As the most convenient base for trips on Inle Lake, the once-quiet town of Nyaungshwe has developed in recent years into a flourishing tourist town. Those hoping for idyllic canal-side lodging and cafés will be disappointed, but the town is a laidback place to hang out when you aren’t exploring the lake itself.

Nyaungshwe is particularly busy during the Fire Balloon Festival in nearby Taunggyi, which takes place in November. At this time, boatmen tend to put up the prices of trips on Inle Lake.

What to see and do

Boats to Inle Lake leave from the Main Canal on the western edge of town. Another much quieter canal, Mong Li, runs through the centre of Nyaungshwe and a wander alongside it is a good way to get a sense of local life. There are three monasteries – Hlaing Gu Kyaung, Shwe Gu Kyaung and Kan Gyi Kyaung – on its eastern bank, each with at least a hundred monks and particularly appealing if you happen to arrive while they are reciting scriptures.

The most holy pagoda in Nyaungshwe is Yadana Man Aung Paya, on Phaung Daw Side Road, which has an unusual stepped golden stupa. In the northeast of town is the Buddha Museum (Wed–Sun 10am–4pm; $2), although it’s more interesting for its brick and teak building (an old Shan palace) than for its exhibits of Buddha statues.

There are many one- and two-day treks around the town, through rice fields, hills and villages, as well as a popular three-day route to Kalaw. The roads around the lake are also great for cycling, and you can hire a bike through accommodation and travel agencies. They should be able to suggest destinations, but one good bet is the Red Mountain Winery (
t
081 209366,
w

redmountain-estate.com) around 5km southeast of town. It’s signposted off the main road and the wines, the creation of a French winemaker, are surprisingly good. It’s possible to sample the wines (K2000 for four) and to have lunch in the restaurant.