Inle Lake is a natural wonder that, in spite of growing tourism, has retained its original character and charm. Nyaung Shwe, the small town adjacent to the lake that houses most travellers, is a charismatic place teeming with life, quirky activities and some mouthwatering eateries. Between the two, there are a plethora of things you should do to ensure you have a fantastic stay – here is your guide:
The best activity to do is a boat tour. The whole experience is completely extraordinary – the settlements on the lake look like Laketown (great for the Hobbit fans), the surrounding hills are painted green by nature and the gentle chug of the boat is beyond therapeutic. Tours are offered all over town but if you stay in Ostello Bello, you should do it through them: included in the Ultimate Tour was a traditional Inle Lake lunch (shockingly it was fish) in a stilt house on the lake, next door to our guides own home. As you cross the lake look out for the Intha people rowing in their iconic one-legged style.
Inle Horse Club:
Whether you’re a veteran rider or, like me, have never ridden a horse before, this is great fun. The club was set up through a £20,000 grant from U.K. aid and it’s certainly been put to good use. The horses are well cared for, fed five times a day and receive impeccable training. A guide will lead your horse through the lake’s surrounding hills up to the Red-Mountain Estate – the local vineyard. Despite being a rookie I never felt uncomfortable (except the rubbing of the saddle) as the guide was constantly supporting me whilst allowing my more experienced companion to do it herself. At the vineyard you can try a selection of locally produced wines before riding back to the club for food and drink.
There are a variety of cooking courses available in Nyaung Shwe, I’d recommend Mercury. You are met at the market by your teacher who takes you through and buys the food, fresh, that you will cook with. Next, a short motorbike journey back to the kitchen where you are taught to make 3 traditional Burmese dishes, all of which you get to eat. Once finished you are given the recipes for your dishes and a pack of Burmese spices. The teacher was kind, attentive and spoke good English.
Another great Ostello Bello in Burma. The free breakfast is tasty and the rest of the food is good value for money. The rooftop sitting area is a nice place to relax, the staff are great and they have a wealth of information concerning activities in the local area and onwards travel.
This western-style pub is a fantastic little find on the far side of Nyaung Shwe. It has a pool table, a TV showing western sports channels and Fish & Chips to die for. It comes in the classic British format with tartare sauce and it’s clearly freshly caught. Perfectly cooked so that the fish melts in your mouth, this dish makes me salivating just thinking about it.
The Garden is a tasty, eco-friendly restaurant right next to the bus stop, making it ideal for a final meal before your onwards travel. Their modern blend of Burmese and Western food works very well, creating great food whilst catering for all palettes. Although slightly more expensive than most Burmese restaurants, it is worth it.
A quaint little Burmese restaurant in town, Sin Yaw is a cheap, exquisite example of Burmese cuisine. With great service, cool decor and a natural feel you can enjoy a quintessential Burmese meal out.