Biking and Boating around Inle Lake

The last stop on our whirlwind tour of  Burma was the famous Lake Inle, where we planned on doing some serious relaxing after a hectic and sometimes trying journey through the country. After paying over the odds for some pretty dodgy accommodation in Burma we splurged on a stay at the Princess Garden hotel at £21 per night, which was just what we needed. There was a pool to cool off in from the fierce Burmese heat, free breakfasts of eggs, fruit and pancakes, a lovely one-eyed brown dog to play with and refreshing afternoon shakes on offer.

Fisherman on Lake Inle, Burma

Boating on Inle Lake

Although it was tempting to simply relax at our hotel, we forced ourselves to get out and visit the lake we’d travelled  miles to get to. As seems to be the case in Burma, it’s hard to avoid tours and the only way we could really get out on the lake was to hire a boat and driver to take us on a tour.

Inle Lake, Burma

Our trip started at 7.30am and we bundled up in jumpers against the cold as we motored off, the enormity of the lake hitting us as we headed across. Almost immediately we were greeted by a fisherman poised on one leg while using the other to control the oars and requesting money for us to take a picture of him.

Boats on Inle Lake in Burma

We moved on to a series of tourist traps, a market, blacksmiths, silversmiths, silk weaving factory and tobacco shop. This got tiring after a while and reminded us of our Mandalay tour and just why we dislike organised trips so much; the insistent pressure to buy things we didn’t need got to us when all we wanted was to take in the natural beauty of the lake.

Floating Gardens on Inle Lake

The journey through the floating gardens was our favourite part of the day, as we sailed through villages and past farmers working in the floating fields, we felt we were catching a glimpse of real life on Inle Lake. Narrow boats filled with local people would pass us and we’d get a polite smile or wave, a welcome relief from all the salesmen.

Inle Lake Floating Gardens

Our last stop was a dubious one, the Jumping Cat Monastery, so called because monks apparently taught the animals to literally jump through hoops in exchange for tourist dollars. We weren’t too sure about the ethics behind this but couldn’t help being intrigued. Luckily though, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, we didn’t witness any cat jumping during our time at the monastery.

A Punishing Bike Ride

Put off by our tour experience we decided to head out on our own the next day to explore the area by bike. We started out cycling at a leisurely pace, stopping to take pictures along the way of the fields and buffalos grazing.  Just as I was remarking on how flat and nicely paved the road was we hit a bumpy dirt path and began an up-hill struggle through thick dust.

Buffalo at Lake Inle, Burma

When we finally reached our destination, the hot springs, we realised it was a spa and you needed to pay 10 dollars each to get in. Given that we’d already been to the Polynesian Spa in New Zealand we decided against this and cycled back, dreaming of sipping a strawberry shake and sliding into the cool depths of the hotel pool.

Strawberry Shake in Burma


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  • Tyler
    Posted at 11:27h, 04 August Reply

    We were rained out on our first day on the lake after a couple hours, so we went out again a couple days later just to make sure we visited the floating villages/gardens. It was one of our best decisions as they were truly the highlight of the tour.

    The fishermen weren’t half bad, either 😉

    • Amy
      Posted at 20:02h, 04 August Reply

      We loved the floating villages and gardens too Tyler, they really made all the sales stops worthwhile!

  • Kendra (the Escapologist)
    Posted at 16:58h, 04 August Reply

    Who needs a spa when you have a pool and a one-eyed dog? It’s good to splurge on a nice hotel room after shoddy accommodations. Glad you got a chance to relax!

    • Amy
      Posted at 20:01h, 04 August Reply

      So true Kendra – I’m so glad we splurged and relaxed for those last few days in Burma 🙂

  • Helen
    Posted at 21:22h, 04 August Reply

    Loving reading all your Burma posts!

    We also went to Inle Lake and got taken to all the tourist traps etc when we went. We were told that the cats don’t jump anymore at the monastery as they were getting too many people visiting and it was getting too much for the cats to perform on demand for tourists wanting photos so they retired them from jumping. I was quite glad to hear that.

    • Amy
      Posted at 22:06h, 04 August Reply

      Ah, interesting Helen, thanks for that info on the monastery – we’re quite glad to hear that they retired the cats too.

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