An approximately 7 hour bus ride took me from Mandalay to Nyaungshwe near Inle Lake and then hopped in a taxi to travel the rest of the way to the lake. The constant traffic jams at the bus station made this trip way longer than it needed to be, but hey I got there in the end. I checked into a relatively nice place called the Remember Inn (for US$20 a night) and then went exploring around the small town. For a small fee you can cycle around the village and the surrounding countryside, which is a pretty great way to spend the day.
Spending time in Nyaungshwe/Inle Lake is a great way to get a feel of the culture in Myanmar. It honestly felt like I was stepping back in time. Most of the women still all wear traditional make-up and the men wear a skirt type of clothing called a longyi. Everyone also chews betel nut, which seems to do awful things to your teeth (despite one man telling me it was good for them!) I found that the markets were a great place to walk around, people watch and try a few new things.
The thing to do when visiting Inle Lake is to pay someone to take you on a tour of the lake in their boat. This can be done for about US$20 for a full day. The lake is beautiful and I loved watching the fishermen using traditional methods to catch fish. The use long canoe type boats and leg row them, which was a bit strange to see.
We went through village after village that had all been built on the lake – their homes resting on stilts. Everything was on the lake, including chickens! The lake had a myriad of different places making different things such as materials out of lotus plants and tobacco for cigars.
One of the more interesting stops on my tour around the lake was to a Monastery where the Monks had taught the many cats there how to jump. Too be honest though, all the cats did for me was to lounge around and sleep. Maybe you will have better luck!
Overall Inle Lake was an interesting and beautiful place to visit. The people were friendly and the village was a good place to relax for a few days. Cost wise, you are looking at NZ$60-$70 per day (US$40-$50).
Editor’s Note: Visited Myanmar in 2012, updated in 2017.