Myanmar is a mysterious and unknown country to many of us. Most connect Myanmar with the politician Aung San Suu Kyi who was in house arrest for years and is the face for the “new” Myanmar.
What we don’t know is what the country is like. During a trip in July this year I did a short trip to the country also known as Burma and besides the capital Yangoon in the South and Bagan in the west I also visited the city of Inle at the Inle Lake.
Inle is a little town at the top of the Inle Lake. Not very big and doesn’t offer much but has everything to fulfill the main needs of a traveler. Everything is a bit more expensive than anywhere else in the country since it is so small and manly all tourists stop here to do a trip around the lake. You can find out how much it costs to travel in Myanmar here!
What to do in Inle
Most people would say that the only thing you can do at Inle is to do a lake tour. I’d agree if I wouldn’t have talked to many other fellow travelers who had more time there and told me some pretty great things to do around that area.
First, things first!
The lake tour is a must do. If you have a little bit of time do a full day tour, if you have a lot of time do a two to three days tour! The tours are very cheap but that is only because the boat drivers get a commission for everything you buy on the lake. The thing is, that the boat tours are a little rip off… they drive you from one workshop to another to show you how good products they produce with the same technique they used years ago… hoping that you buy something!! During a full day tour you will visit about 4-6 workshops creating silverware, clothes, cigars and other stuff… They are very expensive for Burmese prices but still cheap if converted to your local currency!!
The boat driver will pick you up at your ho(s)tel, and take you around the lake. The first two hours you will just drive and stop to see a couple of local Fishermen who are famous for the way they paddle in their boats. The rest of the tour you will, as mentioned, stop at all the workshops and for lunch at a fairly expensive restaurant. Sometimes there are other restaurants around. You can go for a wander and have a look around. They mostly are a little cheaper than the one your driver chose.
It is not allowed to travel around alone in Myanmar, you need to have a guide to rent a car and explore the country by yourself, but you can rent a bike in the little towns and drive from one town to another. A great way to get out of the “touristy” spots and explore the “real” country! Make sure that you check your bike before you leave… You don’t want to get stuck anywhere on the road!
There are some hot springs not far from Inle. It’s a very scenic ride but be warned that the pools don’t look that nice but it feels nice to be in them!
Where to stay in Inle
There are many fairly cheap ho(s)tells in Inle.
May Guesthouse, No. 85, Myawaddy Road, NyaungShweVery friendly, clean and comfortable family run hotel. In the middle of many monasteries. US$12.
Remember Inn, (In the north of town). Fairly clean (for being Burma), but old rooms and a lovely rooftop relaxation area. Nice breakfast and they are happy to help with organising flights, boats and hikes. The owner is very nice and helpful. US$5-25. I stayed at this one and we had a great time!!
Shwe Inn Tha, Thar Lay Village. Located on the lake itself, quite close to the floating gardens.
Aquarius Inn. Near the lake, very friendly family owned Inn with a fantastic breakfast. US$5-20.
Joy Hotel, Jetty Rd (on canal). Friendly staff, clean, with nice view of busy canal each morning. Less touristy end of town, but still pleasant (close to cheap local restaurants) $5/$10.
How to get to Bagan
There are a couple of ways on how to get to Inle depending on the budget you are on.
The easiest and fastest way is to fly. All flights in Myanmar circle around and stop at some cities. They all start in Yangoon and stop first in Bagan, next stop is Mandalay and then they continue to Heho (Inle) before returning to Yangoon.
From Heho you need to get to Inle which is about an hour away. The taxis are very expensive and might cost you between 25 000 – 40 000 Kyats. You might get a cheaper cab by walking out of the airport and walking down the street. The further you walk the cheaper the prices might be…
A much cheaper option but also less comfortable than a flight is taking a bus to Inle. From Yangoon they will tell you that it takes about 13 hours. Plan with 15-17 to be on the safe site if you need to get a flight or anything of same importance. The price for the bus from Yangoon is about $20. From Bagan you can get with the Bus to Inle in about 7 hours and will cost you between $7-10.
One of the worst bus rides I ever had was between Inle and Yangoon. The buses are old and not big enough for tall people and the streets are old and need a lot of maintenance!
You can travel to Inle by car but it is only allowed with a guide provided by the government. Traveling in Myanmar is still very restricted and the government only opened a couple of cities for tourism.
Have you been to Inle or do you plan to visit it when in Myanmar? Let us know your opinion in the comments blow!