Inle Lake, Myanmar
Inle Lake is quite different from any other part of Myanmar. The area borders north Thailand and Laos (though that is still along way. As far as for his moment there are no border crossings open between northern Thailand and Myanmar. The two main provinces which cover the area are Shan State and Kayan or Karen State.
So, where do we start? In principle you will start your journey to Inle Lake from Meiktila.
From there you will follow highway 4 which will lead you to Thazi, the railway junction. After Thazi Kalaw will be the next major town to visit.
There are minority villages and waterfalls in the area. Meiktila to Kalaw is around 200 km. If you come from Mandalay, you can skip Meiktila and go Wu Dwin.
Just after Wu Dwin you can take a shortcut to Thazi in which case you will avoid Meiktila. And before Kalaw there's an interesting stop to make at Pindaya.
With a few guest houses and hotels Pindaya is worth the extra kilometers. The town is small but the surrounding is lovely. Climb up the hill and visit some of the caves.
The distance from Kalaw to Pindaya is 50 km. If you have only one night in Pindaya, start early. In the afternoon you can see what is worth in Pindaya.
The Inle Inn Hotel Inle Lake in Pindaya is good choice to stay. The Hotel is conveniently located in Pindaya close to the Pindaya cave with its thousands of Buddha statues.
This is a great hotel for trekking in the surrounding jungle. The hotel can inform you where to go and offer help to find guides.
Street life in Taunggyi
Kalaw is a neat little town on the way to Inle Lake. With hotels and local restaurants it's a neat little place to stay a night. The town is a former colonial British hill station. Kalaw's altitude is 1300 meters and has a cool climate.
Kalaw is also a good place to start some trekking in the area. The hills here has plenty of little villages and beautiful jungle to see. However, it's not advised to come in the rainy season.
Most people head to Taunggyi but you may want to have a stop in the little town of Taunggyi, some kilometers before Taunggyi. The village is no more then a junction with some guesthouses and local styled food shops but it is an excellent point to start you Inle Lake experience.
If you need to use your both hands, you row with your feet...
The lake is not very deep but deep enough for locals to go around in little boats. So leave your bicycle in Taunggyi. The lake is nearby. At the lake there are several places to stay.
Two of the most popular areas on the lake are the market and the Phe Chaung monastery in the middle of the lake. The teakwood temple is a tourist attraction though one can only wonder if the monks have nothing else to do then teach a cat some tricks.
This little town can be your home for a few days. There's some cheap guesthouses with fantastic views over the lake and the mountains in the east.
Inside the town there's a market. It's mostly a floating market and it's nice to get a small boat and join the crowds on the water. There's some handy craft to buy for visiting tourists but most of the sales is still for local use, food, fish, cloth and other household stuff.
Floating market in Ywama
Loikaw in Kayah State is the home of the Long Neck tribes and a wonderful place to visit according to the ones who have been there. Unfortunately I can't tell you from my own experience. I can tell you the road is supposedly in decent condition nowadays except in the rainy season. You may need to have a stop in Hsi Hseng.
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