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Inle Lake Trips

  • Inle Lake Fisherman
  • Inle Lake fishermen / Alastair Walters

A shallow, 13.5 mile-long lake in the Thanlwin River basin on the Shan Plateau in eastern Burma, southeast of Mandalay, Inle Lake is a lovely spot to relax while getting a taste for rural Burma and the traditional tribes that inhabit the area on boat tours and hikes, as well as being ideal for bird-watching.

Most visitors come to do a boat cruise on the lake, which, while fascinating, is now one of the most popular things to do in Burma and is undeniably touristy. The boat tours take in floating villages and markets with stops at various crafts workshops where you can watch traditional clothing being made, along with silver jewellery and lacquerware being created – and shop for souvenirs. Note that these practices haven’t traditionally taken place on the lake and have been developed for tourists, however, the funds you spend are a vital income for local villagers.

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Rich in birdlife, Inle Wetland Wildlife Sanctuary is home to 245 bird species, both migratory birds that stop off at the lake to rest on their long journeys north and south and local birds that use the lake as a breeding site. Highlights for birdwatchers include the rare Jerdon's Bushchat, White-tailed Stonechat, Collared Myna, Black-collared Starling, rare Sarus Crane, Glossy Ibis, Sooty-headed Bulbul, Crimson Sunbird, and Clamorous Reed Warbler among dozens of other birds that are difficult to spot elsewhere in Burma.

It’s also possible to see large breeding colonies of Great Egrets, Black-crowned Night Herons, and White-vented and Common Mynas among other birds. The best time to visit for birdwatching is during the winter months of December and January, although the magnificent Pheasant-tailed Jacana is best spotted in its brilliant breeding plumage during the wet season.

The lake is also rich in marine life, both plants and fish, with three main fish breeding in the water – carp, catfish and murrel. The Intha fishermen, who have a unique style of rowing where they manoeuvre their boats with one leg, are another popular – and much-photographed – sight on the lake. The fishermen harvest the carp (called Nga-Phane locally) with a conical net that is stretched over a bamboo and wooden frame, as well as spear fish with a variety of rustic harpoons. Another increasingly popular activity is trekking around the lake and to traditional tribal villages in the surrounding hills, with hikes providing an opportunity to interact with the Padaung tribe (whose ‘long neck’ women still wear rings around their necks) and visit historical pagodas such as Alowdaw Pauk, Phaung Daw OO, Shwe In Daing, and Taung Do.

Trips visiting Inle Lake

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