I realized I haven’t eaten breakfast since I was too caught up trying to work around some obstacles after arriving in Inle Lake. So with the Balloon Festival happening in the next town of Taunggyi, all the accommodations in Inle Lake were all fully booked. Prices have also somewhat shot up like the accommodations and tours the town offers. Good thing the food prices haven’t changed. I got a very tasty Fried Rice Chicken for 2000 kyat for brunch before exploring this little town north of Inle Lake.
The placid Inle Lake, has been attracting visitors way before when government gave limited access to the area. It is part of the “Big Four” attractions in Myanmar which includes Yangon, Bagan and Mandalay. And to explore Inle Lake, one has to get into the town of Nyaungshwe just north of the lake with access to the main road. The town holds most of the inland accommodations, numerous eateries, main market, tour agencies and internet cafes. It’s a tourist town yes but it has this easy backpacker vibe – small and quaint since there are no high rise structures and a lot of dirt road in its grid-like streets.
I went to an internet station with a tour agency and inquired for a tour for Inle Lake. As expected, the regular price for 12000 kyat for an afternoon’s tour doubled up to 25000 kyat. The reason is that there weren’t many boatmen around since most of them would be attending the Balloon Festival at Taunggyi. This somehow disappointed me a bit as 25000 kyat is just too much. I decided to just explore what is in the town.
I walked to the North-eastern side of the town for the Buddha Museum. It’s an old heritage brick and teak palace which used to house many Shan Ethnic culture and historical items, but when the Junta seized control, everything Shan were removed to be replaced with images of different generations of Buddha. It’s still an interesting visit especially when looking into the palace rooms with some eerie music and numerous Buddha statues that seemed to gaze at you at every corner. There’s a US$2 entrance fee for foreigners and photography is not allowed.
The Mingala Market was my next stop as I would cut through it on my way to a temple past it. Being mid-day, there’s little activity seen now. I heard it gets busy here in the morning with a lot of fishes being brought in from the river. Now there are just a few tribes with their wares almost relaxing in the mid-day.
I found Yadana Mang Aung Paya past the market. It is the oldest and most important temple in Nyaungshwe with its unique stepped-up stupa and a museum amassing the treasures from the monks like ancient lacquerwares, carvings and costumes. But I wasn’t really in the mood to do temples at that time so I decided not to enter.
Heading west to the direction of the lake, I found myself at the main boat landing area near the bridge. It was one of the jump-off for touring Inle Lake. I tried my luck with some people inquiring about the boat tour but got the same double-priced fare. Then Monterey found me, the first guy I asked about the boat tour at the internet shop. He finally agreed with the regular price of 12000 kyat. I only have a little over 2 hours left and he told me he could take me on a couple of villages nearby. This time I agreed.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.