So you’ve been doing your research of places to visit in Myanmar and you’ve typed in ‘things to do in Inle’ because you notice this place looks pretty interesting, but you’re just not sure what it’s all about.
Don’t worry, when I was in your position, I felt the same way.
I mean, I’d heard of Yangon where we fly into, Bagan where all the fabled temples are, and the old kingdom of Mandalay.
But Inle? I needed more convincing.
However, given this is a travel site, and I had been approached by a couple of businesses in the area, I thought it would be remiss of me not to check the place out.
So when I arrived at this very under-publicised town, it was only natural that I felt what is becoming an exceedingly rare feeling these days: wondrous awe.
Oh how I had erred in even considering skipping Inle.
And before you read any further, I implore you to book your flight, train, or bus to get here.
Inle lake is unimaginably large (a bike ride around it will give you a taste of that), and incomparably marvellous in the way it plays home to the thousands of residents who have, over centuries, cultivated a society that lives, farms, and trades directly on the lake.
Nowhere else in the world will you find a civilization like this.
So without further ado, these are the top things to do in Inle once you book that ticket:
Top things to do in Inle
Take a hot air balloon ride
Without a doubt, this is not only the best experience I had in Inle, but in Myanmar as a whole.
Myanmar is no stranger to hot air balloon tours. Balloons Over Bagan has been showing tourists the marvels of the ancient region since 1999.
But it’s only since November 2015 that balloons have been flying over the spectacular Inle region, and I mean SPECTACULAR!
A booking with these guys will not only give you a door-to-door service, but also a highly experienced British pilot as a host, and a skyline shared by no others.
Unlike in Bagan, you’ll have the whole region to yourself.
Maybe you could be the first person in the world to propose in a hot air balloon over Inle?
Get lost in the floating gardens
The floating gardens are the icon of Inle.
Somehow, some centuries ago, the local people decided the lake was too valuable to simply look at, and decided to not only build their homes on it, but also engineer vast crops, which literally float above the water all year round.
This has to be seen to be believed.
Visit the Silversmith
Myanmar was once one of the richest kingdoms in the world.
I’m talking Egyptian levels.
And it’s because of this, and the immaculate existence of it’s 2000-odd 2000 year old temples that it isn’t as well publicized.
Even up until 60 years ago, Myanmar was a powerhouse in Asia until poor governance oversaw its steep decline into poverty.
However, the jewels and riches that once made this land so powerful still exist. And it is silver, most prolifically, that is worked and fashioned in factories on Inle Lake.
The work done here is second-to-none.
Again, an undiscovered treasure.
See real-life longnecks at work
The Shan people are an ancient culture living in the east of Myanmar.
You may not have heard of them, but you’ve certainly seen one of their most iconic traditions.
The long-neck ladies are a dying breed, but there are still some that reside in Inle, and you can see them in person working on their latest woven design.
I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if they took off the gold? Would their neck be all floppy?
Learn how the locals make cigars
I’ve been to cigar or two before. I’ve never purchased any, but I’ve always marveled at the display of those making them by hand.
Each culture has their own way of doing it with their own local ingredients.
Here in Inle, I found the way they make theirs to be quite unique.
Check out the monastery markets
The monastery is one of the only buildings that built partially on land.
Still out in the center of the lake, this home to the local monks opens it’s doors to a few dozen market vendors who will be happy to sell you anything from fabrics to wood carvings, jewelry to local cuisine.
See a real longboat builder
Did you know, for USD$2,500 you could have one of these babies for your very own?
Throw in another USD$500 and you’ll have a motor too.
I’ve always found boatbuilding to be a fascinating art, and these guys explain exactly how they do it, and why the tourist taxi longboats are so much sturdier than the local ones.
Visit Nyaung Shwe
Nyaung Shwe is the gateway town to Inle. It sits up against the lake and operates a semi-aquatic life amongst the many stone-retained canals that carve through it.
With its own vibrancy and culture, I definitely recommend not just skipping through here. At least take half a day to walk the streets and eat the local food.
Check out the pagodas
After all, this is Myanmar. And no town in Myanmar would be complete without some ridiculously elaborate golden pagodas acting as beacons and places of worship for it’s people.
I particuluarly liked these ones as they offered a brilliant mountainside view of the lake from their elevated locations.
Did I mention take a hot air balloon ride?
Seriously, don’t miss this!
To do all these things, I recommend finding yourself a guide.
However, in Inle your guide is pretty much your longboat driver.
Find one with a nice nature (easy) and good enough English skills (easy enough) and he will take you around the lake from 8am-7pm for just 23,000 kyat (USD$20) per boat.
For more information on where to stay in Inle or just how amazing the hot air balloon experience is, see below:
Bonus round: If you’re looking for something seriously authentic and local, check out this extremely interesting insight into an authentic puppet show in Inle!
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- Have you ever been to Inle before?
- Do you have any other recommendations for the WSF community?