This was the best place I visited in Myanmar. It had the smallest feel, was easy to navigate, and had everything I needed. I stayed in a great little guest house, less than a 10 minute walk from the middle of town, Blissful Inn. It was quite clean and the staff were very helpful. The price was right too! They took care of all my needs, got my on a bus to get me to Bagan and arranged a boat for me. Oh and the price includes a free breakfast with eggs made to order. $20.00 for a single.
I decided last minute to take a train from Yangon to Inle Lake. Last minute was the theme for this trip. No planning, no research. I didn’t even get my visa until the day of my flight. The trains in Myanmar are horribly outdated and the tracks didn’t feel very level. You could look down the train and see the cars swaying back in forth in a chaotic dance and while I was in my sleeper bed, I caught air more than once. I might have caught a few minutes of sleep here and there. But I love trains and try to avoid busses and there was a very good reason for taking the train.
There is a slow train that winds through the backcountry and mountains from Thazi to Inle. It’s a great way to get a feel for the country and its people if you don’t have the time to do proper exploring. It was well worth losing a nights sleep for the wonderful train ride through the countryside. I won’t say the scenery was anything close to northern Vietnam or rice terraces in the Philippines, but it was nice.
There is one, must do thing in Inle, a tour around the lake in a boat. I had the boat to myself, which was great, I’d highly recommend it. Normally, a trip like this takes all day when you have a full boat of 5-6 people. I was able to do it in a bit over a half day, which left me with time to get a great massage at the spa in town. Having my own boat I went were I wanted and stayed for as long as I wanted. No waiting on anyone and it was under $20 bucks!
There were many village on the lake, all on stilts, some had built up little islands as yards, most were free standing huts with woven bamboo walls. The first thing you see when you come out on to the lake are these fisherman guys, who perform for tips. They have some serious balance!
There’s a bunch of tourist traps, places selling over priced locally made tourist stuff. But 2 of them are worth stopping at. There are places that make thread from lotus flowers, spin it, dye it, and weave it with old school looms. They show you the whole process in the shop, it was pretty cool. I also stopped at the wood makers. The guy showed me how they make boats like the one I was in. Also cool. The rest, just skip.
One thing that really surprised me is they build water gardens and I saw an acre of tomato’s growing in them!
Inle was had the best feel about it and is laid out conveniently. It felt like a beach town. I’d spend some more time there and do some tracking as well.