routine – commuting, fishing, farming, washing, bathing. It helps to de-stress and clear your mind.
Cycling Around the Rice Fields
Many of the more modern guesthouses in Inle Lake provide complimentary bicycles for their guests to get around. We had 2 occasions where we hopped onto our bikes and took 1-2 cycles around the area to see the surrounding town and scenery.
The rice fields along the main highway from the airport to the town is a nice long stretch of road you can cycle, but just keep to the side of the road and be mindful of the speeding trucks and vehicles that come very close to you while cycling.
The great thing about cycling is that you can stop anywhere you want, to take some lovely pictures or not if you just want some time off from devices/ talk to locals or tourists who are also visiting, and even come up close to a bull/ cow grazing in the field.
There is something tranquil about just slowing things down and spend time with nature – mediating on something you read/ a song in your head, sketching or even jotting down some thoughts in a journal/ diary.
We should always try to pause and do some quiet reflection during our travels.
Indulge in the Local Myanmese Dishes and Delicacies
I didn’t have any expectations when it came to Myanmarese food, but it turned out I had a lot of lovely dishes here that were very tasty.
Noodles and soups are plentiful everywhere, from the market to the small stalls along the streets to even a makeshift stand next to the bus station. The above dish was eaten at exactly that makeshift stand but it was the yummiest prawn noodles soup I have had for a long time. I shall not go into details about how unhygienic the food was kept or how many flies were flying around the condiments tray we took our cutlery from.
And the variety of food options kept growing.
From grilled meats on sticks, you pick yourselves, to boiled vegetables in a spicy soup to peanut dishes. So many options, but I must say a lot of them are very agreeable with my Asian tastebuds of noodles/ soups and spice.
What period to come in – Inle weather
Nov – Mar is the coolest time of the year to visit Myanmar, with temperatures from 5-10 degrees. However, there is beautiful sunshine and it’s nice and toasty in the day. If you are not a fan of the cold wind, and also want to avoid the monsoon season, the next best months are April. Find out more details on the weather at Inle Lake here.
How to Get to Inle Lake from Yangon
Whether you are coming from Bagan – Inle or Mandalay – Inle, the most convenient and fastest way would be to fly. We flew with Golden Myanmar Airlines into Heho terminal, but there are also a few other local carriers available. However, if you are out to save money, then the best approach would be to go by bus or train.
So what are your thoughts about this place? Would it be a good hideout for a silent retreat/ a little getaway for your mind and soul to nurse itself back to 100%. We all need this little recharge and recalibrating in our lives from the source before we can go out and fight the world again.