Inle is (in my opinion) one of the most beautiful and unique places on this planet. I realise that is quite a bold statement, but the few days I spent there were really special.
Inle Lake is a 45sq mile mass of water surrounded by the mountains of the Shan highlands. Everything revolves around Inle; there are stilted villages, communities, markets, temples and of course the best way to navigate the waterways is by boat.
I was there at the end of September into October – the perfect time. The lake looked healthily full of water and the surrounding hills lush green, and Inle’s biggest festival, Phaung Daw Oo pagoda festival, was about to take place which gave an extra buzz to the area.
Jumping in our boat at 6am as the sun rose over Inle, we headed through the winding waterways and out into the big water where we seemed to convene with hundreds of other boats containing other travellers, monks, young people from the villages, various ethnic women from the hills sporting their tribal head wear and more. Everyone wanted a piece of the festival.
Five long brightly coloured boats with groups of young men were rowing in Inle fashion – using their legs to row with the paddle. They were playing music and chanting loudly. Although this was the opportunity to represent and to get involved in transporting the hugely important barge with Phaung Daw Oo Buddha images, it was also their chance to impress the local ladies. Boats of women would sometimes drift by and chanting from the young men got a bit louder. They impressed me at least.
There was no doubting the significance of this festival though. Everyone was out and it was great fun. As we moved away from the pagoda barge we passed many boats with smiling and waving people wishing us well and keen for us to enjoy their Inle.
We looked back over the towards the pagoda barge and the hundreds of boats trying to pay their respects, before we ducked down another quiet waterway.
The festival takes place over approximately an 18 day period from the end of September and is a great reason to be in Inle. I was there for the Lin Kin to Nyaung Shwe section of the festival on September 30th 2014. If you can’t make it for the festival, then it is still well worth spending two or three nights in the area. Unique. Beautiful. Burma.