Inle Lake at Shan State

Inle Lake is charming and picturesque

, an enjoyable spot for visitors it is located in the middle of the Shan State,30 kilometers from Taungyi, the capital. It is 875 meters above sea level, 22.4 kilometers long, Intha or lake dwellers live in wooden houses built on stilts in the calm, shallow waters, tending their floating vegetable gardens and do fishing.

They also work with gold and other metals, weaving traditional cotton Shan bags, weaving silk products and making apparel, producing vegetable oil and making cheroots.

Yaunghwe or Nyaungshwe on the northern tip of Inlay lake is 35 kilometers from the nearest airport at Heho. There are flights from both Yangon and Mandalay. Yangon is 660 kilometers by road, Mandalay 330 kilometers.

Travelers can also take the railway to Heho. The small town of Yaunghwe is the main settlement in the area and the starting  point for lake excursions.

We hire a boat to take us through a straight, narrow portion of the Nankand Canal with cultivated land on both banks bordered by bamboo poles and wooden railing.

A few houses on stilts, small banana groves, some ducks, swine, and a water buffalo or two can be seen. Gulls perch on the whitewashed railings The waterway widens as it enters Inle Lake proper about 20 minutes after we leave the dock.

Inle Lake Monastery

Inle Lake Monastery


The air is crisp and cool and the misty blue hills surrounding the lake are visible in the distance through the haze. White pagodas occupy some of the hill tops. A few tiny patches of water hyacinths float among the long, narrow boats and dug-outs typical of those used on the lake. The operator skillfully and speedily pushes the boat by working the oar with one foot and balancing on the other. Most of the boats have a tall conical trap with netting stretched over the framework. By keeping his hands free the fisherman can drop his traps over the fish he sees in the clear blue waters.

Some boats carry goods such as fresh vegetables, flowers or firewood and are rowed either by leg or in the conventional hand-paddled manner. Some boats are engaged in bringing up silt, mud, weed and other decaying vegetation from the lake bottom, scooping them up in a coarse basket attached to the end of a pole. These are matted or woven together and anchored to the lake bed with bamboo poles forming floating gardens on which tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, peas, beans, fruits and flowers are grown.

Progress along the lake is indicated by the white mileposts sited at regular intervals. They are circular red discs with the distance covered marked on the approach side and the mileage from the opposite destination shown on the reverse side. Boats carryinglocals, visitors or tourists overtake our boat or speed past from the south creating tiny swells and spraying water on the people in
our boat. Gulls follow tourist boats to chase food tossed in the air. Water fowl are prevalent as Inlay is one of three fresh water lakes in Myanmar classified as wildlife sanctuaries.

At milepost 6, we pass Inlay Bo Teh, once a government rest house but now an exclusive vacation spot for officials of the Ministry of Tourism. Villages and hamlets loom to the right, occupying the foothills with tall coconut palms, mango and other shade trees providing a green outline in the distance. Lake traffic is not heavy although there are a number of fishing boats, excursion, lake travel and commodity transport boats interspersed with the canoes of the Intha — usually operated by women and children —tending plots in the floating gardens.

Some 13 kilometers out there is a village of 30-40 wood and bamboo houses about half with thatch roofing, the rest corrugated iron sheet roofed. Three kilometers furhter the boat enters a narrow, 23 metre channel with small villages on both sides. We now enter Ywama, called

“the floating village”

since all its streets are canals or chaungs. Ywama’s daily floating market is one of Inlay’s most well-known attractions. The main market day is Wednesday when there is a tremendous bustle of activity. Buyers and sellers all congregate in boats laden with fruits, flowers, vegetables, meat and fish, opium weights and brass artefacts, bags and clothing are traded and there are many kinds of handicrafts for the souvenir seeker.

The next stop is Thar Lay village, famous for weaving Almost every house has a loom for silk and cotton weaving. Many cafes cater to the hungry and thirsty. Together with the unceasing throng of the faithful, we walk to the top attraction and main sight of the tour, the Phaundaw Oo Pagoda on the canal bank.

This resplendent and well-maintained pagoda houses five Buddha images so heavily overlaid with gold leaf placed by devotees so as to make their original shapes unrecognizable. These images were brought back by King Alaungsithu in the 12th century from a expedition to the Malay Peninsula. The Phaundaw Oo us has been revered by Buddhists for eight centuries and is one of the principal shrines in er Myanmar. The three-day festival held annually he in October at the end of the Buddhist Lent is an he event of national importance. Four of the five he Buddha images are carried on royal ceremonial
barges past other main pagodas on Inlay.

This religious occasions draw participants and celebrants from all over the country to witness not only the royal barge procession but also the leg-rowing Intha boat races.

The air is warmer than when we first set out but still cool. On the one hour trip back Nyaungshwe we pass fishermen, leg paddlers, traders with boat loads of goods and lake-dwellers tending their cultivated plots — an unchanging, idyllic scene. Eucalyptus and lead trees, papaya and potted pines are growing on the places where we land. It is the early part of the hot season and flowering trees are in full bloom on the lake shores. The bombax with its bright red blossoms; the bougainvillea, bearing clusters of white and red blooms; the lilac blossoms of the jacaranda and the scarlet ones of the flame of the forest, to mention some, strike the eye of the visitor.

Surrounded by dark-blue mountains, this is are romantic scenes. Everyone moves with on a boat — a roaring powerboat or a leg rower gliding through the calm water. Beside of being a top tourism destination in the country the place has some unique features. First are the leg rowers and second it’s the aquaculture. The people live in villages on stilts planted into the lake plus a unique aquaculture with 3 times harvesting per year. This is one of the most interesting places in Asia, unfortunately or fortunately -it depends how you look at- almost no one knows this.

Moving through the channel

towards the lake the gulls fly overhead, many are sitting on the whitewashed railings. The waterway widens into open water as it enters the lake proper about 20 minutes later. Progress along the lake is indicated by the white mileposts sited at regular intervals, protruding out of the Inle Lake carrying circular red discs with the distance covered marked in miles on the approach

side and the mileage from the opposite direction shown on the reverse side of the disc. Boats carrying people, locals, visitors or tourists speed past, coming from the south, creating tiny swells in their wake and causing sprays of water to hit the people in your boat at Lake Inle. The Gulls follow tourist boats tossing up food into the air it’s a great scenery which everyone enjoys, luckily in Myanmar there are none of this Islamist and other sectarian madness which brought similar travel on lakes in Kashmir to a halt.

Intha canoes

Other water fowl can be seen as this one of the three fresh water lakes in Myanmar serving as wildlife sanctuaries for breeding of water birds and resting places for migratory water fowl, in addition to forming the basis for fisheries.

Inle Lake is reachable from Yangon

and Mandalay by flying to Heho then by road a distance of 35 km to Naungshwe on the northern tip of Inle Lake (if you are on your own you will always find a taxi at the airport) and when they try to play hard ball with you.

Just take your stuff and walk out to the main road you get a lift within minutes for a few dollars. This is not very comfortable but it is ok for the purpose.

Paddling through aquaculture

Paddling through Inle lake aquaculture in the morning


When traveling in the country

in general never take more than 2 bags or rucksack with you which you an carry on your body. By road from Yangon to Inle Lake it is a distance of some 660 km (400 ml) and from Mandalay it is about 330 km (200 ml).

Economics are tourism and aquaculture for harvesting 3 times per year, the people are very knowledgeable also they have only very limited access to communication.

Using the Oxcarts around Inle lake, it’s a bit slow but it gives beautiful pictures.


By rail to Shan State Heho

and then motor the 35 km. From Taungyi, capital of the Shan State it is just a 30 km (19 ml) motor trip to Inle Lake. Naungshwe, a small town, is the main settlement.

This is where to begin the excursion as motor boats for hire will take the traveler around to places of interest. Starting out through a straight narrow water pathway, the terminal portion of the Nankand Canal, with cultivated land on both banks hemmed off on each side by bamboo poles and wooden railing. A few houses on stilts, small banana groves, some ducks, swine, and a water buffalo or two can be seen on both sides of the canal.


Inle Lake Accomodation

Inle Lake Resort is a good hotel at the upper end of the price scale it also has a excellent location.
Inle Lake Accommodation Pristine Lotus Resort

The bungalow style Pristine Lotus Resort is at the main village at this area which is Naungshwe. It is almost a must to explore the area around, this is still original “upper Burma” as it always was without lots of modern influence just check the pictures they tell more

Inle lake accommodation, hotels and resorts

On the water and at the banks are plenty of accommodations with a wide price spectrum. This are hotels, resorts, cottages, bungalows and various houses including some former government guest houses.

The accommodations in the lake such as Golden Island Cottages are a bit basic without air-condition, the other hotels and resorts offer this and other amenities but what could be more romantic at staying right above the water in a pristine place where the cool air moves through anyway. Also the food in all this places is quite good. It is necessary to consider the timeframe on the water, it always needs to book and wait for a boat to anywhere which also are additional coasts. Try the GIC above right the are run by the natives.


Golden Island Cottages

Golden Island Cottages built in the lake on stilts, very nice setting they have some dancing show every evening, this hotel belong to the Pa-O ethnic group as a cooperative. They also arrange trekking tours into the hills. Needs good physical conditions and its worth a trek.

myanmar hotel

Another Myanmar hotel at the waterfront with a great view and a marvelous sunset or on the side sunrise. This is one of the the three top destination in the country.

There are several  village built on stilts

into the lake with up to 40 house made from wood and bamboo probably some of the most famous guys on the water are the leg rowing.

They are fishing with their traps by balancing with one leg on the boat, the other leg has the rudder firmly embraced.

The hands are busy with the traps, that’s real acrobatic since on top of it the canoe is moving.

Inle Lake houses built on stilts

Inle Lake houses built on stilts

Inle leg rowing

Artistic leg rowing is probably the most pictures object on the water

Monasteries are also built into the water so are several hotels and cottages, like the “golden Island Cottages” right in the middle of the lake. A good base for a Inle Lake tour are the golden Island Cottages.

Operated as a cooperative of the Pa-O people, who offer a excellent service and interesting trekking tours into the hills around to have a look into the Pa-O settlements with great sceneries and possibilities for excellent Inle Lake.


working on aquaculture

Working on aquaculture

Floating garden and aquaculture

The scenery and waterborne activities can easily match Venice in terms of beauty plus being unique and different at the same time.

There is no palazzo but unique pagodas and villages built on stilts right into the lake, giving a somehow visual pleasure and -very important- the people don’t try to rip you off like the Italians do in Venice.

You maybe know the price range in Venice -ice-cream 3 scoops 15 dollars- etc. or lousy spaghetti with a cockroach in there, so that you have some meat etc. this is standard in Venice and Italy, luckily not at Inle Lake Myanmar Burma. At milepost 6, Inlay ‘Bo Teh,’ once a government rest house but now solely at the disposal of Tourism Ministry bigwigs, stands solitary on the left of Lake Inle amid the vast expanse of water.

Villages and hamlets loom to the right, occupying the foothill areas with coconut palms standing tall, mango and other shade trees providing a green outline in the distance.

Some boats are engaged in bringing up silt, mud, weed and other decaying vegetation from the lake bottom, scooping them up in a coarse basket attached to the end of a pole.

These are matted or woven together and anchored to the lake bed with bamboo poles forming the ‘floating gardens’ on which tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, peas, beans, fruits and flowers are grown. This brings up to 3 times harvest / year.

aquaculture planting

Aquaculture planting


Leg rowing Intha boat races during the pagoda festival and some resorts


Phaundaw Oo Pagoda Festival

The Inle Lake Leg Rower

are probably the most amazing people around. They usually are Intha people who fled Mon State in the south several hundred years ago to escape the continuous wars between Myanmar and Thailand. They settled around the lake and living from fishing, the rather unusual way they do this is unique.

Using the fish trap, balancing with one leg on the canoe and using the other leg for rowing. Inle Lake leg rowers are legend, it’s a miracle how they can hold balance in this situations as seen here in the Inle Lake Photos and pictures.

But its not only this famous leg rower, its the whole situation at the Inle lake. With the villages on stilt built into the shallow lake up in the heights of Shan State, a ideal place for a great trip.

There is a rowing regatta every year.  The Inle Lake environs offer a deep insight into living in the past, everything is basic including the transportation on the water buffalo and the ox-cart under the heavy blossoms of the rain tree.

Most people have no engine on their boats or canoes, means everything goes quite slow, but that’s the natural pace here in the Shan highlands.

Some have the same longtail boat as in Thailand with their awful noise because they don’t use a muffler. This is the real exotic orient, the source of legends and an ideal place for a trip to clean up the gray matter.


Phaundaw Oo Pagoda Festival is another top attraction

Built on the canal bank this pagoda houses five Buddha sculptures so heavily overlaid with gold leaf placed by devotees so as to make their original shapes unrecognizable. These images were brought back by King Alaungsithu in the 12th century from a expedition to the Malay Peninsula.

The three-day festival held annually in October at the end of the Buddhist Lent is an event of national importance. Four of the five Buddha images are carried on royal ceremonial barges past other main pagodas on Inle Lake.This religious occasion draws

Phaundaw Oo Pagoda

The Phaundaw Oo Pagoda is the most venerated one in the area, one per year is the famous pagoda festival.

This is the Phe Chaung Monastery of the jumping cats – you can stay here, after give some donation.


The Phe Chaung monastery in the Inle lake,

(it is really in the lake) is about 170 years old. Coincidently one of the monks had a good idea some years ago. Since there was nothing to do for the monks they started to train the monastery’s cats to jump through hoops, since then it got a real attraction and every day dozens of people come in on their Inle tour to have a look, if the cat jumps a small donation is expected, sometimes the cats wont jump but the visitors still donate. The cats have names such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Madonna, Marilyn Monroe and other celebrities. This is also a interesting destination by itself, there is the usual lacquer ware, Buddha statues some covered with gold leafs and some
antiques, the place is a excellent day trip destination on the lake.
The monastery also offer accommodation, it’s possible to stay there for a few days and “enjoy” the spartanic life of the resident
monks. Since the buildings are on a island in the lake its not easy to move around. Inle Lake is a water world in Shan State not
far away from the Thailand Myanmar border, this area is also known as Shan State and one of the top attraction in the country.
The leg rowers are legend and their high time is during the pagoda festival which is celebrated once per year including a regatta
to find the fastest leg rower team.

participants and celebrants from all over the country to witness not only the royal barge procession but also the leg rower Intha boat races.


Inle Lake Pictures

Inle Lake pictures

are the reflection of a unique environment in a remote corner in Asia. Slowly this place
come onto the international tourist radar and everyone who comes here is mesmerized
from the totally different environment and living of the Intha People have. They row their
boats with the legs, raise floating gardens on the surface of the lake and doing other
things we only can marvel. There are a couple of excellent hotels around the lake, but
the real thing is in the lake, that’s Golden Island Cottages, read more.


Kayan or Padaung people brass ring women

Kayan or Padaung people brass ring women.


Kayan or Padaung people

with the famous “long neck women” and their brass rings. Most Kayan or Padaung women wear brass rings around their necks, arms and legs, legend tells to remind them to their ancestors the mythical naga snakes.

A group from one of their villages in Shan State near Inle fled to the Thai town of Mae Hong Son because of the continuous fighting between the Myanmar army and the Karen rebels, this kind of civil war vanished a few years ago. But when they group wanted to leave Mae Hong Son to settle in New Zealand the Thai authorities made all kind of tricks and problems to not let them go away.

The reason? The Kayan people, especially the women and girls grow to a big tourist attraction in the area and lots of Thai people make money with them because of the large amount of money they make with them. Actually they keep them like in a zoo make money with them and give them a little. It amazing how awkward this people are thinking from time to time.


Sagar Inle Lake

Sagar is a forgotten old town a bit south looks very interesting.

A bit further down the southern outflow of the Lake is the mysterious and almost forgotten old pagoda world of Sagar often in black and very colorful, especially at the 5 day markets around Inle Lake.

The almost forgotten villages of Sagar at the banks of the Beluo Chaung river which drain the water from the lake is a unique settlement. Old pagodas and Nat shrines, most in bad conditions overgrown by the jungle are a great visual experience.

This is the ideal day trip when spending a few days at the lake, another short trk could be in the hilly terrain around the water where the Pa-O tribe is living, they are the real natives of this area.

They still live in high houses with the fire place in the middle of the room for cooking and warming up the place during the cold period, since it’s over 1000m height here.


Live on the Lake

Live on the Lake with kids get a wash
floating garden
Floating garden on the water surface

Village on the Lake

Village on stilts
Myanmar travel on the Lake
Travel on the lake and legrower.