Inle Lake was supposed to be amazing. I had read about this place a lot and I knew it’s one of the most touristy places in Myanmar and I wanted to avoid the commercial side of it. Did I manage? Not really, but still, it was amazing.
The beginning was rather unpleasant. First of all, the long all night trip from Hpa An totally killed us. It was very cold and cramped in the bus and the last part of the trip went through an extremely winding road, so starting from around 4 in the morning I had to listen to the sounds of people having nausea, throwing up to plastic bags. As you can imagine, the smell was terrible as well. When we finally got to Nyaung Shwe and we opened our transporters of our backpacks, we noticed that something was wrong. My backpack was open and some clothes were outside, even though the transporter bag was closed with a small padlock. Same with Renato’s backpack. We were surprised as we knew that the bags were with us inside on one of the back seats, while we were seated in the front. Somebody during the night or one of the stops must have sneaked to the end of the bus and had enough time to open our padlocks and then even close them Fortunately, we had all our valuables (passports,computers, cameras, and credit cards/cash) with us in small backpacks, but the thief reached to my small case took my silver ring, a birthday gift from Renato from Laos. We talked with the driver who was ready to pay for the loss from his own pocket only not to have problems with police. It was very early in the morning and we were exhausted, and as the loss wasn’t very pricey (although it had a big sentimental value to me), we decided to give up and we left.
After half an hour of looking for a hotel, we finally found a decent room, quite expensive though (20 USD???), but we have already understood that the prices of accommodation in Myanmar and definitely higher than in Thailand or Laos, for instance. We knew that the town is quite small, so the location is not that important, as we could walk to practically every place.
After a short nap and breakfast (that’s a big advantage of hotels in Myanmar: even though they are expensive, at least the accommodation almost always includes a good breakfast) we went for a walk. We were tempted by a sign “Are you tired of rice? Inle Pancake kingdom” where we ate a delicious lunch.
I have to admit that Nyaung Shwe is not pretty or interesting at all. It’s just a couple of streets with new hotels without rhyme or reason, and where there are no hotels it’s rather dirty and ugly. Even the river side that leads to the famous lake doesn’t invite for a further exploring. Allegedly it’s the most touristy place is Myanmar, but still it really lacks a proper tourist infrastructure. But on the other hand, maybe it’s better like that, at least it seems more authentic.
There isn’t much to visit in the town itself. There are some temples, but nothing special; however, you can make a pleasant bike trip to the Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung monastery, known for unusual round windows. Right next to it, there is a small stone stupa with small figures of Buddha offered by people from all over the world, each of it signed with a name and country of origin of the donor.
Ay, how much time we spent looking for the internet! We had something important to send, but the internet in our hotel was not working. At the reception they told us that it’s because there are many people in the town right now and the network was failing everywhere. We went to maybe 4 different restaurants, but in the end we had to give up, praying that our families don’t get too worried. Since some time now, the internet was our only way of communicating with home, as my phone got lost in Cambodia and Renato’s sim card was not working. We got internet only in Mandalay…
Nyaung Shwe was really quite crowded, although not with foreign tourists, but mainly locals. There was Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival taking place at the lake. The next day, when we took off on our boat early at dawn, I understood why there were so many people everywhere. But about our boat ride you can read in the next post.
More photos from Myanmar here.