11km wide, 22km long Inlay lake is situated Southern Part of Shan State. Shan State is big state border with China to the north, Laos and Thailand to the East. Shan State high land is inhabited by Shan people mainly and many other tribe groups : Pao, Danu, Intha, Taung Yoe, Akha, En, lahu, Wa ….It is the land for 32 different ethnic groups.
As the state is big land, divided into 3 parts: Northern Shan State – the capital is Lashio, Eastern Shan State – the capital is Kyaing Tong and Southern Shan State – the capital is Taungyi. Inlay Lake is situated 45 minutes drive from Taungyi, 9 hours drive from Yangon, 7 hours drive from Mandalay. The lake sits between the two high mountain ranges can reach just by car. The nearest airport is in Heho which is small town situated one hour 15 drive from Taungyi. Important airport is in Heho village as Heho valley is quite big at Southern Shan State. All travelers come to Taungyi or Inlay lake, land at Heho and continue by car. There are public buses between to Inlay lake from Yangon and Mandalay.
Inlay lake is the second biggest lake in Myanmar and the most attractive place for worldwide visitors for its beauty – nature, culture, tradition, people, religious monument.
There are numerous villages along the lake shore and on the lake. The biggest and nearest village of the lake is Nyaung Shwe. It is the first place supported for sheltering and dinning for all travelers before there was no hotel on lake and any other villages. Upon arrival to Nyaung Shwe all travelers take the boat and explore Inlay Lake. Nowadays, there are many hotels on east and west cost of the lake as well as on the lake as government opened for tourism development.
The most impressive beauty of the lake is nature and tradition of Intha tribe who live on the lake for long time. Intha is a words with two syllables: Inn and Tha, Inn means lake, Tha means son. Intha means son of the lake in Myanmar Lunguage. Inlay has meaning in Myanmar language: Inn means lake, Lay means 4: Inlay means a group of 4 villages on the lake.
12th century there were only 4 villages on the lake. They were originally from Southern part of Myanmar from Tha Htone reached to Inlay Lake with King Alongsithu from Bagan who was well known as The Grate Traveler who donated 5 Buddha Images of Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda. With special permission of the King, most followers of the King did not back to Bagan and settled down on the lake in group 4 villages and named Inlay. Ywa gyi ban pon, Nan Pan, Naung Taw and Ywa ma are original four villages of the lake.
Their made long leg houses and fishing was their main job. They founded small islands that floated naturally in raining season when the lake water level was high and grasses anchored with the ground beneath the lake in dry season. Intelligent Intha collects small floating islands fixed together with bamboo to make long and big island. They prepared island to get one meter wide, almost two meters in depth and the length is as possible as they could by adding several layers of floating weed and water hyacinth. If so floating Islands or floating gardens were made by native Intha for cultivation on lake. Raining season, they cut floating islands and dragged by boats to move the place where they want to use it as land for agriculture on lake. Floating gardens were put one meter from each other and anchored by bamboo pole not to move somewhere. Some make floating Island and sell as piece of land for farmers. The floating Islands can fall and rise due to water level of the lake. Tomato, cucumbers, guard, flowers, rice… different kinds of crops and vegetables can be cultivated on floating Islands.
At the present time Intha take mad and floating weed from the lake to fertilize the islands. Tomato is main products of Inlay lake as it can grow well on Island without earth. Population on lake is increasing as many mountain tribe came down to the lake after realizing living on lake is better than on high mountain and get better life and income. After 1996, Myanmar government gave permission to build many hotels restaurants and welcome to all travelers. Cultivation on floating islands is one of the tourist attractions on Inlay Lake.
Famous way of Intha tribe traditional boat rowing on lake is rowing by leg in standing position.
Their canoes are long and narrow as they use them to work for floating island cultivation. Standing by one leg on narrow boat is amazing technique of keeping balance their body weight. Stand of boat by one leg and keep paddle by other leg and push backward to move boat. It is very smart way of rowing by one leg and two free hands can work for fishing or for cultivation.
Most villagers on Inlay lake are fishermen. They fish in several ways. One of the famous way of Intha fishing technique is by using conical shape fish trap.
Lotus and lily is beautifully blossom on some part of the lake. Lily stem can make nice soup and lotus stems can use to make very special fabric which is outstanding product of Inlay Lake.
There is colorful tribe market that rotate every five days called every five days market is one of the tourist attractions on Inlay Lake. For market days, mountain tribe especially Pao and Shan come down to the lake and sell their local products. Nan pan village market, Phaung Daw Oo market, Indein village market, Mine Thauk village, Nyaung Shwe market and Khaung Dai village markets are beautiful every five days markets. Every five days floating market at Ywa Ma village was beautiful in past time. There is no enough water in the canal, most sellers prefer to make market on land instead of on boat, more souvenir shops than local product sellers, Ywa Ma floating market is not attractive as past time.
In the year 1965, government started to celebrate Phaung Daw Oo pagoda festival on lake. 5 Buddha images of the temple were brought on golden boat and visited to several villages for 18 day. Nowadays, Phaugn Daw Oo Pagoda festival is very famous festival on Inlay lake that give rare chance to meet different mountain tribe each other.
When you are on Inlay lake shouldn’t miss to visit ruins of Indein, biking to Red Mountain Wine Yard, Amazing Kakku, walking to Pao, Shan and Danu tribe.
It is situated 1164 m above sea level, 60 km from Heho. Pindaya cave is the most attractive for all visitors. It is natural limestone cave and home to 8,000 Buddha images of various size, made of lacquer, teak, marble and cement. On market day one can visit colorful Pindaya market and can see different national races who live around Pindaya on the mountain.
Kalaw is beautiful hill British station situated 1300 m above sea level. There are some colonial style buildings. At the present day it is small town for vacation because of nice weather and fresh air. You can trek around Kalaw to visit Pao and Palaung villages. There are many trekking trails to visit Palaung tribe villages.
Kakku is hidden treasure of Southern Shan state. It is located 65km, 2 and half hour driving from Nyaung Shwe . In a small area of one square kilometer, there is a big collection of 200 stupas (between 13th and 18th century). This area is inhabited by colorful Pao tribe with their distinctive traditional costume. On the way to Kakku, one can enjoy beautiful landscape and way of life of Pao tribe.
Kyaing Tong is the most important city of Eastern Shan State. 452km from Taunggyi and 176km from Tachileik, ( opposite Mae Sai ) which is border with Thailand. 80% of population is Khun Shan. One can reach there by flight from Yangon or Mandalay or Bagan or Heho. Kyaing Tong is famous for Trekking. There are so many trekking trail , soft , hard, medium hard ways to visit the villages of mountain tribes such as Lahu, Wa, Shan, Enn, Akha and Akhi etc. Kyaning Tong market, Wat Zom Khan monastery, Yankon terracotta village, Naung Tong lake are famous tourist sites of the city.