Hello, my name is Romain Miot. Welcome to my guide on the best things to do at Inle Lake. I am a 25 year old physiotherapist practicing in Paris and in the French overseas territory of Wallis and Futuna, South Pacific.
During my childhood in Limoges, I spent most of my time playing in the garden looking for a way to escape as I’m a curious person. Subsequently, my desire to escape made me decide to move to Spain to study physiotherapy where I spent four wonderful years studying.
During these years, I matured. I learned to fend for myself and managed to curb a shyness in me that had become oppressive. It was a victory that I won over myself and from which I grew. When I was 21, I left with my backpack as my only companion to fulfill a dream: visiting Easter Island.
Passionate about travel, I now run around the world attempting to make my biggest dream come true: to visit every country in the world. My plan in life is to discover the most beautiful nature on earth and meet the world’s many diverse inhabitants. I absolutely love experiencing new cultures.
I also love photography. I take pleasure in sharing unique moments (where I travel off the beaten path) on my social networks. Interacting with my followers to constantly exchange experiences is rewarding for me.
Two and a Half Weeks in Myanmar
The idea to travel to Myanmar came when my boyfriend was on a business trip in China. At the end of his trip we decided to meet in Myanmar. I already knew a lot about Southeast Asia, just like him, but we hadn’t explored Myanmar yet. Our anticipation to visit this country was high.
We had long heard about this enchanting destination – with its landscapes, cities, temples and culture not yet overwhelmed by mass tourism. It seemed like a few other Southeast Asian countries before over-tourism.
In the end, we spent two and a half weeks in this charming country and started in the city of Yangon and its surroundings. Then we branched off to the east to the sublime city of Hpa-An. We were amazed by this region.
Next, we went to Mandalay to explore the area, to Bagan to visit the famous temples and hidden gems south of the region, headed to Inle Lake and finally we finished at the beaches of the Indian Ocean at Ngapali. It was an amazing journey and one that we won’t be forgetting in a hurry!
Falling in Love with Inle Lake
We spent two days at Inle Lake and visited remote areas. Having the help of Phiu – a Burmese guide who spoke almost perfect French – was ideal. We saw Inle Lake for the first time from our hotel room. The lake was calm, there were no waves and we could see the lilies, grass and fishermen.
After seeing so many photos of this lake on Instagram, finally seeing it with my own eyes was an incredible feeling. I couldn’t make out the end of the lake because it was so massive. The sapphire blue colour of the lake reflects the azure sky in an almost perfect way. My first impressions were fantastic.
My favourite place at Inle Lake was the photogenic Naung Taw Village. I had such a relaxing time passing between the stilt houses that seem to come straight out of a movie! These houses appear to float on water.
Top 10 Things To Do at Inle Lake
There is no doubt that Inle Lake is one of the highlights of Myanmar. The vast lake, marshes and floating gardens – mixed with the floating villages, Buddhist temples and famous fishermen – make for a wonderful scene. For your first visit to Inle Lake, I recommend the following 10 things to do:
1. Explore the Floating Gardens of Inle Lake
Just picture a series of artificial islands growing lush produce on top of the lake. Farmers of these floating gardens grow things like tomatoes, squash and flowers. Floating carpets of vegetation are supported by wooden trellises which keep the produce above water. A truly magical sight!
2. See the Cats of Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery
The famous Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery was once renowned for its jumping cats. These acrobatic felines were trained by monks to jump through hoops while recitations of sacred texts were read out. These days, you will find the cats lounging around the monastery with no jumping.
3. Visit the Sacred Phaung Daw Oo Paya Pagoda
Phaung Daw Oo Paya Pagoda is the most sacred religious site in the southern Shan State of Myanmar. Here you can see five statues of the Buddha that have become shapeless covered in golden leaf. Each year the Pagoda Festival brings boats onto Inle Lake in the form of a “hintha” – mythical bird symbol – where the five statues are decorated beautifully.
4. Watch a Sunset over Inle Lake by the Fishermen
What better way to cap off a day exploring the lake than by watching the sun set majestically over the waters. This is the perfect opportunity to take some creative photos. You can even join a sunset cruise if you fancy.
5. Learn How Cigars are Made at Nampan Village
Nampan Village rests peacefully on stilts and is famous for having several small cheroot factories. On my visit, I learned how the women roll cigars with these tobacco leaves. The Burmese cigar is rolled with blond tobacco leaves, aromatic wood shavings, spices and fruit pulps such as tamarind.
6. Experience a Weaving Workshop at In Phaw Khone
In Phaw Khone is where you can see a weaving workshop. Here you learn about the dexterity of weavers in making scarves and squares from the fibers of lotus stems. The items are expensive which is understandable considering the time spent and number of people involved.
7. Take a Boat Ride South to Inthein Village
Just 30 minutes south of Inle Lake by boat and you arrive at the village of Inthein. On the way you will traverse through dams. This village is dotted with centuries-old stupas which we were lucky to experience with our guide. We also saw the Pa-O tribes and villages made out of bamboo.
8. Join a Hot Air Balloon Flight over Inle Lake
Seeing Inle Lake from the air would have been incredible. However, we did this experience at the temples of Bagan and didn’t want to do it again at the lake. But for those who love hot air ballooning, I believe Inle Lake would be a unique experience as you look over the lake, marshes and gardens.
9. Travel out to Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp
A bit further out from Inle Lake, you can find a place called Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp. It was founded in 2011 by a family that has been working with pachyderms for a long time. This refuge is like a sanctuary for elephants where they arrive in states of fatigue or injury (due to logging, poaching or exploitation) and then are nursed back to health.
Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp is the place for them to start a new life by getting all the food they need and, above all, rest. Green Hill Valley is part of an approach to respect nature and the ecosystem as well as the reforestation of bamboo. We were even invited to plant trees in the area!
10. Relax at the Swimming Pool of your Hotel
I sincerely recommend all travellers stay at Sofitel. It’s more expensive than other hotels but the location is in the middle of the lake with a view of the sunset and stilt houses. This makes it a charming stay, even for one night.
My time at Sofitel was divine. The hostesses at the reception were always listening to us and we didn’t feel like royalty being in a luxury hotel which is exactly what we were looking for. The Sofitel is an enchanting setting.
Meeting the Locals of Inle Lake
The different populations of Inle Lake are all kind and welcoming. I spent my time saying hello, exchanging smiles and glances. They are shy people but when we smiled at them, a part of their shyness went away.
We had the chance to see the typical fishermen of Inle Lake at sunset. It was a captivating moment. Some of the fishermen row their boats on one leg just for the tourists and don’t even fish! But we were lucky to bump into a real fisherman on our way back to the Sofitel for the night.
Enjoying the Fresh Fish of Inle Lake
We ate at Eyeful Lake Restaurant. They serve typical Shan dishes made with fish from the lake and spices. I can’t remember the name of the dish but it was good. The views from the restaurant were amazing and the atmosphere was relaxing. In the village close to the Phaung Daw Oo Paya Pagoda there is a market where you can shop for fresh fruits.
Need to Know Before you Go
My main recommendation for Inle Lake is to take the time to look at how life is unfolding around you. There are many things to see at Inle Lake but it’s by seeing it slowly and attentively that you can appreciate it.
It’s also important to get to know the culture. You can see how they build their boats, where they live, what they eat, etc. And it’s not difficult to experience this as the people are so warm and welcoming. The people of Myanmar are beautiful and it made our journey that much more enjoyable.
I would like to leave you with my favourite memory of Inle Lake. Meeting our guide Phiu at the last moment was my favourite memory. Phiu has a deep knowledge of this place. She knows how to explain the places we visited in detail. It’s thanks to her that we had a wonderful time!