We flew from Bagan to Heho and then had an hour's drive through the scenic countryside to the gateway village to Lake Inle, Nyaung Shwe. We were lucky as it was the first day of the Phaung Saw Oo Festival and the procession of boats and four of the five revered Buddha images from the Pagoda of the same name. For this reason, the town was buzzing with life and a wander around the market was great fun.
After lunch in a very good restaurant in the town, we continued down the lake to our first hotel. The next day was then one I had been looking forward to, a day on Inle Lake itself. We were picked up from our hotel in traditional motorised slender wooden canoes and taken across the lake to one of the stilt villages. We were lucky enough to see a few of the traditional fishermen enroute including the leg-rowers which were as impressive as it sounds. After a quick cup of tea, we all got into kayaks to continue exploring the village. This is a unique way to explore and it was nice to have the locals taking pictures of us for a change. Luckily no one fell in and although some of us were quite wet, it didn't take too long to dry off in the sun.
We then continued to the village of In Dein, a riverside village with a hillside of pagodas, some of which date back a few hundred years, leading up to a monastery. The walk through the pagodas was quite spectacular with the walk down through a good local market. We had lunch at a restaurant on the riverside before some hotel inspections which were also a good way to explore the lake some more.
The next morning, we continued by boat to a traditional silk and lotus weaving workshop before visiting Inle Heritage - an interesting social enterprise and also home to over 20 Burmese cats. We then had the opportunity to have lunch served in a traditional stilted village before the journey back to Nyaung Shwe for a transfer to Heho and flight to Yangon.
Yangon (formerly Rangoon) is Myanmar’s old capital and largest city. We began with a walking tour around the old city to see some of the colonial buildings before getting into trishaws for a 20 minute ride. After lunch at the historic House of Memories and a browse around Bogyoke market, the largest collection of handicraft stalls in Yangon, we went to Shwedagon Pagoda, the most revered Buddhist temple in Myanmar. It really was an impressive sight to see the main huge gold stupa but also the many surrounding shrines.
It was then time to leave bustling Yangon for my last 2 nights in this beautiful country on the beach at Ngapali. Rather than just having a day at leisure, we headed off to visit the secluded Maung Shwe Lay, about an hour's boat ride away, stopping enroute for a snorkel. We were welcomed with a coconut drink before heading off by ox cart – not something I thought I would ever do – to visit the local monastery, the library and school, before a good lunch in a local villager’s house, after a swim off the beautiful white-sand beach.
I have to say that Myanmar is a fascinating country, full of contrasting sights and attractions and one I really will never forget. I just wish I could have stayed longer to explore even more.Call 0207 359 3938 or contact us to speak to us about planning your own trip to Myanmar.