Myanmar on a motorbike, part 4: Around the Lake Inle

In commercial collaboration with Discovery Rides

On the third day of our motorbike road trip in Myanmar we arrived at the village of Nyaungshwe by the famous Lake Inle. We didn’t use only the motorbike to get around, but also a longtail boat. During the three days we spent by the lake, we saw communities built on water, floating gardens, vast sunflower fields, a village full of tofu, and much more. Unfortunately, we also got more familiar with the Burmese motorbike repair shops…

Boat tour at Lake Inle
Boat tour at Lake Inle

Arriving to Lake Inle

The way from our previous destination, Pindaya, to Nyaungshwe is some 60 kilometers. The journey took us 1,5 hours without any longer stops and most of the roads were in very good condition. The views had been gorgeous the previous days, and so they were also today, with red and green valleys.

Before we entered Nyaungshwe, we had to pay 15 000 kyat (9,3 eur) entrance fee to the lake area.

A village on our way from Pindaya to Nyaungshwe
A village on our way from Pindaya to Nyaungshwe
Hills and valleys along the way from Pindaya to Lake Inle
Hills and valleys along the way

Nyaungshwe village life

The Lake Inle is one of Myanmar’s most important tourist attractions. Keeping that in mind, we were positively surprised when we arrived at the village of Nyaungshwe by the lake. Even though there were other foreigners and a lot of hotels and guesthouses, we wouldn’t describe the place as a tourist trap, which we had anticipated. The vibe at the village surrounded by beautiful nature was calm and relaxed, and you could also see locals doing their everyday things.

Sunflower fields were surrounding Nyaungshwe
Sunflower fields were surrounding Nyaungshwe
We shared the road with many kinds of creatures while road tripping around the lake
We shared the road with many kinds of creatures while road tripping around the lake

Delicious Lake Inle – veggie food and a vineyard visit

There are also plenty of restaurants in Nyaungshwe. Besides Burmese traditional food, one can get everything from pizza to cheap mojitos. We have totally fallen in love with Burmese food, and the variety of local vegetarian and vegan dishes has taken us by surprise. But for a change, it was nice to sit in front of an English menu and choose whatever we could grave for.

It might be surprising to many, but there’s also wine grown in Myanmar! So, we knew exactly how we would want to end our first evening at Inle. There are a few vineyards around the lake. We visited the one named Red Mountain Estate.

The Red Mountain Estate Vineyard
The Red Mountain Estate Vineyard

For 5000 kyat (around 3 euros) we got to taste three different house wines. The cold Sauvignon Blanc in the sunset tasted heavenly. You have to imagine that we hadn’t gotten any proper (white) wine since we left home some 5 months ago.

Wonderful wine tasting
Wonderful wine tasting

Had we been wise enough to visit an ATM before to get more cash, we would have probably gotten pretty drunk that evening… As Seri also wanted to enjoy the wine, of course, we had left the motorbike parked at our guesthouse. We got to the vineyard by a tuktuk, but walked back (maybe also had something to do with the fact that we forgot to go to the ATM). It was a nice one-hour walk back to Nyaungshwe.

A boat tour at the Lake Inle

In the first place, we were not sure if we wanted to do the boat tour at all. It’s one of those things every tourist that visits Inle “has to” do, and sure, it it’s a lake, it makes sense. But we were doubting if the whole tour is just some kind of a show put up to entertain and rip off the tourists same time.

After having done the boat tour, we, too, think it’s something that everyone visiting Inle should do. But next time we would do it differently.

Man fishing in traditional style at Lake Inle
Man fishing in traditional style at Lake Inle

On our boat tour we saw some traditional fishermen balancing on one foot while rowing the boat with the other. We saw floating vegetable gardens and whole villages built over the water, with villagers greeting us with a smile. We saw some birds flying over the lake and buffalos having a swim. And some kids that sent us kisses from the public boats passing us by. It was interesting to get a glimpse to the lives of these people that seem to be almost one with the lake. Taking a boat tour was the only way to see this and we are glad we didn’t miss it.

Houses built above water at Lake Inle
Houses built above water
Vegetable seller on water at Lake Inle
Vegetable seller on water
There are various vegetables growing in the floating gardens
There are various vegetables growing in the floating gardens

But we also kept stopping on some attractions, of which the majority we had rather skipped. The temples we visited were nice and a workshop, where fabrics were made out of lotus fibers, was pretty interesting.

An old wooden temple along our boat tour at Lake Inle
An old wooden temple along our boat tour
Some yarns at the lotus fabric workshop at Lake Inle
Some yarns at the lotus fabric workshop

But most of the places we stopped at were more like tourist shops disguised as workshops. The most repulsive of them was an “artisan village” where some long-necked women of the Kayan tribe were sitting in a fenced corner, pretending to weave some fabrics, even though it was clear that they were put there for tourists to stare at like animals in the zoo.

The best and most affordable way to arrange a boat tour around Inle is to walk to the pier and talk directly to the boat drivers. We paid 8000 kyat (5 euros) for a four-hour boat tour with an own boat, which we thought was a very reasonable price. This way it’s also easier to discuss what you want and don’t want to do during your tour. We’d recommend skipping the workshops and other attractions and just enjoy the life at the lake, but the drivers are likely not very happy to do that, because they want their commissions.

Oh, and don’t forget to bring a hat and sun lotion!

Motorbiking around the Lake Inle

Sticky start

Inn Dein, sometimes dubbed as the “Bagan of Shan-State”, known for its ancient temples, is located on the West-side of the lake, some 30 km from Nyaungshwe. On the way there one can visit a village known for making chickpea tofu, as well as a spa with a hot spring. This sounded like a perfect way to spend the day road tripping around the lake. Unfortunately, everything didn’t go as planned.

When we drove off from our guesthouse, we realized our rear tire was flat – despite the fact that we had just gotten it repaired the day before yesterday before leaving Pindaya. So, our first stop was a motorbike workshop. Actually two, as after waiting for half an hour by the first one, we came to the conclusion that the owner must have had a day off.

Getting the rear tire fixed the second time
Getting the rear tire fixed the second time

After getting a new inner tube to the tire, there was soon another obstacle. The road was blocked. Some locals with scooters were bypassing the huge pit by walking their scooters up and down through the ditch. We didn’t dare to try with the relatively heavy Enfield. Neither did another guy who showed up with his motorbike. Instead, he signed us that we should follow him and took us on another, longer route.

An obstacle not that easy to cross
An obstacle not that easy to cross

At this point, we had already lost some hours of the day and decided to skip the temples of Inn Dein and head directly to the village of Khaung Daing.

The Tofu Village

The village of Khaung Daing is better known as the Tofu Village. There we got a tour in order to learn how the local specialty, chickpea tofu is made! Almost every family of the village is making tofu, among other foods like roasted sunflower seeds, soybeans, nuts or sugar cane candy. We even got to visit a local rice wine factory and taste its strong produce.

One of the chickpea tofu factories. In the front there's some ready-made tofu
One of the chickpea tofu factories. In the front there’s some ready-made tofu
Tofu snacks drying in the sun
Tofu snacks drying in the sun
Women of the Tofu Village selecting good beans and seeds
Women of the Tofu Village selecting good beans and seeds

At the end of the tour, we got to taste the chickpea tofu prepared in three different ways. Our guide was Mr. Zaw, whom we found straight when driving to the village, thanks to the signs by the road. There was no price for the tour – we could pay as much as we felt it was worth for. If you know us or have followed our blog longer, you can probably believe that the visit to the Tofu Village was one of the highlights of our visit to Inle.

The hot spring of Khaung Daing is located just few minutes from the Tofu Village to Nyaungshwe direction. Most probably, this would have been another highlight for us spa lovers, but unfortunately, we had to skip that one too. On our way there we realized that the back wheel was flat again! So instead of spending our evening relaxing in the hot springs, we spent it at another motorbike repair shop.

Getting the rear tire fixed, AGAIN

Luckily there’s no shortage of repair shops in Myanmar, so we didn’t have to drive far to find one. The mechanic didn’t speak any English, but a friendly local couple helped us and we also called the guys at Discovery Rides to get some translation help and opinions on what to do.

Because this was already the third time we had a flat tire, we figured that there must have been something inside the outer tire that was puncturing the inner tube. But there was still nothing found in there. The mechanic thought that there must have been a hole in the “new tube” in the first place. The guy was ordering a new tube from the village, so we had to wait quite some time, but in the end we got, again, our tire fixed and could continue our way.

Getting the rear tire fixed the third time

Small obstacles are a part of an adventure, but still, we started to be pretty done with this topic. We were really hoping, that this would have been the last time on our road trip that we had to visit a repair shop!

Towards Loikaw

The area around Lake Inle is truly fascinating and there’s so much to see! We would have loved to stay longer, but three nights had to do it, since we are on a bit tight schedule. In the next days we did another boat tour that was the complete opposite of the one at Inle, and met some of the long necked women of the Kayan tribe in their own village. Next destination: Loikaw!

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2 thoughts on “Myanmar on a motorbike, part 4: Around the Lake Inle”

  1. Vaikka en viiniä juokaan, niin olen tietoinen, että Myanmarissa sitä valmistetaan ja käsittääkseni viinitilojen määrä Aasiassa laajemminkin on kasvamaan päin. Mielenkiinnosta kysyn, että oliko tuo viinitila muuten täysin paikallisten perustama? Vaikutteita varmaan on joka tapauksessa haettu aluksi muualta…

    1. Mekin oltiin jo aiemmin kuultu joistain viinitiloista Aasiassa, mutta tämä oli ensimmäinen, jolla päästiin käymään. En osaa itseasiassa sanoa, kuka tilan on perustanut. Työntekijät vaikuttivat olevan paikallisia ja samoin nettisivujen (https://redmountainestate.com/) mukaan henkilökunta on paikallista. Omistajaa ei sivuilla kerrota, mutta Italiasta ainakin näköjään alkuaikoina on saatu apuja ja viinikasvit on myös tuotu Euroopasta.

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Hi! We are Johanna and Seri
and this is our blog about sustainable overland travel to offbeat destinations.
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