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Cruising Across Lake Inle

sea of boats at the market

After our 3 day trek from Kalaw we desperately needed a good night’s rest before we set out on a boat ride across Lake Inle. This fresh water lake, in the eastern part of Myanmar, is located at an altitude of 900 meters and is 22 km long. There are many hill tribes inhabiting the areas around the lake, making it a hub for tourists coming to Myanmar.

With our new Japanese friend who we met during the day we agreed on hiring a boat for the day and setting off at sunrise – both for the views, and to beat all the other tourists to the attractions and have the lake all to ourselves.

We’re not exactly the travelers that jump at the opportunity to wake up before it’s light out, but we decided to make an exception – it’s about time we saw a sunrise.

Still groggy and shivering from the cold morning air, we made our way to the docks to seek out a  boat driver. He quickly equipped the boat with chairs, pads and blankets and we were off. Though, we came to a sputtering halt shortly thereafter; as it turns out we had run out of gas. Luckily we were still near the docks.

The goal was to get to the center of the lake in time for sunrise. We had timed ourselves well and were able to take in the serenity on the lake, as the morning fisherman were making their way past us.

sunrise over lake inle

Their paddling technique is unique in that they stand on the edge of their boats using one of their feet to handle the oar. It’s a sight to see.

Sunrise at lake Inle


sunrise over lake inle

From there we sped along to the market. Along the way I gazed in awe at the houses on stilts lining the lake. I was amazed to see that people had built up entire villages on the lake. Instead of walking out the front door the locals would board their small boats and paddle down the alleyways. Fascinating.

houses on the lake

As expected by the entrance the usual tourist stalls are set up, selling all sorts of trinkets and anything you can imagine. Luckily the further into the market you go the more authentic it feels. Since we were there just past sunrise there were barely any other tourists around, and while wandering about we got to observe the locals do their own market shopping.

the market

We too did a bit of our own shopping – mainly purchasing samosas, and other fried snacks to munch on.

fried samosas

Next stop – a local weaving workshop. Here we got to learn how thread can be pulled out of lotus stems (not the edible ones – those are lotus roots) and the locals use this to make scarves. It can take up to 2 months to have a kilogram worth of thread and it seems like an incredibly laborious and manual process.

thread from lotus stem_

Over the course of the day we continued to make stops at several other workshops;

The cheerot shop – where a pretty young girl demonstrated how the local natural cigarettes are made

cheroots demonstration

A pagoda – where we witnessed peddlers trying to sell gold leafs to clueless tourists, which you then cannot use inside the pagoda itself (and must purchase the gold leaf there instead)


And the jumping cat monastery – where we did in fact see a couple cats, but none of them seemed to be jumping

jumping cat monastary

We fully enjoyed our day cruising around Lake Inle and were glad we chose to head out early on in the day, and were able to get to each place before all the other tourists of the day.

views from the lake



  • It’s very popular to do a tour of the lake on the boat. The boatman will take you around to all the same stops that everyone else goes to. It’s interesting but can be crowded. Consider going early like we did and you’ll always be a step ahead of the crowd.
  • You can arrange a boat at your hostel or probably just head down and find one. I believe our boat cost us around $22 for the entire boat (split among 3).
  • There is no food included, best to eat something at the market and bring snacks.
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