At about 5 am we arrived in Nyaungshwe. Before entering the city though there came a guy into the bus who took 13500 Kyat of every foreigner for the Inle Zone Entrance Fee. No chance to get around that. We had hardly left the bus when we were surrounded by cab and tuktuk drivers. I looked at MapsMe and since the hostel was only 800m away we walked. It was too early to check in, but Ostello Bello has a 24 hour reception so you can get inside and chill in the common area or on the roof terrace. You can even take a shower and have some tea or coffee. The best way to get to Inle Lake is actually to get to Kalaw and trek from there to Inle Lake within 2 to 3 days. But due to lack of time and the wish to fully recover before I do another trek I skipped that and went directly to Inle Lake instead. Getting to Kalaw and do the trek is on the bucket list for next time though.
I slept for about half an hour on a couch. The 5 Day rotating market was in town that day, so I went there to have a look around. It was very crowded but nice.
Back to the hostel I did my laundry (they have a washing machine you can use which is a lot cheaper than handing in the laundry anywhere) and spend the rest of the afternoon on the computer. Then I went to Venus for a massage. This is the best massage in Myanmar! They pick you up, you get tea and cookies followed by a great one hour oil massage, again tea and cookies and a shuttle back to your hostel for only 7000 Kyat (~4,30€). After dinner it was time for a trivia quiz on the roof terrace. On Saturday I had booked the Ultimate Inle Lake Tour at Ostello Bello. We started at 8 am walking from the hostel to the river and boarding the boats. And off we went over the river into the lake, passing fishermen. They use one leg to move the boat around in order to have both hands free to work the net.
We passed the swimming gardens, people who got algae out of the water as food for their pigs and the typical stilt houses until we reached the rotating market.
We got off the boat had a look around and walked to the Thaung Tho Pagoda.
After a quick stop at a weaving place where they make fabric out of Lotus flowers
we drove to a local Inthar family for lunch and after eating we were allowed to try out their kayaks.
Back into the motorboat and past some floating gardens again to the Phaung Daw Oo pagoda.
Then we drove back to Nyaungshwe passing fisherman again.
Inle Lake is the second largest lake in Myanmar and there are 507 villages around. It is absolutely beautiful there and if you get there you just have to do a boat tour otherwise you haven´t experienced Inle Lake! But bring a warm sweater or jacket, in the morning, evening and night it gets pretty chilly and with the wind of the driving boat you will freeze otherwise. I went to a nice vegetarian restaurant – the Sunflower – with Sofia (a German girl who was on the tour) and spent the rest of the evening on the roof terrace. On Sunday it was already time to check out again. But my bus would only leave in the evening so I still had a whole day. I had booked a cooking class at Mercury Cooking Class & Restaurant together with Sofia. After breakfast we got picked up. First we could choose from a menu what we would like to cook. Together we had to decide for 2 main dishes, 2 salads, 1 soup and 1 appetizer. Then we went to the market to buy the ingredients. We got a lot of explanations what is what, how you make things and what you use certain spices and such for. It was really interesting. On a normal market day the market is a lot smaller and quieter.
Then we walked to the cooking school. We got tea and cookies and then we started cooking. The family who runs the place is super friendly and nice, everything is very clean and they take good care to only use drinking water and wash the hands and stuff and explain very well what you have to do. So we cut, grinded, mashed, mixed, boiled, fried and steamed like crazy with tons of garlic and coriander. At about 12:30 everything was prepared and we started to eat. Additional to all the food we cooked we got avocado shakes and rice. It was sooo much food, but very delicious. Before we left we got the recipes of all the dishes we had prepared.
All this was only 15000 Kyat (~9,20€) so very cheap and absolutely worth it. Back at the hostel we quickly got our laundry from the drying rack and got our stuff for horse riding which we had booked for the afternoon. At 2 pm we got picked up by horse cart. When we reached the home of the owner he took the horse off the cart and put a saddle on it et voilà this was my riding horse. We had to wait a little until a neighbor came with a second horse for Sofia. And off we went into the mountains. The guides were walking next to us, so it was a rather slow and chilled riding since we couldn´t go exactly fast. They hardly spoke one word of English, so it was a bit difficult to communicate.
Our first stop was at the Htat Eian Cave temple. Sofia and I went to explore the cave with a lot of Buddha Images inside.
Then we got back on the horses and in a big loop over the hills back to the start.
The whole thing took about 3 hours. It was nice but didn´t exactly knock my socks off. With 20000 Kyat it was a bit more expensive than the cooking class. We were brought back by horse cart again. But I asked them to drop me at Venus since I wanted to have another one of those great and cheap massages. After the massage, I took their free shuttle back to the hostel and had a shower before walking to the JJ Express bus station. My bus came early and we were on the road 15 minutes before the scheduled departure at 8 pm. This VIP bus is pure luxury compared to the local buses, but also a lot more expensive. The seats are bigger and more comfortable and you even have your own screen with an entertainment system. After about 2 hours we stopped for dinner and the Noodle Soup was included in the price. We stopped twice for toilet stops on the way and 9 hours later we arrived in Bagan. In this bus I even managed to sleep a little bit.
With more time in Myanmar I would have loved to stay longer in Inle Lake. It is a beautiful place with very friendly people and lots of things to do but also perfect to just chill. So don´t miss it!!!