Things to do in Inle Lake with kids

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Family Travel Blog - Travelling with Kids

Inle Lake was a surprising highlight on our visit to Myanmar. I had been to Ton Le Sap near Siem Reap in Cambodia and thought it would be similar at that. However there is more to Inle Lake than the obvious long boat tour, here’s my list of things to do on Inle Lake with kids. 

Inle Lake is a 116 square kilometer fresh water lake in Shan State, Myanmar. The water level in Inle Lake varies between 2m and 3.7m depending what season it is. The local people of Inle Lake are called the Intha and there are 70,000 of them living in four towns bordering the lake and in numerous small villages on or next to Inle Lake. 

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Transportation around the lake is mostly by long boat with inboard diesel engines. Inle Lake is famous for the local fishermen who stand at the back of their boats on one leg, while wrapping their other leg around the oar and using that leg to row and utilising a large net to catch fish.  This enables the fishermen to see through the reeds. 

A traditional fisherman, there are loads of them on the lake.

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Things to do in Inle Lake with kids

By the time we arrived at Inle Lake, we had visited Yangon, Bagan and Mandalay and the kids were getting a bit tired of visiting temples and pagoda’s. Inle Lake definitely provided a change of scenery and provided more appropriate things to do in Inle Lake. We found there to be plenty of good things to do in Inle Lake with kids and mine were even wanting to stay a little longer.

First read my Myanmar travel tips if this is your first visit to Myanmar.

Take a long boat ride

Doing a long boat tour was definitely a highlight of our trip to Inle Lake with kids. We were picked up by our tour guide/long boat driver at 8am from the jetty of our hotel. It’s best to head out early and beat the heat of the day. Make sure you take sunscreen and hats, you’ll definitely need them.  The long boat tour gives you insight into life on the lake for the local people and you’ll see that it’s bustling and full of life. We were back at the hotel at 2pm, we could have slowed down and spent more time at each spot but we were happy with what we had seen and the kids we keen to have a swim as it was quite hot. 

things to do in Inle Lake with kids

Our long boat arriving at the jetty, fitted all 5 of us.

I was surprised to see masses of tomato fields on the lake, they must be able to supply the whole of Myanmar with the amount of tomatoes we saw.  They grow in garden beds that float on the water, there were other crops growing successfully the same way. 

things to do in Inle Lake with kids

One of the many tomato fields on Inle Lake.

On arrival in Nyaung Shwe we were approached by locals offering us tours of the lake.  Its hard to know what value you’re going to get and the level of knowledge the guide will be able to provide. Your hotel is able to organise a guide for you however you will be paying extra for that service. I recommend pre-booking with Klook for Inle Lake Tours these are reliable and well organised tours.

Visit Local Artisans

The long boat tour took us to visit a number of different local artisan workshops which we got to via a network of street like canals in our long boat. The workshops had a store where you were able to purchase some of the local products as souvenirs. The kids definitely rated the local artisans as one of the best things to do in Inle Lake.

things to do in Inle Lake with kids

Long boat selfies!

Craig dubbed Inle Lake the ‘Venice of the East’ and it certainly is like a bustling little city in some areas. You will discover many artisans that welcome you into their studio/homes and show you their craft, traditions and give you demonstrations. Below is just a few of the local artisans we had the opportunity to visit.

Visit the Silversmith Workshop

This was our first stop, we were guided through the different stages of how they extract the silver and then melt it down and finally made into a piece of jewellery. It was a family run business that employees a few locals. Once you have experienced the silver being produced, you can see some of the jewellery being made before heading to the showroom to see the finished products.

things to do in Inle Lake with kids

Extracting the silver, very hot work in a hot climate with little machinery for assistance.

I actually found the quality to be good, I bought a lovely pair of silver earrings for myself and some for my mum and sister. The girls both got something for themselves with their birthstones set in silver. The prices were very reasonable and the workmanship was good as well. I’m always happy to make purchases at places like this, particularly as they are original pieces that you won’t find elsewhere.

Make shan paper

The kids participated in making shan paper. Shan paper is used to produce the beautiful paper umbrellas that you see everywhere in Myanmar. Produced from the stem of the mulberry branch, the paper is very popular in Myanmar. You’ll often find the paper with flower or leaf inlay, its similar to a rough tissue paper. It was great to watch the process of making the paper and definitely one of the fun things to do in Inle Lake with kids.

things to do in Inle Lake with kids

Caelan making the paper pulp.

Its quite a long process from start to finish, the mulberry branch in beaten to a pulp with a wooden mullet. Then placed on a bamboo frame covered with a very fine cotton fabric until it settled at the bottom of a shallow tank of water. With a stick or with hands, the pulp is mixed with the water and then spread over the fabric.  The frame is pulled out from the water tank, while the pulp of paper stays on the cotton. The frame and the pulp will dry for hours in the sun and finally the pulp will be transformed into a paper sheet. Delicately, the sheet will be removed from the bamboo frame.

things to do in Inle Lake with kids

So wanted to bring one of these home!

You are able to purchase some of the paper from the workshop or purchase an umbrella made from the shan paper. I desperately wanted to bring an umbrella home but having only carry on luggage made this too difficult.

Padaung Village Long Neck Women

Padaung women begin to wear neck coils from as young as age two. The length of the coil is gradually increased however the weight of the coils will eventually place sufficient pressure on the clavicles to cause them to deform and create an impression of a longer neck believed to be a sign of beauty. This practice does irreparable damage to these women’s neck as the muscles underneath the coil become weakened.

things to do in Inle Lake with kids

Not an attraction I would ordinarily seek out, this lady is creating a scarf.

I had not planned to seek this out, we come across three ladies from the Padaung Village while at the shan paper workshop. The kids were quite intrigued and interested in why the women would do that. Its an age old tradition that has recently been discouraged by the Myanmar government. Ordinarily not something I would support or encourage others to visit, as stated above I did not seek this out and you will have to consider your own ethical travel standards before visiting. If you do really want to visit one of these villages I suggest you do your research and find a responsible tour company that will promote a socially responsible visit. Enough said.

Visit the Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery

Nga Phe Chaung Monastery is a beautiful wooden monastery built on stilts believed to be constructed 200 years ago on Inle Lake. It is the oldest and largest monastery in Inle Lake region. It is set among floating gardens and well worth a visit. There is a strip of souvenir shops on the walkway into the monastery, we entered from the long boat at the rear of the monastery.

things to do in Inle Lake with kids

Inside Nga Phe Chaung Monastery.

There are a number of different buddha’s from Shan and other areas of Myanmar inside. You might also hear some people refer to it as the Jumping Cat Monastery as the previous head monk had trained cats to jump through hoops. The new head monk was not in favour of this practice.

things to do in Inle Lake with kids

Love this photo of the girls in the window frame.

things to do in Inle Lake with kids

Some more pagodas on Inle Lake.

Visit a Lotus Weavers Workshop

Lotus plants are plentiful on Inle Lake and you will see then everywhere during your tour. The lotus thread is consider the most expensive and finest fabrics in the world. The thread is produced from the stem of the lotus flower and you can see how the women of Inle Lake hand spin the thread and then produce beautiful garments. The threads are produced by cutting the stem of a lotus plant and then pulling the halves gently apart which makes a thread appear. A square metre of this fabric requires at least 20,000 lotus stems and takes a skilled artisan 40 days to produce.

things to do in Inle Lake with kids

Creating the thread from the lotus stem.

things to do in Inle Lake with kids

Weaving the thread into a garment.

There is a store on site selling the products made from the lotus thread, I was surprised to find that a lotus scarf was twice as much as a silk scarf. I usually like to purchase something from local workshops such as this but on this occasion the beautiful garments were well above my budget.

things to do in Inle Lake with kids

The garments were beautiful but a little on the expensive side.

Sunrise on Inle Lake

Everyone who knows me knows that my favourite part of the day is sunrise and sunset. I was determined to get out on the lake and experience a sunrise. I booked the same long boat operator we had the day before for our lake tour. I asked the family who wanted to go and I got a resounding silence and realised I would be venturing out alone.

things to do in inle lake with kids

A nice dusty pink over the lake during the sunrise.

My alarm went off at 4.30am and I got ready, waking Caelan in the process. He decided he would come with me and threw on some clothes and headed down to the resort jetty with me. Our driver arrived right on time at 5am and we headed straight out to the middle of the lake. It was quiet and eerie and the lake was so still, we were sitting floating in the long boat waiting for sunrise and watching the early morning fishermen.

things to do in Inle Lake with kids

A halo of light around my beautiful boy!

Unfortunately the sunrise was terrible, we were there at the end of the wet season and the sky was often cloudy destroying any chance of a decent sunrise. Strangely enough, I was able to pick up some nice colours from my iPhone but I certainly couldn’t see that with my naked eye. It might not have been the best sunrise but I had that time with my boy and that was definitely worth it.

Take in a Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Ride

Hot air balloons operate between mid October to mid March and is weather dependant. The balloon company will pick you up from your hotel between 5am-5.30am. You’ll be up in the air before the sunrises and watch the soft morning glow bring Inle Lake to life. Once back on the ground, you’ll enjoy a light breakfast with sparkling wine which is a hot air balloon tradition any where in the world.

We weren’t able to do this activity as we arrived in early October, just before the balloon season began. Had they have been operating I definitely would have done it. I love the surreal feeling of hot air ballooning where you feel like the earth is slowly moving away from you while you stand still in the basket. Having done it a couple of times in other places, I’m sure it would be an absolutely amazing experience.

For a competitive price, I recommend pre-booking through Klook for your hot air balloon adventure.

Myanmar Cooking Lesson

For an interactive activity that is fun and educational for the kids, you can’t go past a local cooking lesson. This class will teach you how to cook an authentic Myanmar meal in a floating house on Inle Lake. You’ll have an experienced chef who’ll teach you all the secrets to create an authentic, delicious Myanmar meal.

You’ll stop by the local market in Nyaung Shwe and collect all the ingredients you’ll use during your class. Won’t your family and friends be impressed when they come over for some authentic Myanmar cuisine cooked by the kids.

For a competitive price, I recommend pre-booking through Klook for reliable, well organised tours.

Visa Requirements

Do Australian’s require a visa to visit Myanmar? Yes.

You will need a visa to visit Myanmar if you are Australian. We applied for an e-visa and it was easy and straightforward. I get all my visa information from the Smarttraveller website and it directed me to the Embassy of Myanmar website.

All other nationalities I suggest you go through the Myanmar Online Visa website and follow the bouncing ball and pay at the end.

The online e-visa process cost us AU$60 per person.

Best hotels near Inle Lake

There are many options to choose from when visiting Inle Lake that will suit any budget. We stayed at the Novotel Inle Lake Myat Min. I was very happy with this choice as it was the relax and recharge component of our trip. I also thought the Novotel was one of the best hotels on Inle Lake and the kids loved it.

things to do in Inle Lake with kids

The pool area at the Novotel Myat Inle Lake.

things to do in Inle Lake with kids

Our junior suite, we had 2 of these side by side.

I loved the views from the upper pool deck and as it was low season we often had the pool to ourselves. There were even some lake facing bungalows with private plunge pools.  If you are looking for a hotel recommendation, I highly recommend staying at this hotel.

  • Budget – there are many budget options in Nyaung Shwe, at the north end of the lake which is the main access point for Inle Lake. Nyuang Shwe is a bit of a backpackers hub but has a pleasant relaxed vibe. Hotel Maineli – relatively new on the scene, large rooms with comfy beds and clean bathrooms. Peaceful location with competent staff that have a decent level of English.
  • Mid range – La Maison Birmane – a boutique hotel of 10 freestanding timber bungalows with thatched roofs and manicured gardens. Bungalows are not huge, beds are raised off the floor and comfortable, the more expensive bungalows have marble bathrooms. Lovely communal areas, this hotel is good value for money.
  • Luxury – Inle Princess Resort – located on the Eastern shore and consistently rated the best hotel on Inle Lake with the nicest setting of any hotel on the lake. The wooden cottages are stylishly decked out in timber furniture, indoor and outdoor showers and the more expensive ones have lake facing sun decks.

Getting to and from Inle Lake

Fly – flights are available to Mandalay and Yangon and from smaller regional airports across Myanmar and international flights from across Asia, you can book direct or with travel agents on arrival in larger cities. Flights are generally between US$50-$100 each way for local flights;

Bus – we travelled all around Myanmar on buses, a combination of day and overnight buses are available. There are various levels of comfort from local mini bus to VIP luxury buses.  You will be provided with a meal, blanket and pillow but be warned there are no toilets on board. You will need to wait until the bus stops which is does a few times each trip. The bus is very cost effective, you can get direct buses from Bagan, Yangon or Mandalay.

things to do in Inle Lake with kids

The VIP buses are very comfortable.

We got the bus from Yangon to Bagan, Bagan to Mandalay, Mandalay to Inle Lake and Inle Lake to Yangon. If you want to cut down your bus travel you could do Yangon to Bagan, Bagan to Inle Lake, Inle Lake to Mandalay and then fly out of Myanmar from there.

What to pack for Inle Lake

When travelling in Myanmar always dress respectfully when planning to visit any temples. Shoulders should be covered as with your knees. I had a skirt that fell to just below my knees and that was fine at nearly all the temples we visited. I had one request I wear a longhi (wrap around skirt) which was provided for a small fee.

I also suggest you carry a shawl, I had a pashmina wrap with me at all times. I was requested to wear it once when I had a t-shirt with a cross over back on, it actually just slipped my mind when I put that particular top on but the shawl was just fine. There doesn’t seem to be an issue with kids, however our 13 yr old daughter was asked to wear a longhi over her shorts a couple of times.

Wear comfortable clothes the day that you are doing the long boat tour as you will be getting in and out of the boat regularly. If you wear long light pants that will assist with avoiding mosquito bites as well.

Budget for visiting Inle Lake

Like all South East Asian countries you can get away with spending as little as US$20 per day if you wanted to. However with us being a family of 5 and we were closer to US$80 per day, including accommodation, food and tours.  We could have done this a lot cheaper had we not eaten at the hotel, on a good note all hotels in Myanmar come with breakfast included. Overall Myanmar is a very budget friendly destination however I’m not the best person for making or sticking to budgets!

things to do in Inle Lake with kids

I strongly recommend a visit to Inle Lake if visiting Myanmar.

What did we think of Inle Lake with kids?

Inle Lake was the perfect break from the temples and pagodas we’d seen in the rest of Myanmar.  The kids loved the Inle Lake day tour and really enjoyed seeing life on the lake for the local people. It was a much more relaxed pace for us and we spent the mornings out and about and the afternoons back at the hotel in the pool. My advice is if you can afford to, stay at one of the hotels that are located on the East side of the lake. It makes for a beautiful sunset each evening with a cocktail while the kids had some quiet iPad time in the room.

I could easily have spent another day or two at Inle Lake, I would have loved to do a hot air balloon ride. We only stayed 2 nights and while we managed to see a bit, there were definitely other things I would have been happy to see. I think you would be crazy not to visit Inle Lake as it was definitely one of the best things to do in Myanmar with kids.

Have you been to Myanmar? Did you visit Inle Lake? Tell me about it in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

Sal, Craig & Our3kids

 

9 Comments on “Things to do in Inle Lake with kids

  1. Inle Lake was the highlight of our visit to Myanmar, and definitely where the kids had more fun and enjoyed the most.

    We stayed at Sofitel, it’s brand new, and luckily got a super cheap rate, It was beyond our expectations, 100% luxury and honestly I doubt there’s a better hotel in Inle Lake.
    It’s modern, rooms are spacious, it has great views from any room and the best was the restaurant; Food in there was AMAZING!!! Totally recommend. Even for a dine out while staying in any other hotel.

    You are right on all the activities you posted, I only would add visiting the local market, as it is a unique experience that brings you closer to local people and an incredible opportunity for the kids to learn a lot!

    • Hi Dani,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I had my eye on the Sofitel, I assumed they were relatively new and I love their hotel chain as a whole. It certainly did look luxurious in the online photos. We stayed at the Novotel and we really loved that also. I think you have to stay on the lake if visiting Inle Lake even if it is that little bit more expensive.

      I didn’t know about the local market, we usually love visiting local markets. Did you get there on the long boat as part of a lake tour or was it in town? I would have loved to stay a bit longer, we had a very tight itinerary on this trip with only 2 nights in each location. We really did pack a bit in but would have been nice to see a bit more.

      I definitely want to return to Bagan and Inle lake another time.

      Thanks
      Sal & Co.

  2. I’m planning my trip to Myanmar, with my wife and 2yrs old daughter, can please tell me if it’s good idea to take a stroller (baby car) or it’s better to walk around (the baby carrier isn’t an option for us)? thank you for your answer.

    Just a tip: next time when taking pictures at sunset, never use the flash, try generating a silhouette picture or if you’re using a DSLR just use the over exposition feature on Manual mode.

    • Hello,

      I honestly think it would be difficult with a stroller however it depends how you are getting around. We did a lot of overnight buses and I think you would find a stroller difficult as the roads are a little uneven and traffic is chaotic. If you are flying a lot between places it might be a little easier with a stroller.

      Thanks for your tip on photography, its definitely a place where I could use a little instruction as my skills are pretty average.

      Thanks
      Sal & Co.

      • Thank you Sal,

        I was thinking the same thing about the roads, for me and my wife, walking shoes is the solution for long walks and hikes, for the baby I think we need to find an alternative for the stroller.

        Regarding the photography tip, we’re not aiming to become better than Trey Ratcliff or Trey Ratcliff, but knowing some tips can work for us :p

        Regards,
        Ayoub.

        • Hi Ayoub,

          Yes the roads and streets definitely don’t make it easy for those travelling with little ones that require a stroller. A lot of the temples and pagodas have many steps as well which would make it even more challenging for you.

          My husband takes some great photos but he always forgets to bring his camera so most of the photos end up being from my point & shoot! I wish I had better skills but at the same time I don’t think I have the eye for photography like my husband has. Strangely though, I wish I was much better at it, I’d like to be.

          Thanks
          Sal & Co.

          • Thank you for the tips Sal,

            By the way, do you accept guest post, I may share a story or two from my previous travels as a Family. My trip to Istanbul last year was challenging with the baby, but we managed to plan an itinerary so we can use the stroller and sometimes the baby carrier, it will be great to share it with your readers.

            Regards,
            Ayoub.

          • Hi Ayoub,

            I don’t really do guest posts as I find it difficult to keep up with my own posts, I always seen to be well and truly behind in my own content. As much as I would love a post on Istanbul it would be a bit difficult as we don’t have any European content yet so it wouldn’t really fit on my site and it would be unlikely to rank very well. If you had something to add on any of the continents we have already visited, I would consider it.

            Thanks
            Sal & Co.

          • As a family we visited Europe (6 countries) and Africa (5 countries), in Asia I did a solo trip to Indonesia (Seminyak) and to Malaysia only, if this is more suitable for your readers let me know or contact me via email to sketch an article.

            Thank you Sal and have a great day.

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