Cycling Around Inle Lake, well half of

Inle Lake fisher man

Inle lake is a fresh water lake located to the south east of Mandalay in the Shan State, its the second largest lake in Myanmar after Indawgyi lake. The depth of Inle lake can change dramatically depending on the season. During the hotter summer months the average depth is 2.1 meters but the rainy season can easily add 1.5 meters to its average depth.  The lake plays home to around twenty species of fish and snails that are only found in Inle. These species are sold to aquarium enthusiast but it accounts for a very minor amount of the money the lake generates. The rarest Inle Lake species are Crossbanded Dwarf Danio, Lake Inle Danio and the Sawbwa barb.

The day begins.

My room-mate and I woke up just before 6:00am for some unknown reason, it was one of them morning where there was no going back to sleep.  The days plan was to try and get to Bagan, 2 days before the Water festival. All the buses where fully booked and the train apparently takes over 24 hours from Inle to Bagan. Over breakfast (which by the way at Aquarius Inn is amazing- Unlimited Chapatti with Dal a fruit salad and a coffee) we decided we would try and brave the local pickups to get there. The owner of Aquarius is an amazingly helpful man. We had booked to stay here before trekking from Kalaw To Inle Lake. He told us everything we needed to do to get there and the only rule was – don’t leave after 4:00pm, try to go as early as possible. Easy, right? Wrong. Once he’d written out our itinerary on how to get there we met our friends who had decided to rent bicycles for the day and go around the lake.  At first we were slightly reluctant to go but a couple of “Come on’s” and the mention of a winery and we were paying for bikes.

Getting on the bikes.

Renting a bike for the day at Inle lake cost us 1500 Kyats each. It’s illegal for foreigners to ride motorcycles (including on the back) here so this is your best option to get around.  You can pretty much rent them from everywhere and the price seemed pretty similar all over.

Our first stop was the markets. This is your very typical Asian market, extremely crowded, lots of interesting smell going around and an exciting atmosphere everywhere. After sampling a few unknown foods we decided to get on with the lake tour.

Inle Lake markets

We only had a very badly drawn map to navigate from, but like most places the locals know exactly where you want to go. Each time we even gestured to go the wrong way someone was always very willing to shout and wave you in the right direction. The ride was a lot of run, the roads are in more than decent condition and the traffic isn’t at all intimidating.  Along the way there are an abundant of photo opportunities – Just wish I knew how to take decent photos…

On the map we were given there is a hot springs. We’d all envisaged the same thing, some very natural looking hot springs with a bunch of locals relaxing. This is actually a really fancy looking resort and was nothing like we expected. They do have a great cat which I played with for a while but prices where a little too rich for our blood so we decided to head on. We eventually arrived at a small village where they all did the ‘gesture’ for us to come in. Assuming this was the village we needed to go to for the taxi across the lake we wandered in.

The boat across the lake was a little priceyas they insisted we needed to pay for 2, one for the bikes and one for us humans. We ended up paying 2000kyats each in a group of 6.

Inle Lake taxi boats

The taxi taking our bikes.

It only took us about 40 minutes to reach the other side. Once we’d arrived we stopped for some lunch. There are plenty of restaurants as soon as you arrive that are reasonably priced.

After everyone was fed and watered we made our way to the winery. It takes about 30 minutes to get from the dock but the last 10 minutes are a real hard slog. The winery is situated at the top of a very steep hill so you’ve really got to earn your wine.

Red Mountain Estate Vineyard and Winery at Inle Lake.

They charge 1500 kyats to do taste 4 of their wines.  They give you 1 red and 3 whites. All of the whites were extremely sweet wines, far too sweet for my taste. The red was a really dry red with a great fruit taste to it. Much more my kind of thing. You’d be surprised to hear that  I’m  not much of a wine connoisseur, shocking eh? However, two of the people in our group were French (This isn’t me stereotyping they did actually seem to know a lot about wine) and from what they were saying they were not the finest wines.  Still 100% worth going there just to say you’ve tasted Myanmar wines. Besides if sweet wine is your thing then you’ll be in heaven.

Wine tasting at Inle Lake

The ride back down is great fun as you get free range to speed down a huge hill.  By this time it was already about 3:30pm so my friend and I that were heading for Bagan had already ignored the strict advice from the guest house owner and decided to head back. big mistake

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