Magical Inle Lake lies a short, 40-minute flight southeast of Mandalay, amid the outlying hills of the Shan Plateau. Nowhere else in Myanmar exemplifies the country’s geographical and cultural diversity as vividly as this vast body of water, whose levels rise and fall dramatically with the monsoons. The Intha people who live in ramshackle stilt villages around its fringes have evolved a unique way of life-based on fishing and vegetable gardens that literally float on the surface of the lake. You can skim past them on long-tailed boats, pausing at ancient stupa sites, monasteries, temples, cheroot rolling factories, weaving workshops (where silk is spun from lotus stems) and fresh produce markets to which Pa-O and other minority people travel from the surrounding mountains.
The atmosphere of both the villages and main town, Nyaung Shwe, is quite distinct from the Burmese lowlands. Cooler temperatures and the relative absence of motor vehicles, coupled with the dreamy natural setting, make this a wonderful place to soak up the ambience of upland Asia. Accommodation is offered in a range of beautiful resorts, most of which have rooms resting on stilts or looking directly
Accommodation is offered in a range of beautiful resorts, most of which have rooms resting on stilts or looking directly on to the water. From your balcony, you’ll be able to watch Intha fisherman – famous for their quirky one-legged rowing technique – working their nets from small canoes, as a profusion of egrets, herons and cormorants flap past. Inle is also the venue for one of Southeast Asia’s most spectacular religious festivals, the 18-day Golden Bird
Inle is also the venue for one of Southeast Asia’s most spectacular religious festivals, the 18-day Golden Bird Festival, when four deities from the revered Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda are rowed around the lake on a ceremonial barge resembling a giant, golden Hintha bird. The barge is towed by smaller boats of leg-rowers moving in unison – an extraordinary sight.