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The North of Myanmar


Global Mark : 15.33    Top Five : No1

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Minor. Market Relax Fiesta 


5 5 1 3 5 5 4 2 4 15.11

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
22 100% 73% (16) 100% 10 to 18 15.55

Description :
A very charming green village surrounded by mountains and crossed by canals leading to famous Inle Lake.

Comments : The lake is the marketing attraction but the village of Nyaugshwe is nearly as interesting, if not more... It has been turned into a great backpacking place as most of the package tourists stay on expensive (and rather boring) places on the lake. 

What to do ? 
- In and around Nyaugshwe : Walk peacefully all over the village and beyond it among rice paddies / Finally see some good looking Buddha figures inside a temple / Visit a museum ($2) or art galleries (free if you do not buy) / Meet an interesting monk painter at the monastery of Nanthe / Spot a 300 years old extremely wide Banyan tree / Say hello to the numerous kids / Ride a water buffalo like the locals ? / See fishermen or farmers at work / Meet the farm / See colorful dragonflies and butterflies / Degust pancakes / Watch the reflection of the moon on the pagoda by the canal / Listen to locals playing the guitar / 
- On Inle Lake : Dream at the lake scenery along the "highway" / Learn a new way to row a boat by watching Intha leg rowers fishermen or grass collectors / Pass floating gardens and houses on stilts / Spot lots of birds / Walk along rice paddies / Test new kind of delicacies at the market / Have a look at handicraft shops / Drink tea while waiting to leave / Cross small wooden bridges over the water canals of a "non smoking" village / See nice Buddha figures in cool wooden monasteries / Play with cats / Also reported, visit striking ruins hidden by vegetation (ask Pancake Kingdom's owner for advise on how to go there)

What you may not like ? The entrance fee to the lake and the high cost of the boat if alone / The touristy floating market / The noise of the speed boats, in particular between 6 and 7am / Wasting time going to the dirty hot springs (1 hour by bike from Khaung Taing) / A few "give me money" kids / The lack of cheap restaurants / The foreigners general overcharge policy around the lake (K40 for an oily bread in a small teashop) / Seeing a lot of tourists as going where everyone goes at the same time everyone seems to go / Passing too fast to make a photo or watch details of those charming village houses on stilts / Then waste time in the handicraft shops / Not going south enough on the lake / Not seeing the promised sunset / 

How long ? A minimum of two days to walk the village and tour the lake but you could easily spend weeks in this pleasant spot.

Where to stay ?  

Hotels  << Get precise info, book online and save money !

A lot of great places here so every backpacker seem to come up with a favorite : the one he/she stayed in ! The below addresses have all HW shower & breakfast. 

- Around the main canal & boat landings (noisy if by the main canal). The first four addresses belongs to the same family. 

  • Joy Hotel GH, Jetty Rd / Room in old house $3(1) or $6(2), in new building $4(1) or $7-8(2) / Acceptable yet basic rooms / Go there for the common terrace just above the canal from where you can experience a small "floating market" in the early morning and, best of all, without the motor noise !
  • View Point Inn (tel : 62), opposite side of the main canal, on the right after bridge / Bungalows w. balcony on stilts over a fishpond $5(1) or $10(2) or $7(1) or $12(2) for view toward the paddies & sunset / Go there for the original setting / What you may not like : the unspectacular basic rooms at not so good prices.
  • Big Drum or Queen GH, opposite side of the main canal, on the left after bridge / Various rooms $3(1), $6(2) or $7(3) / Even cheaper by $1 if stay "longer" (2 days was long enough when I was there) / Choice of either up with balcony toward the fields (Big Drum) or down with better looking rooms (Queen) / Breakfast w. pancake / Go there for the best quality-price ratio in town, the big rooms & the great sunset view if balcony / What you may not like : the dim lightning & bad noise isolation in Big Drum's rooms
  • Shwe Hintha "Golden Duck" GH (tel : 62), east side of canal Rd / Acceptable room w. balcony $3(1) or $4(2) / Same kind of rooms as Big Drum's but smaller size / Go there for the cheaper price for Dbl occupancy / What you may not like : the noise from the speed boats as next to the canal
  • Gipsy Inn (tel : 84), No82 Canal Rd, opposite the collection fee office / Rooms $3(1) or $6(2) / Go there to get extra toasts at the breakfast and maybe also a free bag upon departure / What you may not like : the tiny basic rooms with little charm & view
  • Four Sisters Inn, No 105 Strand Rd, Nan Pan Quarter, 5mn walk south of the above, 10mn walk from the bus station / Rooms around a garden $5(1) or $10(2), $6 or $12 in HS / Breakfast w. pancake / Free boat for one day if 2 people stay 4 days or free dinner if one person / Interesting dining spot sometimes with traditional music instruments / Go there for the classy ultra-clean small rooms with view toward the paddy fields / What you may not like : it is often full ! 

- Off the canal on Phaung Taw Seit Rd, 5mn walk from station :

  • Great Star GH, No45, just a bit away from the canal, south of Shwe Hintha GH / Acceptable rooms $2(1) or $4(2) / Go there for the cheapest price quoted before negotiation / What you may not like : the lack of setting & the basic not so fresh rooms 
  • Bright Hotel (tel : 63), east of the above / Rooms $3(1) or $6(2) / Go there for the fresh looking modern house with rather comfortable small rooms 

- Off the canal on Phaung Taw Pyan Rd, 10mn walk from bus station : 

  • Gold Star Hotel (21635, Yangon 296114), south of the sport field / Small comfortable rooms w. satellite TV & fridge from $8(1) or $14(2) / Go there to watch CNN news
  • The Little Inn (21448), opposite the above / Comfortable small Rooms $5(1) or $10(2) / Go there for the small relaxed garden by Shwe Zali Paya
  • Pyi GH I & II (tel : 76), just east of the post office after the above / Small yet correct room $4(1 or 2) / Rooms in the front old building have no HW / Go there for the good rate if two people / What you may not like : paying to much if one people
  • Golden Express Hotel, opposite the above / An hotel with a GH atmosphere / Correct rooms w. fridge $5(1) or $8(2), $8 or $12 in HS, family room $20(4), $24 in HS / Go there if you are claustrophobic as you can get the huge family room for $5 (single occupancy) / What you may not like : wasting so much space !
  • Mingalar Hotel, east of the above / Go there to see the rooms if there is someone to show you around.

- On the east of Thazi Canal :

  • Remember Inn, Haw Street, south of the museum / Rooms $3(1) or $6(2) / Go there for the comfortable small bungalow-style rooms at good price or to watch CNN in the relaxed lobby / What you may not like : the lack of garden & getting Chinese programs instead of CNN. 

Backpacker's Tips : Lai Nam Khim, Singapore (Dec 04)
i. A highly recommended place to stay is the Aquarius Inn in Nyaungshwe. This is a relatively new place and is not listed on the guidebooks. But the
recommendations have been spreading through word of mouth. The rooms were spacious and nicely decorated, with attached baths and hot water. There are nice tables and benches and orchid flowers in the courtyard. The owner was very friendly and helpful and aways offering tea or juices (for free!). The the breakfast was the best of all the free breakfast I had in myanmar. It had a wonderful plate of many variety of fruits and 2 eggs. All these for only US$10 for double room (we were given a discount of $2 off $12). Unfortunately they only had 7 rooms and I saw many people being turned away. We were lucky because we had sent our lugguage to the inn in advance when we trek from Kalaw to Inle. You can call in advance to reserve the number is 081-2935. Address is No. 2 Phaung Daw Pyan Road, Nam Pan Quarter, Nyaung Shwe. They are just directly opposite the Little Inn.

ii. I met a couple who had stayed in some hotel on the lake. Their advice was not to do that. You are basically stuck in the hotel and at their mercy. You
can't go anywhere else without hiring a boat. You have to eat in their restaurants and charter their boats (which needless to say was extremely expensive). They had to pay K23000 for the boat charter to Inle Lake, which was about 3 times the price in Nyaungshwe (I only paid K7000 through the one arranged by Aquarius Inn). The restaurant was also very expensive that the couple decided not to eat dinner!

iii. the going rate for the whole day boat charter was about K7000 - K10000 per boat in Nyaungshwe in Dec 04. Most people were telling me it would be about K8000-K10000. However, my hotel arranged one for me at K7000. I gave the 2 young boys K1000 tip which made them very happy. Note that if you are staying on the lake, the same boat charter could cost up to K23000! The "whole day" trip would end about 3pm to 4pm. If you want to stretch till sunset, you will have to spend more time at each stop to really stretch it!

iv. It appears that the bus company Ye Thu Aung had a monopoly in Nyaungshwe for bus from to Yangon. Everyone who booked in Nyaungshwe's guesthouses ended up with this bus company. Their buses are not comfortable at all. For the better buses, you may have to book at Taungyi. One tourist reported that she manage to find one hotel (I think it was Hu Pin) in Nyaungshwe that had booking for other bus companies. But that was only after she had already got her tickets.

Backpacker's Tips : Joerg, Germany (Dec 03)
Whithin 2 years I was in Nyaung Shwe 3 times, always staying at the Remember Inn, Haw Street, opposite the former Shan Palace, and always liked the atmosphere. The manager, Thu Thu Aung, is a young lady that will arrange for all the things you want to do in the lake area, boats, trekking, etc and any possible form of transportation to other destinations. As for the Lonely Planet comment "noisy concrete compound", yes, the courtyard has a concrete ground, but the bungalow rooms have bamboo mat covered walls and I never found it noisy. They have have a new structure (3 or 4 floors) besides the older bungalows now that caters more for the traveller that wants ! A bit more luxury. (But have seen one of the rooms only). Another suggestion for trekking and canoeing if you don't book with the Remember Inn: There's another young lady, Ni Ni Win. She's legrowing a canoe through the canals and also offering trekking tours. She can be found in a tea shop right before the canal bridge. Coming from the market on the righthand side just before you reach the "mirror glass pagoda" (which is on the left). Look for the sign " NiNi Win - Nice Trekking"

Backpacker's Tips :  Marineve, France (June 03)
I stayed in "Joy G.H" in November 2002. It's well situated, quiet, there's a little market in front in the morning. The black point was : how to be understood at the reception, where nobody seems to speak English (or you have to wait a while, since they call or get up someone specially to help the conversation!) They reserved a bus ticket for me, and they told me  (it was even written on the ticket!) to be at the Schwenyaung junction (a few miles away) at 4:30 A.M. But it was the time the bus was starting from TAUNGGYI! I could wait!!! And finished freezing, standing anxiously at this junction where there's nothing interesting to do at this time! 

Backpacker's Tips :  Sammy Tong, USA (Jan 03)
I stayed at 4 Sisters Inn paid $7/night. Other place may charge less with same service. Rent a boat with
driver from the owner of Inn, paid $7.50(K7,500)/day while driver earns only $0.15(K150)/day (believe it or
not!). Please tip to boatman generously and renegotiate the rental rates. Meals are generally valued at $0.50(K500) like other restaurants in town, you will be asked to pay as much as you wish...$1.00(K1,000) is more than enough. So again please tip employees (waiters, cooks) generously.

Backpacker's Tips :  Lyndon, Singapore (March 02)
I would highly recommended a budget guesthouse called "May Guest House" (85 Myawaddy Road, Nandawun Qr, Nyaungshwe (Inle) Tel: 081-21416/081-22326). The manageress is "Kyi Kyi", a very friendly middle-aged lady who can give sound advice on trips around Nyaung Shwe and Inle Lake. The guesthouse has very clean, quiet, cooling and cozy rooms with clean attached bathrooms with shower. It costs only US$10/night for a double and is value for money. The GH is near the market place. 

Where to eat ?
This place is the pancake capital of Myanmar with at least three places in the business including Pancake Kingdom (from K125), near Shwe Hinta GH. Otherwise, head toward the market for restaurants & cheap bites. Four Sisters Inn is also an interesting place to dine : there is no menu but a different set dinner every night of the week and the food is rather simple (veggies, potato and a meat or fish dish with rice) but it is unlimited and, best of all, you pay as much (or as little) as you wish. Satisfaction is therefore guaranteed ! 

Bike ? Most of the GH should be able to find you one for around K300 per day. Just east of the Post Office, a small snack kiosk offer cheaper rates at K200 or K100 for half day. 

Change ? For Traveler Cheque you will have to go to Taunggyi. Dollars or FEC however interest local changers. 

The Market days ?

Order Inle Lake Villages Ex
1 Floating Market (Ywama) Aungban & Taunggyi 20/04/00
2 Mang Thawk, Pagoda (Phaung Daw Oo) & Taung Ni day off 21/04/00
3 Kaung Daing Kalaw & Shwengyaung 22/04/00
4 Nyaung Shwe & Nampan (big) Pindaya 23/04/00
5 Than Taung & Taung To Heho (buffalo market) 24/04/00

A relaxed walking tour ?
Follow the main canal south until the small village of Nanthe, 1km away. You could continue south toward the lake via Sizon village but it would be a long rather boring trip. I would rather suggest to head east inside the paddies and then north back to Nyaungshwe. The area east of Thazi Canal is very charming with its mountain backdrop and you could spend a while walking the small paths. A few temples are also worth a look, in particular Yadana Man Aung Kyaung on the west of the CTT Office : one of the nicest inside Buddha figures seen so far in Myanmar. 

 << Discover Nyaungshwe

A day around Inle Lake ? 

The first step is to decide what day to go. The floating market on day 1 is the most popular therefore the most touristy and the less interesting (it is also quite near) : except showing up at 7am, you are likely to see more tourists & souvenirs boats than veggies carrying ones. Nam Pan's market on day 4 is arguably the best choice, followed by Than Taung & Taung To (usually the first place only) on day 5. Mang Thaugh on day 2 is small and  you would rather see the local market in Shwe Nyaung on day 3. Off course, there is no obligation to go to the lake to visit a market...

The second step is to find a group to go with in order to share the cost of the boat. All boats stop at MTT Office in front of Gypsy Inn for the $3 entrance fee (valid for the duration of your stay) so it is a good spot to wait if you wake up with nobody to go with. Prices for boat should vary according to the distance covered, not the number of people on board. 8 people is the maximum usually allowed but 6 is more common. Prices should be around K2000 for the whole day for the normal itinerary down to the Pagoda only, around K3000 if all the way south. 

The third step is to agree on an itinerary. It will usually go to the market area of the day plus the Pagoda, the jumping cat monastery and a few handicraft shops (see story below). But you could very well be more original, in particular if you wish to avoid seeing too many tourists : Taung To (market every 5 days) & Chiang Khang (monks clothes fabric) in the extreme south or In Dein (lots of pagodas in great setting) in the south-west were recommended by local people. The way to Than Taung was also very nice. Whatever you decide, you should try to negotiate a walk in the beautiful countryside and have the boat follow narrow water path along luxuriant vegetation. In Dein would be an excellent choice (walk during the dry season, boat otherwise).

The fourth step is to enjoy ! Below is how I did it :

I woke up lonely but found a group to go with at 7:30 around Joy GH. The four of them had been asked K2500 for the whole day until sunset and with now five people, the price got up to K2800. Certainly too expensive for the classic itinerary. Nobody was however too eager to negotiate for hours or look for another boat so we agreed on K500 per people and left at 8am. 

The boat had comfortable seats (most of them have) and a big noisy motor (unfortunately same here) but it was not too fast so it took us a while to reach Than Taung boat landing. Not that we were complaining in any way : we could at least enjoy the scenery ! The boat ride toward the village, then the 30mn's walk toward the market were the highlights of the day : small water path among grass & floating gardens, small houses isolated in the rice paddies, rising Pagodas or coconut trees and, off course, the small but colorful market... 

We went back to the boat at 11:15 and spent the next hour visiting handicraft shops : (rather ugly) wood carving, (rather delicate) silversmith and (rather intriguing) hand weaving. We did not buy anything but drank tea. At 12:30, we stopped for lunch (noodle soup at K150 !) by a small "no smoking" village and Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda. The latest is rather empty (two original boats however on the west side) but very nice Buddha images can be seen in the cool wooden monastery on the east. Due to heavy rain, we continued our itinerary at 14:30 only : direction Nga Pha Kyaung, also known as "jumping cat" monastery. Indeed, waiting again for the rain to stop, we saw cats jumping at the order of a monk. Like somebody joked, it would be more impressive to see the monks jump... We left the felines at 16. 

On our way back, we slowed down by the floating gardens, saw plenty of fishermen on one leg, followed the flights of birds and enjoyed our last moments on the lake. We were back at 17, one hour too early to experience the sunset on the lake. And that was because of the 1 hour lunch stop and the 1 hour rain delay. Our negotiated "whole day" had turned out a bit short, but it was not enough to alter our enthusiasm toward our great day. I just wish I had signed for a more isolated trip. That will be for the next time !

 << Discover the Lake

Backpacker's Tips : Hans & Greet, Belgium (Nov 02)
The Four Sisters are - as well for their food as for their accomodation - not that fantastic as mentioned in some travel books ! 
Bike around the like (300 Kt/day, 200 Kt/half day). 
Charter a boat on the lake, 3500 Kt., from 8 to 15 h., beautiful, but incl. jumping cat monastery and some very expensive shops. Every day there is a market in (another) village around the like. That's the place to go first : You will see a lot of hill tribes there, where you can also buy some souvenirs (If they start with 20 dollar, you can get it for 2 dollar !)
Entrance for the Inle Lake is 3 FEC/person. if you don't pay (for the government), that same government will put your boatman in jail 
You can also do a little trip with a canoe on the canals, also "pay-as-you-wish". 
There is still one traditional puppet master in the village. Daily show at 18h and 21h. Best place to buy puppets (4$ > 10$) in Myanmar !

Backpacker's Tips : Franck Bertagnolio, France (May 02)
I stayed at Pyi GH. No problem. The nephew (well, if business is involved, there are all of the same family, aren't they?) of Mister Pyi is organizing a 3 days trek from Nyaugshwe to Kalaw, which is a very good alternative to the more tourist-crowded treks around Kalaw. Indeed, during 3 days I didn't met a single tourist. The trip was quite physical but nothing impossible. Fist night in a monastery, second in a farm. Very well organized, good food. 35 US$ for one person everything included, discount if several people. You can contact directly the guy: MG MG LWIN, 35, Mingalar Quart, Inle Lake, Shan State or through the PYI Guest House.
In Nyaugshwe, a good new Shan restaurant: Exodus, not so far from PYI Hotel. Pancake Kingdom is a good place to visit as well, with very very nice people.

Backpacker's Tips :  Leandro Diano, France (Nov 01)
Ask for Sein Chu in Four Sisters Inn to have a day trek around the Lake (Pao people in the villages) / Very interesting : seeing how they grow leaves for Cheerot cigars making 

Backpacker's Tips : Anonymous (Sept 01)
The village of Kekku, that was off access previously is now open. This place is the access to 2500 Stupa and a beautiful valley with rice plantations. Check the tour operators for info.  

Backpacker's Tips : Jean-Marc Delatre, France (Sept 00)
Day trek organized by Remember Inn: 3 $ (overnight treks prohibited by government.). You'll visit Pa-Oh villages and the monastery of Kone Son. Less interesting than the trek from Kalaw. 
Lake entry fee: 3 $. to be paid when doing an excursion on the lake. It is possible to avoid this tax leaving before 6am, and returning after 5pm (lake office is closed), but it is the boat driver which is likely to have problems (and to be obliged to pay for all of its passengers!). Therefore avoid it. 
Caution : the phone is expensive in N.S.: 1 min to France: 7 $ instead of 4 $ in Mandalay or Yangon. 
Bus to Bago (actually the bus and the fare to Yangon): 2300 K, company Ye Thu Aung, correct but very packed, and almost no room for the legs for tall people, but it's usual now. Departure at 12:30pm from Shwe Nyaung (junction), lasted 15h30 (very long, has to go via Kalaw...)   

Bus ticket ? Most GH plus plenty of agencies can arrange for a bus ticket but they usually charge a commission for the service : K200 to K500 ! So if you go to Taunggyi to see the market, (the only real reason to visit), buy your ticket there at the same time...

Leaving Nyaungshwe ? Pick-up to Shwengyaung junction (from where you get buses coming from Taunggyi) operates usually from 6am to 4-6pm only. This mean that you will have no choice but to charter a taxi (K1000) to catch the 5am buses to Bagan or Mandalay. To avoid both this expense & early wake up, you could reserve a seat, peacefully head toward Kalaw (around K300, 2 hours, plenty of pick up or buses from around noon), eventually trek the area and then board your bus from there at around 7am. It is also possible to book a seat from Kalaw and there was no commission there at the time of writing. 
Beside buses or pick up, it is possible to reach Kalaw by train : around 8:30, 10:30 & 15, $2 ordinary, around 2 hours. 
Local people seem to disagree on what bus company is the most reliable. Usually, the company with the largest fleet is the best but some alternate old and new buses. For Mandalay, Shan Land was recommended. For Yangon, Taung Paw Thar Exp (22344) or Eastern State Exp (22722) were cited. This is however not carved on stone...

Bus Schedules : From Taunggyi

To Company Tel Cost Type Time D
Yangon Taung Paw Thar Exp 21963/23535 2000 AC 12:00 15
Pyinal Thar Exp 081-23691 1500 ordi 12:00 15
Mandalay Shan Land Exp ? 1200 ordi 5:00 7 to 8
Bagan Nyaung Mann Exp ? 1500 minibus 5:00 10

Notes : D = duration /  To Yangon via Pyay (same price) / To Taungyi via Kalaw (same price, 8 hrs)

The trip to Yangon : SSSS / R / K2000 / 17.5 hrs / AC Bus

I had been told to show up at the junction for noon but the bus did not show up until 1pm. But it was worth waiting as the first buses to show up were a bit old while ours turned out to be a fresh Nissan bus. The name of the Co, Taung Paw Thar Exp, was proudly written on it. 

We reached Kalaw at 14:30, after a 15mn stop for snacks & toilets. Ten minutes after Kalaw, all the local people got off : the bus was being refueled and it is well known that this is a dangerous process, better to observe from a safe distance...

The next stop was at 17 in front of a busy restaurant with apparently good connections with all the bus companies. We westerners thought that it was a snack break but all the locals started ordering big rice dishes. Indeed, it turned out that this was the half an hour dinner break. We would not stop again before 10pm, where we were given 20mn sharp to eat... We made the bus (and its passengers) wait a bit more.

Beside this misunderstanding, the bus company proved rather good : bottle of water at each reclinable seat, onboard movies (2.5 including a very intellectual Chinese one in Mandarin with unreadable English subtitles but the story wasn't apparently not too complicated to follow), spray of perfume during the break, working AC & individual lights, switch off of the music after only 3 or 4 requests in loud English and, above all, no break down ! We reached the North Highway Bus Centre at 6:20. 

The scenery was beautiful as offering good mountains panorama : on the left going up to Kalaw, then on the right, going down. Sitting on the right will also get you the sun, a bit annoying if the local people sitting by the window decide to use the curtain. But as long as the view is not hidden during sunset...

See also the trip from Kalaw