Inle lake

Inle Lake (Burma): Beyond the Tourist Traps

Burma is one of the most beautiful countries we have even visited and Inle Lake is one of two reasons why Burma is in our top (the second one is Bagan). We spent two days there and dedicated one of the days to the boat tour. We hired a guide called Ky at the Joy Hotel where we were staying. At first, we sailed the conventional route which was extremely touristic. However, Ky was kind enough to take us off-route and to introduce us to his village, home, and family.
Inle Lake

The boat trip

“The Normal Boat Trip” in Inle includes at least 9 destinations. At the time of our visit, it cost around 20 dollars per person, and there was no need to book anything in advance. Every hotel arranges boats. The boats depart early in the morning and arrive at around 5 PM.
Inle

Similarly, Ky and we started early in the morning. While tourists were departing for their tour, locals were bringing harvest for the market.
Inle Lake  village

Inle

Inle Lake  village

The landscapes of Inle Lake are amazing, first of all, because people’s houses stand in the middle of the lake and you can observe simple everyday life of the Burmese.
everyday life of the Burmese

everyday life of the Burmese

The second essential part of the landscape and one of the symbols of Burma abroad is Inle fishermen. They balance amazingly to row with one of the legs or keep their nets:
Inle fishermen

Inle fishermen

After enjoying these views, we got to the first trap at our first stop in the Inle market (it is held in different places every day). Familiar with the long-neck Karen tribe from Thailand, we knew that that these women are kept in captivity by the local businessmen to attract more tourists. Similarly, in Inle, these women were kept in the market shops to attract more foreign buyers.
Inle market

The market included one interesting shop, however, in which one can watch the traditional art of umbrella-making.
Burmese umbrella-making

Burmese umbrella

The second stop seemed more innocent: the Hpaung Daw U Pagoda was truly beautiful.
Hpaung Daw U Pagoda

Hpaung Daw U Pagoda

Hpaung Daw U Pagoda

However, the market was the obligatory part of it too.
Hpaung Daw U Pagoda

Once in a while, other boats approached tourists to offer what they did not quite need.
Hpaung Daw U Pagoda

The third stop was at the Gold and Silver Smith that included the showroom and the workshop in which you can watch jewelry-making too.
Gold and Silver Smith

Gold and Silver Smith

Beyond the conventional tour

This was the last straw: we did not see the point in visiting shops only at our tour. This is when we begged Ky to bring us somewhere else and he was kind enough to agree. At first, he brought us to two more pagoda destinations:
Beyond the conventional tour

Beyond the conventional tour

Second, he suggested to bring us to his own village and we happily agreed. When coming, we passed by the kindergarten and stopped by to say hello to kids.
Burmese kids

Then, Ky brought us to his own home, which was the most beautiful experience of that trip. He showed us around his own and his neighbors’ rice and other fields:
rice plantation

Burmese village

Kids in Burma

Burmese everyday life

And around his home, approximately 40 square meters room.
Burmese house

Life

Burmese everyday life

Religion in Burma

Burmese home

In the meantime, his family cooked for us and we had meal together. We got to know his wife, sister, brother-in-law and a new kid.
Burmese meal

Burmese family

Bicycle ride

We learned a lot from them. Ky told us that his biggest dream was to buy a boat. At that moment, he could only hire boats and thus received really low salary for his guiding work. Buying a boat would have allowed his family to live much better. Also, we learned that contemporary Burmese try not to give birth to too many children, since healthcare and education are expensive in Burma. Raising a child is very pricey, and giving education to him or her is another rather unachievable dream. Despite these difficulties, Ky and his family were very cheerful, grateful, and hospitable.
Burmese hospitality and beauty amazed us. In a way, the experience was similar to that in Pamir, where people are very poor, yet, are ready to share everything with you, and where the landscapes are also amazing. We recommend to visit Inle, but to do your best to meet its people rather than see the markets. Another way of doing this is renting a bicycle and making a day trip around. This will complement your boat trip, and this is the route we recommend for the bike.
Bicycle ride route

On a trip, you can visit more pagodas, do wine-tasting, see more of the country life, and take a boat to shorten your trip with the bikes.
Bicycle ride

around Inle

around inle

around inle

life in Myanmar

Make sure you visit Inle night market and have Burmese food. It was already in Yangon that it amazed us.
Inle night market

You can reach Inle by the very comfortable night sleeping bus from Yangon or Bagan, probably the most comfortable bus we have travelled by.