Inle Lake was a smooth trip after Bagan. When we arrived at the hotel we went straight to bed for a few hours shut eye.
Transportation: We took the overnight bus, VIP, at 20$ each. Left at 7PM in Bagan and arrived in Inle Lake sister town, Nyaungshwe, at 4:30AM. Although we booked with the travel agent VIP, the bus was in normal 2 by 2 seat formation. Our guess is that since the bus rides to Nyaungshwe are quite new, the actual VIP buses don’t go there yet, anyway… we were not very happy about that ride!
Accommodation: The place to stay and visit the Inle Lake is Nyaungshwe. Buses will bring you there anyway when you say you want to go to Inle Lake. Our guesthouse Mingalar Inn was right behind the main pagoda 200m from bus station.
Our review of Mingalar Inn: Standard rooms are overpriced. Deluxe rooms should be the price of what are the Standard ones. However they are good with early check-ins. They keep your bags after check-out and let you shower at the end of the day before heading to your next destination also. Not very helpful in terms of keeping bags of non guests. We tried to hold someone’s bag temporarily since they we’re taking the bus the same day, but the staff refused to collaborate, blaming it as a security matter from the government. Other than that the other staff is nice & helpful. The rooms have some cool northern tribal decoration, but the rest is very old and ugly. Bathrooms are decent depending on which room you get. My favourite thing of the place was the pool. A perfect little oasis after big mornings on the Inle Lake. 32$/night.
How to get around: Unlike Bagan, push-bikes are the way to go around in Inle Lake. You can go faster with an e-bike if you plan to go to the Winery or bike closer to the Inle Lake itself.
After waking up, we got our push-bikes at 1,500 kyats (for a day!) each to stroll around the city of Nyaungshwe. We stopped in a random Chinese restaurant to grab brunch. The place was full of men, I was literally the only female in the place for 20 minutes, aside from the staff. After cheeky noodles and rice, we kept biking around and visited the pagoda beside the guesthouse.
A nap was obviously on schedule until we woke up for a tiny bike ride before hitting the Red Mountain Winery outside of town for some wine tasting! The ride is a flat 4km ride, which is easy. The tricky part is when you arrive at the winery, it’s a short hill to get up there! Mitch had to push both our bikes so I can walk like a little princess 🙂 – lucky me.
Red Mountain Winery is one of the recommended spots to enjoy a sunset with wine. We took the tasting wines at 2,500 kyats for 4 glasses. They are small, but it’s for tasting so worth it. I only enjoyed one of the 4, can’t even remember which one because I forgot to take a picture of the menu. All I remember is that we have 3 white wines, including a Muscat Sec, and 1 red.
We enjoyed everything with a delicious soup, cheese and tofu crispies!
On our way back, it was a little bit dark. Like a blind bat, I went so hard on the speed bump and my camera flew out of my bike basket! The camera is mint but my Nikkor 55-200mm zoom suffered fatal wounds. It was in two pieces! I had no idea what to do and was more sad about not having a zoom lens for the boat pictures the day after. What I did is to repair it my way. Haha, so lame, I maybe made it worse, but the most important is that I could take some pictures! The zoom became the focus and the focus became the zoom, omg I have to repair this in a proper camera shop when I don’t travel anymore…
ANYWAY, that’s how day one was for me. A roller coaster of emotions for a stupid lens haha!
Another early start for MitchMi (Mitch & Mimi) as we met in the foyer at 5am for our boat driver to come collect us. We met with him and proceeded to walk 15 minutes to the canal that services to township. We hopped on a motorised boat and cruised out to the main lake. It was almost surreal, so quiet in the middle of the lake, not the lake full of tourist boats we had been expecting.
As the sun rose up over the mountains, Thuymi snapped furiously away on her camera getting those famous pictures. A fisherman sailed right past us just for effect and getting a great shot in the process.
After sunrise, we continued south down towards the bottom of the lake. We visited a silk making shop, a cigar shop, The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda (the most famous in the area), drove past the Floating Gardens and saw the long neck ladies making scarves (they really are a unusual sight, make sure you see them)
We got back at about 11am, pretty exhausted from the speed and heat of the tour.
We think you need to be very careful when you book tours here for Inle Lake. All of them will try to get you into shops to buy objects, so please make sure you make it crystal clear that you DO NOT want this, (unless you do) – They are very cheap $10-15 Dollars for Half and whole day tours. A full day tour will take it out of you, as the heat bears days relentlessly on you on the lake.