Backpacking Southeast Asia Seventh Stop: Inle Lake, Myanmar

Last Updated on January 11, 2021 by Tina

After spending a day in Yangon, I took the night bus to Inle Lake. Inle Lake is located in Nyaung Shwe Township. JJ Express is the most famous and best bus line in Myanmar. But for my trip to Inle, I took the Famous Bus Line which is also good. I was the only foreigner on the bus, though I blended easily with the locals because I look like them. The bus attendant talked to me in Burmese when she was checking the tickets and I told her I can’t understand her.

Another passenger in his 50s or 60s heard me and asked where I am from. When I told him I’m from the Philippines, he spoke to me in Tagalog and told me he studied Architecture at the University of Sto. Tomas. Then he gave me his business card and told me not to hesitate to contact him in case I need help while I am in Myanmar.

The night bus left Yangon at 6:00 PM and it was supposed to arrive in Inle Lake at 7:00 AM. I messaged my guide for the Inle Lake Boat Tour prior to my trip and he told me he’ll wait for me at the bus stop at 7:00 AM. However, the bus arrived two hours earlier. Instead of waiting for my guide at the bus stop, I decided to hire a tuk-tuk to take me to the hostel. The hostel must have a lobby where I could stay coz it might still be too early to check-in.

Related post: Myanmar Travel Guide for Solo Travelers

I was very lucky though coz BaobaBed Hostel Nyaung Shwe @ Yar Pyae has a complimentary early check-in room. Yes, it’s free, no added cost. That’s why I highly recommend this hostel to anyone traveling to Inle Lake. It’s actually one of the best hostels I ever stayed at. The early check-in room has a toilet and shower room, bunk beds, and lockers. I messaged my guide about what happened and told him to just pick me up at the hostel for the tour at 8:00 AM. Then I took a nap.

By the way, every tourist entering Inle Lake Zone has to pay an entry fee of 15,000 Kyats (~US$ 9.93).

early check in room baobabed
The bunk bed at the early check-in room of Baobabed Hostel. It’s the same as that in their dorm rooms

Day 1

For my first day in Inle, I did the Inle Lake Boat Tour alone with Wai Phyo. He was my brother’s guide the previous year for this tour too. I highly recommend him when you go to Inle Lake. He was super nice and took good care of me.

Inle Lake is a freshwater lake located in Nyaung Shwe Township of Shan State in Myanmar.  It is the second-largest lake in the country. Doing the boat tour is the best way to explore Inle Lake. You get a glimpse of the local life and visit local handicraft shops. During the tour, I was able to see the floating gardens and watch the fishermen doing the traditional fishing method where they balance with their one leg and they wrap their other leg around an oar and use it to maneuver their boats around while holding a net to catch fish.

Fisherman in Inle Lake
The traditional fishing method in Inle Lake

We visited the floating villages, lotus, silk, and cotton hand-weaving center, cigar factory, and a silversmith. I was also able to see the long neck women of Inle Lake and even tried wearing their necklace. We also visited the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda and the Jumping Cat Monastery. And because I was curious about the yellowish thing that I see in the face of the Burmese women, I asked Wai about it. When we were at Blue Sky Restaurant for lunch, he let me try it. It is thanaka, a yellowish-white cosmetic paste made from ground bark that is said to provide protection from sunburn, promote smooth skin, and treat acne.

Thanaka
Do I look like a Burmese now?

If you want a complete detail about the tour, I wrote a solo traveler’s guide to Inle Lake Boat Tour. After my boat tour, I returned to the hostel to freshen up, then went out for dinner.

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Day 2

I had nothing planned for Day 2 but while having breakfast, my roommate told me that the Red Mountain Vineyard and Winery is a good place to watch the sunset. My trip to Mandalay was at 6:00 PM so I decided to visit it after sending postcards at the post office.

Related Post: Postcards From My Southeast Asia Backpacking Trip

On my way to the post office, I saw a cafe and when I checked their cakes, I saw that they have cheesecake so yay! I stopped there to have cheesecake and coffee.

The vineyard is an hour walk from the post office. You can go there by riding a tuk-tuk or by bike (there are actually free bikes at the hostel). But the bikes are too high for me. So I walked. I didn’t have anything to do anyway and I get to enjoy the scenery when walking so it wasn’t a problem.

The vineyard is very beautiful and very Instagrammable. I did the wine tasting there. For 5000 kyats, I was able to try four types of wine, and it comes with free peanuts.

Wine tasting
Wine tasting with a view

After visiting the vineyard, I went back to the hostel to prepare for my trip to Mandalay. But before leaving, I had an early dinner. I ordered the Shan noodles at the hostel restaurant and it was really good. Shan noodles is my favorite Burmese food. I recommend trying it out too when you visit Myanmar.

Shan noodles
Shan noodles

Expenses

As mentioned in my earlier posts about this backpacking trip, my challenge was to try to live on a US$ 20 per day budget. I brought US dollars for the trip. The official currency of Myanmar is the Myanmar Kyat (MMK). The conversion rate is MMK 1510 for US$ 1. Just to be consistent with my earlier posts, I’ll be using the conversion rate of Php 52 for US$ 1 for this post (it was the conversion rate for Php to US$ when I was on the trip).

Day 1

Archaeological Zone Pass to Inle Lake- US$ 9.93 (MMK 15000)

Tuktuk fare from bus station to Baobabed Hostel- US$ 1.32 (MMK 2000)

1 person in 6-bed dormitory in BaobaBed Hostel Nyaung Shwe @ Yar Pyae– US$ 7.12 (Php 370.32)

Inle Lake Boat Tour- US$ 11.92 (MMK 18000)

Lunch- US$ 3.31 (MMK 5000)

Dinner-  US$ 1.99 (MMK 3000)

Day 1 total expenses: US$ 35.59

Day 2

Bus ticket to Mandalay-  US$ 7.95 (MMK 12000)

Cheesecake- US$ 1.32 (MMK 2000)

Coffee- US$ 1.32 (MMK 2000)

Wine tasting- US$ 3.31 (MMK 5000)

Coke- US$ 0.66 (MMK 1000)

Postcards + stamps- US$ 1.99 (MMK 3000)

Dinner (Shan noodles + coke)- US$ 2.32 (MMK 3500)

Day 2 total expenses: US$ 17.55

Total expenses for 2 days: US$ 53.14

I passed the challenge for Day 2 but not Day 1. The Archaeological Zone Pass to Inle Lake already ate up half of my budget.

Stay tuned for my next post for the details of my trip to Mandalay. If you have any questions regarding this trip, feel free to leave a comment. Subscribe to my blog if you don’t want to miss any of my posts. And please follow my Facebook page @iwentanyways and like my Instagram accounts @iwentanyways and @tnadeperalta for updates. You can also check out my backpacking highlights in my IG @tnadeperalta.

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