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.
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 (
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.
There is a lot of pressure on the accommodation in Nyaungshwe, and in high season some travellers have had to sleep in monasteries or hotel restaurants after arriving without reservations. At the time of research, the government had announced plans to allow some monasteries in the area to officially accept tourists, but details were not yet available.
Trains and most buses arrive at Shwenyaung, a town 20km north on the highway. From there it’s 30min by pick-up (K500) to Nyaungshwe, or a little quicker by motorbike (K3000) or taxi (K8000). A government fee of $5 to enter the Inle Lake area is charged at a permit booth on the northern edge of Nyaungshwe. Leaving Nyaungshwe, pick-ups to Shwenyaung depart from Yone Gyi Rd.
Mine Li Quarter
princessgardenhotel.com. Set in delightful gardens with a small swimming pool, this is a restful and friendly little retreat that books up well in advance during peak season – hardly surprising given that the prices, particularly for bungalows, remain very reasonable. Breakfast is served on a terrace with views of the surrounding fields. $45