We had originally debated going to Inle Lake in Myanmar, but oh are we so glad we didn’t miss it! After visiting the big city of Yangon and beautiful beaches of Ngapali, this captivating lake setting was such a nice change of pace. An Inle lake boat tour is the best way to see the local way of life of the fishermen, and the incredible artistry of the floating village. You’ll also get a chance to see the Shwe Indein Pagoda and much more before taking in the Inle Lake sunset from the water!
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Booking Your Inle Lake Boat Tour
Private: We chose to book a private boat tour through our hotel and were shocked when we heard the price. It was only 25,000 MMK which comes out to be $17 USD for the over 8 hour trip. Yes, you’re reading that right! This gave us the freedom to stay at places as long as we liked, and build a custom tour based on what we wanted to see.
Group: For the low price you might as well do a private Inle Lake tour. However, some of the boats are large enough to accommodate 8-10 people if you’d rather take a group tour.
Sunrise Vs. Sunset at Inle Lake
It’s very debatable which one is better, but we chose to see the Inle Lake sunset over sunrise for a couple different reasons. The first was that our hotel told us sunset is the better option in January because it’s more visible this time of year.
We’re also just sunset people and liked the timing of the cruise better. Our driver picked us up at 10am, and we returned around 6pm just before dinner. If you pick the sunrise option know that you’ll need to start around 5am, and the first portion of your tour will be in the dark.
First Impressions on the Water
Our driver met us at our hotel and walked with us 5 minutes where we would set out onto the lake. When we first got out onto the water we couldn’t believe our eyes. Inle Lake was so massive! From the town to the floating village alone took us one hour to cross.
You will be surrounded by mountains and nature as you zoom across the water, but the real entertainment is watching the Inle Lake fishermen.They have a unique way of rowing with one foot as they dip a large fishing net in with their hands and legs from the end of the boat.
You should know a select few Inle Lake fishermen are actually out there just to take pictures for money. If they start posing as you approach don’t be alarmed, but know that if you take photos they will expect a tip.
Cruising Through the Floating Village
The first thrill of our Inle Lake boat tour was making it to the different floating villages. As we approached we literally saw hundreds of houses on stilts sitting in the middle of the lake! Now we’ve been to other floating villages in places like Lake Titicaca Bolivia, but that was nothing in size compared to what we saw here.
There are an astounding 17 different floating villages on or around Inle Lake. They’re built primarily with wood and bamboo, and are sturdy enough for entire families to live in.
So how do they survive out here on the water you might ask? Well aside from the Inle lake fishermen doing their thing, the soil is amazingly fertile on Inle Lake in Myanmar. This means they grow everything from tomatoes to eggplant, and even watermelons for daily consumption!
Other Things Produced in Inle Lake Myanmar
A huge part of your Inle Lake boat tour will be seeing how their most popular products are made firsthand. Your driver will drop you off at various floating houses during your trip to do this. When you arrive at each stop there will be someone there to greet you and help you off the boat.
You’ll then get a tour of the building, and someone who works there will explain how the item is made as you watch them create it. The final part of each stop is predictable, but clearly the most important for the locals. Lastly, you’re brought into a store or gift shop where you can buy all things you’ve just seen made.
We really did enjoy this part of the tour and learning the different ways they make a living on the lake. Nevertheless, you should be prepared for your driver to bring you to multiple cloth and silver shops on your trip unless you say something.
So unless you’re keen on doing some more shopping, one of each of these cloth and silver stops will be enough. Don’t be afraid to speak up especially if you’re on a private Inle Lake boat tour.
Cloth Sewing and Weaving
Scarfs, blankets, and other clothing are all made by the women of Inle Lake. It’s incredible to see them use their sewing and weaving machines to create these works of art. They mostly work with cotton and silk, but the unique material was saw utilized here was lotus.
One women was sewing a scarf out of the lotus stem that we were told would take her over 30 days to complete. The price we were quoted was $180 USD for a lotus scarf, and after watching what it takes to make that actually seems low!
Another huge export from Inle Lake Myanmar is the silver and copper jewelry. We were shown each step of the process here. From how the special rocks are broken down and mixed with acid to being molded right in the fire. They then take the material and shape it into traditional earrings, necklaces, and rings.
Most of the jewelry found on the lake is over 90% silver where as in town it might be a higher percentage of copper. The true test is to scratch what you’re buying on the black rock found at most stores and stands. If the rock turns brown it’s fake, yet if the colors silver you’ll know it’s the real deal!
Traditional Boat Building
You’ll quickly notice that boats are the key to life not just for the Inle Lake fishermen, but to everyone that lives in this region of Myanmar. These days they’re becoming a huge part of the tourism industry as well running boat tours like ours. We were brought to a small shop where they were building the boats right in front of us, and it was a sight to see!
The coolest part of it is that they don’t use any metal screws or shafts in the building process. They’re made completely out of wood, and they use a black tar-like substance to seal it all together. Just one of these traditional long boats takes up to 45 days to build!
Aside from the infamous chewing of betel nut, cheroot’s are the most popular tobacco used in Myanmar. You’ll see everyone from the Inle Lake fishermen to the local farmers smoking these green cigars and bellowing the thick smoke into the air. They’re different from the normal cigars you might be used to as they are made with thanal-phet tree leaves and dried wood seasonings.
The cigars are also coated with honey, pineapple, or whatever sweet flavor you’d like. At one of the silver shops we were taken into a back room where there were five women hand rolling them. Here you can try smoking one if you’d wish, or just marvel at the speed of which they roll them together. The women we sat in front of said she rolls over 1,000 cheroot’s a day!
Glimpse of the Kayan Tribe
Another stop worth mentioning in the floating villages was seeing the “Long Neck Ladies” of the Kayan tribe. Here they sell all the arts and crafts we described above. Yet, the main draw is the women wearing their distinctive neck rings. It was kind of off-putting for us personally just stopping here to snap a picture of this sacred cultural neck piece. Still, it was an interesting part of the tour to say the least.
Shwe Indein Pagoda
The last stop we made before seeing the Inle Lake sunset was the marvelous Shwe Indein Pagoda. We were dropped off at the entrance, and were surprised when our driver told us we had 45 minutes here. However, once we finished we actually wished we had more time!
The walk up to the Shwe Indein Pagoda is a pillared pathway for 10-15 minutes of what felt like its own local market. This is another chance to buy arts and crafts, dolls, clothing, or local paintings. When we finally got up to the Shwe Indein Pagoda we were mesmerized by what we saw.
What seemed like hundreds of gold, brown, and gray pagodas stood before us, with sparkling chimes sounding off all around. Most of the pagodas were built in the 17th and 18th centuries, but people have been living here for over 2,000 years! This was easily one of our favorite parts of Inle Lake in Myanmar. Even if you don’t decide on a full day boat tour, you should still make a point to still visit this ancient shrine.
General Tips For Your Inle Lake Tour
There is no set route for the Inle Lake Boat tour, but they all go to the same places. The order of each spot you visit is up to your particular driver.
You will need to get in and out of the boat 15-20 times during the tour. Make sure you are physically able to do so.
Bartering is acceptable at the cloth and silver shops along your tour. We also found the prices for silver jewelry to be lower at the night market in town. Just don’t forget to do the test to make sure it’s real silver!
You will visit several other temples in addition to the Shwe Indein Pagoda on your journey. Wear appropriate clothing and be prepared to remove your shoes before entering.
Just because you do the sunrise tour doesn’t mean you have to miss sunset at Inle Lake! You can easily hire a boat to take you out for the magical golden hour, too.
Have any questions on our tour, or want to share your own Inle Lake sunset story? Comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
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Where To Stay in Inle Lake Myanmar
Ultra Luxury – Sofitel Inle Lake Myat Min – There’s numerous hotel options available on Inle Lake, but for real luxury you’ll need to go to Sofitel! The resort features a lakeside infinity pool, full bar, restaurant, and all the amenities you’d expect in a luxury stay.
Fun Vacation – ViewPoint Ecolodge – Viewpoint Ecolodge is set on a private part of the lake minutes away from Inle. Bungalows all have large beds and treated water that you can actually drink. The best part of the property is a beautiful pool that stretches out over the waterfront.
Travel Couple – The Hotel Emperor-Inle – We stayed here in the center of Nyaung Shwe and it was the perfect headquarters for exploring the area. The front desk can set up your boat tour to see the Inle Lake fishermen or trip to the Shwe Indein Pagoda. There’s also a glorious view from the 6th floor rooftop bar to see the Inle Lake sunset!
Hostel Life – Ostello Bello Nyaung Shwe – Ostello Bello has the reputation as the best hostel in Myanmar, and the same is true in Inle Lake! Here you can enjoy the rooftop, luggage storage, daily activities, and free Burmese cheroot’s all day.
For more places to stay near Inle Lake Myanmar you can explore the latest prices here!
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