Inle Lake of Burma/Myanmar

Inle Lake is one of Burma’s prime tourist destinations.  Located in Shan State, it is Burma’s second-largest lake.  It is easily accessible by bus from Yangon or Mandalay and there are many places to stay in the surrounding four towns.

Spend a day in a longboat exploring the lake, where you will see a variety of birds.  Look out for the famous leg-rowing fishermen – truly a sight to behold.  Be captivated as you watch them skillfully maneuver their small fishing vessels using an oar tied to one leg whilst precariously balancing on the other leg, using both their hands to cast and haul their nets.

See the floating gardens of fruit and vegetables bobbing about on the surface of the lake.  Take a ride through the “floating” villages – entire communities living in houses perched on stilts in the lake.  Marvel at the schools, post offices and other public amenity buildings that are included in these communities and that can only be accessed by boat.  Visit the local floating market and maybe buy some local produce from the boat-based vendors.

Be sure to request a stop off at the Inthar Heritage House.  Not only is this a beautiful wooden building in its own right, having been built specially to preserve the architectural style of lake houses, but it is also home to a large collection of Burmese cats.  Cat lovers will delight in getting up close and personal with these graceful and playful kitties.

Another attraction for cat lovers is Nga Hpe Kyaung, otherwise known as the Jumping Cat Monastery.  This wooden temple and monastery on the lake houses an impressive array of Buddha images and provides some postcard picture worthy views across the lake.  It is also, as its name would suggest, home to a rather large collection of cats.  The cats roam about at will and also take part in demonstrations for showing off their unbelievable talents ….. these cats have been trained to jump through hoops!  They will eagerly jostle to literally jump through a hoop, receiving treats in reward.

Stop to sample a delicious meal made from locally sourced ingredients and perhaps see some traditional weaving from the area.  There really is no better way to watch life on the river than by relaxing in a restaurant on stilts with good food.

After your boat trip, a delightful way to spend the late afternoon is a visit to Red Mountain Vineyards and Winery.  This is easy to cycle to along dirt tracks, passing by fields and small homes.  Taste some of the locally produced wines whilst enjoying the views over the lake.  This is particularly good fun given the lack of locally produced wines in most of South East Asia, and the relatively high prices for a bottle of wine in most tourist destinations.  This is an especially delightful place to be as the sun goes down, watching the sun set and seeing the lake shimmer and glow in the fading light – a perfect end to a perfect day.