There’s not much point in coming to Inle Lake and not visiting the lake itself, so that’s how most of today was spent. A boat trip seems like the most popular tourist activity to do in Nwang Swe, if not the whole of Myanmar. Walking around town you are constantly asked, “boat trip?” While you can hire your own boat and driver, most people seem to opt for a standard tour. The boats can get up to a decent rate of knots which I suppose is necessary given that the lake is over 15 miles long.
First stop was what we thought was a floating market. However there wasn’t much floating taking place. Apparently this type of retail outlet no longer exists on Inle Lake. Instead we parked up and walked along a path for about ten minutes to the market. There was the expected fresh food and veg for sale, some clothing, practical household items and a bit of craft stuff. I’m not a huge fan of walking around markets and this one didn’t seem to be anything special. We then sailed (although technically the boat had no sails, just a motor) around some of the outer canals of the lake where people live in stilt houses in the relatively shallow water. Electricity is provided from pylons that connect power lines across the lake and plenty of the houses have satellite dishes. Quite a few “fisherman” are around, although it’s debatable how much fishing they doing. They’ll be on their boat with a traditional fish catching device. Nowadays it’s not economical to catch single fish using this method so they make more from posing for tourist photos for tips.
Next up were a couple of Buddhist sites on the lake. The Phaung Daw U pagoda is a really nice one. Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery used to be famous for it jumping cats but this no longer takes place. I’m not sure of the exact reason why but it seems that some umbrage was taken to monks training the cats to jump through hoops. The Burmese cats are still there but nowadays they just seem to lie around sleeping or getting stroked by tourists.
We had some dinner in a restaurant on the lake. You’d almost forget that you were balanced on stilts above water until you’d look through the gaps in the floorboards and see Inle Lake below. These sort of day trips tend to take you to some workshops/factory shops. This was probably about the twentieth weaving place I’ve seen on this trip. A silversmith workshop was a new one to me though. It’s always slightly awkward to be marched through a factory, gorping at someone who’s trying to get on with their job!
The last stop was at Indein, a village along one of the Inle Lake weirs. Indein is home to hundreds of small stupas and pagodas, concentrated into a compact, walkable area. Although Indein is no Bagan, it’s nonetheless impressive. It’s quite sad to see that a lot of the structures are in a state of ruin and neglect. Apparently in the past a lot of been raided and anything of value stolen. Stray dogs often sleep inside them to avoid the heat. There are some stupas and pagodas that have been restored. Apparently there a scheme in place where people can adopt one of them and maintain their upkeep. This seems to improved the appearance of the area.
The hour or so ride back to Nwang Swe was nice. Once back on the main section of Inle Lake the driver put his foot down and we enjoyed a lovely sunset from the water, a nice way to end a good day.