musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

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Shan State’s Nyaung Shwe is a small town, one of those burgs that boast a sole traffic light, a lot of good old boys hanging out at the local tea shop, and lots of farm animals running around, dodging the increasing number of motorcycles and trucks on the streets. But Nyaung Shwe is the accommodation town of choice for anyone who wants to visit nearby Inle Lake, one of Myanmar’s most popular tourist attractions.

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I love visiting Nyaung Shwe but I can’t remember that last time I saw Inle Lake. See it once, and basically that’s enough. Sure, Inle is a tranquil body of water — or at least it’s the neighboring villages and one-leg-rowing fisherman that what make it so interesting — but there are plenty of other things to do if you are staying in Nyaung Shwe. Plus, it’s just a damn lovely town, surrounded by shimmering green rice fields and craggy green hills.

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If it’s waterways you want, you are better off taking a canoe trip down the town’s network of canals. The scenic canoe ride is much more relaxing and slower-paced than taking a big noisy boat on the big lake. Nyaung Shwe is also a delightful town to explore on foot or by bicycle. There are plenty of crumbling old temple and stupa ruins strewn around town, plus lots of giggling, friendly children flying kites and playing other outdoor games. Yes, they aren’t all addicted to online games just yet!

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In addition to a very colorful morning market, Nyaung Shwe is also home to a staggering number of Buddhist monasteries and some of these places make for very memorable — and very photogenic — visits, especially the old teakwood Shway Yan Pyay, located on the main road into town, near the Inle Lake ticket booth. Early each morning you can also marvel to the sight of long lines of monks making their alms rounds, a sea of red robes penetrating the morning mist.

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Taking half-day, full-day, or multi-day treks to nearby villages and towns such as Kalaw can also be a nice diversion from the lake trips. Nyaung Shwe is such a peaceful and laidback place that many tourists extend their stay just to relax or explore the area. Another option that has become popular in recent years is taking a cooking class. I’ll have another post in the near future about the cooking class I observed recently at Bamboo Delight, but they are only one of several classes in town, not only teaching tourists how to make tasty Burmese and Shan dishes, but also Indian food too.

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Inle Lake? Sure, it’s a “must see” if you are in Myanmar, but take time to discover the other wonders of Nyaung Shwe too!

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