Best things to do in Shan and sightseeing in Shan
Inle Lake - Shan
Day 6: Bagan – Heho – Inle Lake Breakfast at hotel. Transfer to Bagan airport to fly to Heho. Upon arrival, take a boat to the Western Shore of Inle Lake, where you will find the beginning of a stair path leading to the hidden Inn Thein Pagoda complex. Visit one of the most amazing historical sights on the shore of the lake consisting of hundreds of small stupas overgrown by moss and greens. Arrive to your hotel by boat through lush vegetation scenery. Overnight in hotel in Nyaung Shwe or Lake. Day 7: Inle Lake Breakfast at hotel. One of its many unique features is the cultivation on floating gardens where local farmers grow flowers and vegetables. Inle Lake is one of the most popular tourist destination in Shan State and one of the main attractions is the fishermen villages and the curious and unique rowing style fishermen have, which consists of standing on one leg on the extreme of the boat and wrapping their other leg around the the oar. Every year, on the evening of the full moon day in October, the annual PhaungDawOo Pagoda festival is held. Visit the floating market and the great Buddha with holy Buddha image at PhaungDawOo Pagoda. See traditional handicrafts – silk weaving on wooden handlooms and a blacksmith shop. Overnight in hotel in Nyaung Shwe or Lake. More photos here: - The Floating Gardens: http://www.myanmartravelessentials.com/activities/floating-gardens-on-inle-lake/ - One Leg Paddling: http://www.myanmartravelessentials.com/activities/the-art-of-fishing-and-one-leg-paddling-inle-lake/
Frankly speaking, Inle Lake is one of our least favourite amongst all of the other places that we’ve been to in Myanmar. It’s a little too commercialised for our liking. But still, it’s really scenic and still worth going if you have the luxury of time. Otherwise, we would say that it’s okay to give it a miss too. How we got here: Took the overnight bus from Bagan (7pm-6am). Cost us around $11 each. Where we stayed: As we didn’t book our accommodation in advance, most of the guesthouses were already full Our pickup driver recommended to us “Blissful Hotel” which cost us $25 per night. Not too bad actually, very new and clean. Only thing is that it’s quite far from the main market and river. Also, the ambience is not as cozy as compared to guesthouses. What we did: There’s nothing much to do in Inle lake besides taking the commercialised boat trip out to Inle Lake. We paid around $15 for a half day boat trip. During this boat trip, you’ll get to see the famous fisherman and their one leg paddling, Jumping Cat Monastery, Cheroot Factory, Lotus Weaving Factories, etc. On our second day, we visited the market and took a nice stroll around the village. How much we spent in total: Food – $73.70 Activities – $15 (Boat Trip in Inle Lake) - $20 (Entrance Fee to Inle Lake) Transport – $2 (Taxi to Blissful Hotel) - $10 (taxi from Airport to Yangon Regency Hotel) Accommodation – $60 (2 night) Others – $1 (Pack of Cheroots) - $10 (1 hour Massage each) Total expenditure for 2 pax -$191.70 Average expenditure/pax - $95.85
Inle Lake, in all its 44.9 square mile splendor, lies sprawled out at the end of the trek from Kalaw, making the boat ride through floating villages and stilt houses quite some reward at the end of a not-so-arduous trek. Most travel agencies around will make you some or the other version of the same offer: a boat ride up and down the 22km lake peppered with visits to certain villages, floating markets and craft workshops (most of which are commissioned visits). While that really is a lovely way to see a lot within a day, what we enjoyed a lot more was renting out bicycles and roaming the immediate surroundings of the lake, offroading into quaint villages, being offered canoe rides by the local villagers who we suspected don't see many tourists since they are so tightly ensconced in desnse farms and tiny dirt tracks that are hardly tourist-friendly. The canoe ride we took around one of these floating villages was one of our favourite stories from the trip, spontaneous and warm as it was.
Kalaw - Shan
Kalaw, a small town in the Shan state, finds itself on the tourist trail mainly as the base for a trek to Inle Lake. Since we basically swooped in exceptionally late at night and swooped out the morning after, there is not much I can say about the town itself, but the trek is a pleasant jaunt across the countryside, cutting through patchwork fields, hill tribe villages and railway tracks. What is most enjoyable about this otherwise quite ordinary trek is the fact that you get to walk through villages that haven't seen any touristy development, where people are just getting on with life: working on the farms, laying out red chillies to dry, weaving their colourful headscarves, and generally standing around chatting about their day. The trek can be done between one and three days, though two is most ideal: you can pace yourself well, and you get to spend the night in the home of some locals. Its worth giving it to the leisurely pace.
We reached Kalaw late at night and it was really chilly. Fortunately, we found a guesthouse next to the bus station with a hot shower and decent beds. We took a guide to help us for our 2-day trek to Inle Lake (You can also do the 3-day trek). At night you halt in a local village and it is definitely a good cultural experience. In November the landscape is a bit boring, but if you go there in February you will see green paddy everywhere. Nevertheless the trek was still beautiful (and not very hard). Our guide was a 19 year local Burmese boy who was excited to find out more about India and also tell us his love story :). The 2 day trek cost us 50$ per person, including food, stay and a long boat ride to cross Inle. You can ask the guest house at Kalaw to have your backpacks dropped directly at Inle. I think if you negotiate a bit harder and take a tour directly from the guide it is possible to do it in 35$ per person. The village stay was definitely the highlight of the trek for us along with the beautiful foggy morning that we witnessed on our trek.
Nyaungshwe - Shan
The most touristy town in Myanmar and the gateway to the beautiful Inle Lake. Surrounded by floating villages and monasteries, the memories of floating on this mountain lake will always be special.
Nyangshwe is a small touristy town north of the Inle Lake. There isn't much to do here in terms of sight seeing (except a few pagodas), so the main essence of this town can be experienced by just roaming around the streets and interacting with the locals. On our way from the Heho Airport (traveling via plane), we visited a paper factory and the Shwe Yan Pyay, a teak wood monastery built in the early 19th century. The amazing oval windows and the richly decorated mosaics and Golden ornaments make this monastery stand out among the rest.
Hsipaw - Shan
How we got here: Took a day bus from Mandalay to Hsipaw. The bus left at around 9am and reached Hsipaw around 7pm. This time we took a normal bus (non-VIP) and shared the bus with tons of other locals. Every space in the bus was fully maximised to fit as many passengers as possible. Plastic chairs were placed in the middle in between the seats to accommodate more passengers! Where we stayed: Another backpacker recommended us Mr Charles Guesthouse and we decided to heed his advice. Rooms were cheap and the ambience was great! Very friendly staff, comfortable clean rooms. What we did: After much feedback from other travellers, we decided to go for the 3d 2n trek at Hsipaw. We initially wanted to do the much raved about trek from Kalaw to Inle lake, but we were told that the trek in Hsipaw was less touristy and more authentic. Boy were we glad that we did it. Definitely one of the highlights of our Myanmar travel! Our trekking guide was arranged from our guesthouse and we managed to find 6 other backpackers to join us for this trek. You need a minimum of 4 pax for this 3d 2n trek. How much we spent in total: Food – $18 Activities – $80 (3d2n Trek) - $10 (Tips for our awesome guide) Transport – $10 (Bus from Mandalay to Hsipaw) Accommodation – $28 (for 2 nights) Others – $3 (Medicine for food poisoning) Total expenditure for 2 pax - $149 Average expenditure/pax - $74.50