Myanmar: Inle lake with kids
After a very tiring couple of days trekking, we made it to Inle lake! You’d think it was time to put our feet up and relax. But no, too much to see and do before we need to move on. We were looking for to spending a few days exploring Inle lake with the kids!
There are a number of things to keep you busy for a few days!
We stayed in Nyaungshwe village, close to Inle lake and where most budget travellers stay. It’s definitely geared up to tourists with plenty of restaurants, shops, ATMs and a market.
Getting to/from Inle lake
There are plenty of options. We opted to use our feet and trekked from Kalaw to Inle lake, you can read about it here.
But there are less energetic routes such as taking a JJ express bus. These were the creme de la crème of VIP buses! I mean, even better than the VIP super deluxe buses in pokhara!
It was a very comfortable ride from Bagan with snacks on the journey, toilet breaks and best of all individual TV screens with movies, games and music! What’s not to love about a bit of Westlife!
Alternatively you could get the aptly named, slow train, from Thazi to Shwenyaung (about 20 mins drive from Inle lake) or back the other way – like we did! Read about our train travel here & how to change at Thazi.
Where to stay in Inle lake
We stayed at the Three seasons hotel & spa in Nyaungshwe. Sounds plush… It wasn’t – but it was ok accommodation for a budget price! But we budget travellers so it was fine. There are lots of different options, and more upmarket places in town or on the lake.
We had a family room with 3 beds and asked to have another bed put in for a small extra fee. Breakfast was included and there was air conditioning & WiFi.
The staff were really lovely with good English and useful information. They suggested a day trip on the lake and could organise a boat for 18,000 kyats (around £10) with itinerary to suit us, which we booked.
They also sourced bikes for us when we wanted to go cycling, Keith & I had mountain bikes and the boys had smaller bikes. Unfortunately, jaspers bike got a puncture and so the owner raced out to change the bike over!
They also organised to take us, for 10,000 kyats, to the train station and the owner came in and booked our train tickets for us! Very accommodating and always smiling.
One thing to note is that there were regular power cuts in the area. We noticed a board highlighting the times that power cuts would occur. It just so happened they were at 2pm to 5pm (hottest time of the day!). But that’s not too be helped and meant we were sometimes counting down to 5pm 😂. But the owner did ask if we needed power that there was a generator for WiFi or plugs.
Where to eat in Inle lake
We stumbled on a great Indian restaurant on our first night and found we didn’t bother going anywhere else! Sometimes even it works, why change it! And we were too tired at the end of the day to really explore the town!
The restaurant was called, Dosa King restaurant. It must have been highly rated as we saw a trekking group eating in there one night.
But you are not short of choice and will easily find a place to eat or to have a drink!
Things to do in Inle lake with kids
Inle lake is primarily about exploring local life and the local crafts.
Boat ride on Inle lake
We booked a private boat for the day. There seems to be a set itinerary which looks something like this:
After our trek we spent a couple of days enjoying the beautiful area of Inle lake!
The first day we spent doing the ‘tourist thing’. A full day out on the lake visiting all the sites:
- Lotus weaving
- Silver making
- Cheroot factory
- Wooden boat making
- Long neck tribal women
- Floating gardens and
- 5 day market
The tour guide spoke quite good English and gave us some information about what the locals were doing on the lake. But he determined our route & where we were going next. I presume there are deals with different craft makers to bring tourists. We would just arrive and get off and on the boat as we deemed appropriate.
The boat itself is very primitive, there is no cover to shelter you, but there are umbrellas you can use of the sun is fierce or rain arrives. The boats are very loud, which detracts from the serenity. But it’s a whole load of fun! They go pretty fast!
The craft tours were all very informative though, especially the lotus weaving, but I did feel uncomfortable at the long neck tribal women. It felt like they were more of a show piece – we left here quite quickly.
We could have added umbrella making and cat monastery to our tour, but we were shattered by this point. We stopped for lunch near the pagodas and then headed back to town.
The second day, just because we weren’t tired enough, we decided to hire bikes for the day. Within the first hour we were dealing with a puncture and a brief downpour! But both were short lived and we were soon on our way. The lake area is flat so cycling was easy and it was nice to have a breeze from the bikes.
The route suggested by our hostel was 22km in total which included cycling to Maing Thouk Wooden Bridge and then paying around 10,000 kyats for a boat across the lake and then cycling back to Nyaungshwe.
We stopped en route at a ‘cycle’ cafe called MOT cafe. It had nice coffee but was a bit bizarre! There was a dressing up area. I think it was trying to appeal to the Instagrammers. Kinda lost in us, but the kids had a blast!!
After a coffee the heavens opened and we had to stop to take cover. It was only short lived – but we could have timed that one better!!
It wasn’t long before we reached the bridge. We decided that we didn’t need another boat trip and would just explore the wooden bridge. Here we watched the farmers in the floating gardens, a local man fishing and took in the views.
On our return leg, we decided to call into the winery which we’d read about…
Red mountain wine tasting
The red mountain winery is well signposted and on Google maps We had to cycle (or push) our bikes up a little hill. It wasn’t far but then we walked up the last bit to a restaurant. We sat down as the boys were feeling hungry, but I could find the famous ‘wine tasting’ we’d read about. It turns out that is in another building next door. Why you can’t have wine tasting and food together I don’t know?!
So we had some food, there was only a small menu. It was expensive got what it was, but not overly priced! Then we headed into another area for the wine tasting.
For 5,000 kyats you were given 2 red and 2 white taster glasses and a bowl of nuts. Wine is such a rarity while budget travelling that we were actually looking forward to our ‘treat’. There was a palate card to show the different vines and their texture.
Delicately I lifted the first glass – smelling the contents, lifting it to my lips & savouring the flavour slowly!
Yep, it’s wine.
Ok, I’m not even going to pretend to be a wine connoisseur. But I did enjoy just having a glass of wine in a beautiful setting! As others before me, the sauvignon blanc had the most fruity flavour and less vinegar taste. But what do you expect it’s cheap & you’re in Myanmar! Just enjoy the experience!
Inle lake has the most stunning backdrop with mountains surrounding the lake. It’s a great area to explore and a lovely relaxing few days. If you’ve tried from Kalaw, like we did, then you’ll be grateful for the relaxing boat ride.
I loved that you could watch everyday life on the waterways without intruding. The traditional methods are still used today, and not just for the tourist show. These people work hard and yet are always smiling.
Such a lovely place and easy to spend a few days here!