Inle Lake is the ideal place for a few chilled out days if you’re in need of a break from big cities, feeling a bit ‘templed out’, or have just spent a couple of days hiking around the Burmese countryside in dry season. It’s a peaceful lakeside town in southern Shan State, surrounded by lush greenery and rolling hills. By the time I arrived, I was so ready to do very little for a few days.
Don’t get me wrong, the hike was a wonderful experience and I enjoyed it immensely…I was just so glad to have a hot shower, a bed and to just float along for a bit. Thankfully, myself and my hiking buddies were all on the same page and pretty much had eating and relaxing on the brain.
We stayed in Song of Travel hostel, which, despite being shaped like a boombox, was a super quiet and chilled hostel, and even had free bikes!
Here’s a little bit of what we got up to in Inle Lake:
Inle Lake has more restaurants than you could shake a stick at, and a cool night time street food market. The food is also more varied than some of the towns we’d been to in Myanmar. As well as local food, you can find delicious Indian restaurants, Dim Sum, French crepes, pizza etc.
It also turned out that we got there right in the middle of avocado season. The guacamole was plentiful. There was a lot to be happy about.
It would seem ridiculous to go all the way to Inle Lake and never actually go anywhere near the lake. Yet, for the first two or three days, we didn’t see the thing. Once we were starting to feel vaguely adventurous again, Virva and I decided to spend our last day in Inle on a day long boat tour.
We got picked up in the dark of night, ushered into a boat, and taken out on the lake to wait for the sun to rise. One thing we didn’t quite appreciate is that it would be quite cold and damp while waiting for dawn on a lake. Also, the sunrise on the day we went was a bit…hazy.
It could have been bad luck, but maybe a lake isn’t the best spot for a picturesque sunrise. Still, a visit to the morning market afterwards for coffee and fresh donuts warmed me up pretty quickly.
A lot of the day involved visiting touristy craft shops selling everything from cigars to scarves to swords. Not really my thing, though I suppose it’s how the local tradespeople make money from these tours. The highlight of the day for me was a visit to the five day market in the morning.
It was also nice to eat lunch in a home in one of the floating villages, and to visit some temples on the outskirts of town. If I was going again, I’d probably just join with a couple of others and hire a boat to just do the things we wanted to do, and shave a few hours off the day.
Red Mountain Winery
One unique thing about Inle Lake is that it’s home to one of Myanmar’s two wineries, Red Mountain Estate. We had free bike rental from our hostel, so one afternoon we decided to cycle to the winery, which is about 5km outside of the main town, to drink wine and watch the sunset. The wine is ok – some of the people at my table weren’t thrilled with theirs, but my rosé was actually pretty tasty. The real magic of the winery is the location. Set on a steep hill overlooking Inle Lake and the surrounding area, it’s a wonderful spot to watch the sunset with a glass of wine in your hand.
It was also the last night Virva, Alex and I would be hanging out as a trio, as Alex was heading off the following morning. It was a nice way to end our mini adventure together, and we toasted to new friends, good memories and the adventures yet to come.