Myanmar

Nyaung Shwe in Myanmar Inle Lake

Busted Bicycle Tire in Nyaung Shwe

After our Kalaw to Inle Lake trek, we decided to spend only one night at Nyaung Shwe‘s Hotel Emperor-Inle before heading off to Yangon the next day.

At check-out, the hotel graciously allowed us to use one of their bicycles to roam about town until it was time to leave Nyaung Shwe. Of course, we happily said yes.

We wanted to navigate through as many streets and visit as many attractions as we could, but we had to cut short our sightseeing trip because one of our bike’s tires got busted.

Also read: Best Place to Stay in Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar

Red Mountain Estate Vineyards & Winery

We enjoyed cycling to get to the Red Mountain Estate more than we enjoyed the visit. But we’re saying that only because we didn’t dine at the cafe or sample their wine. Had we spent more time and money doing any of these, the visit to the vineyard would’ve been more interesting.

The place wasn’t crammed with tourists that afternoon. There was only us and a couple who also cycled from their hotel.

Expect something like this if you visit the vineyard in August.

Red Mountain Estate Vineyards & Winery

Busted Bicycle Tire in Nyaung Shwe: At the Repair Shop

Real bummer, right?

Thank goodness it happened near the center of town. Otherwise, we would’ve walked for a few hours soaked in sweat.

At the tire-repair shop, we didn’t have to explain anything. We just smiled, said hello, and said “flat tire,” and the person in charge immediately got to work.

He gestured for us to take a seat on a bench, which we did, and then watched him do his magic. Twenty minutes later, the bike’s tire was fixed.

Also read: E-Bike: Best Way to See the Temples in Bagan, Myanmar

Busted Bicycle Tire in Nyaung Shwe

Want a Hair Cat?

Look what we bumped into. Witty, isn’t it?

Too bad, this barber shop is located far away from the center. It surely would attract more clients if it relocated.

Hair Cat Barber Shop Nyaung Shwe

Best Place to Stay in Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar

Best Place to Stay in Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar

Our 3D2N Kalaw to Inle Lake trek officially ended the moment we set foot in Nyaung Shwe, a town within Myanmar‘s Taunggyi District that serves as the gateway to the lake.

We arrived in Nyaung Shwe mid-afternoon, exhausted and feeling really, really sleepy. Thanks to the town’s small size, it didn’t take much time to locate The Hotel Emperor-Inle where we opted to stay for one night.

Our newfound friends planned a tour of the lake the next day, but we decided not to join because we felt we had already seen the best of Inle Lake during this time of year. Plus, the jumping cats at the Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery didn’t appeal to us.

After checking out of our hotel, we cycled around Nyaung Shwe until it was time to hit the road again.

Where We Stayed in Nyaung Shwe: The Hotel Emperor-Inle

The Hotel Emperor-Inle is not exactly at the center, but it doesn’t matter because just like in Vang Vieng (Laos), you won’t get lost in Nyaung Shwe.

Besides, the hotel is located along Yone Gyi Street, Nyaung Shwe’s main road. Ticketing offices/terminals of buses headed back to Yangon are on the same street, so they’re just within walking distance. Restos are also a stone’s throw away.

We booked a Superior room with free breakfast served at the hotel’s top floor, an open space that overlooks a nice view of the town and nearby areas. The breakfast was buffet-style, which was good enough to fill the stomach. It’s more European, though, and not Burmese food.

View of Nyaung Shwe from Hotel Emperor Inle

We have no complaints about the room. It was clean, and the AC served its purpose well especially after a few days of us under the scorching heat of the sun.

The next day upon check-out, we didn’t expect the hotel to offer two things for free even without us asking.

One, they allowed us to use of one of their bicycles for a few hours. Two, they let us leave our backpack while we check out what the town has to offer.

For these reasons, we absolutely recommend the Hotel Emperor-Inle.

Hotel Emperor Inle Superior Room Myanmar

Where Our Friends Stayed: Ostello Bello Nyaung Shwe

Our European trek-mates stayed at Ostello Bello, which is just about a block from the Hotel Emperor-Inle.

We managed to take a peek, and we got a jolly backpacker vibe. It’s as if it never sleeps because travelers come and go every minute. It’s alive even at night.

[Image: Agoda]

Bottomline: Best Place to Stay in Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar

Stick to hostels and hotels along Yone Gyi Street because everything is easily accessible from here.

For mid-range backpackers, we absolutely recommend the Hotel Emperor-Inle, especially if you want some peace and quiet after a long trek.

Enjoy Nyaung Shwe!

[Image: Nyaung Shwe boat jetty]

Pier Nyaung Shwe Myanmar

Vibram Five Fingers Trek Ascent Review

Vibram Five Fingers Trek Ascent Review (Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek)

Our 3D2N Kalaw to Inle Lake trek was the perfect excuse for buying a pair of Vibram’s Five Fingers Trek Ascent. It was about $120 at Yangon’s Junction Square.

Was it worth it? Not for this trek – or any other trek especially during the rainy season. It’s not reliable.

While its traction was perfect for flat surfaces, it was no match for muddy and slippery mountain slopes. It also has a thin outsole, so walking on a rocky footpath was tricky and painful.

You need to wear at least ankle-high five-toe socks to prevent bruises on two crucial parts of your feet: below the ankles and above the heel.

“Your shoes are really making me uncomfortable,” said Domenika, a trek-mate.

“They’re all right,” we said defensively.

Deep down, though, we wanted to tell her we regretted buying it. But what good would that have done?

Fail: Vibram Five Fingers Trek Ascent Review

Don’t be enticed by the “Trek Ascent” name.

Whatever promises it makes — e.g., “unparalleled grip on wet and dry surfaces, superior grip with rugged longevity, optimal balance of stability and flexibility for ground adaptation” — it doesn’t deliver.

Vibram Five Fingers Trek Ascent for Kalaw Inle Lake Review

Better Alternative In Case You Don’t Have Trekking Shoes

You’ve been warned. Don’t make the same mistake we did. You’ll just waste your money. Get a pair of trailrunners such as the Salomon Speedcross 4 instead.

If you can’t afford a new pair, there’s a cheaper and slightly better alternative than the Vibram.

In Kalaw, these green shoes (see image below) are available at the marketplace. At least three people in our trek group were wearing them. They said it cost them only less than $10 for a pair.

These shoes are obviously not designed for trekking, but they seem to be popular among local trekkers in this part of Southeast Asia. Even our Vietnamese guide during our Mt. Fansipan climb was wearing them.

Also read: Pre-Trek Stay: Where to Stay in Kalaw, Myanmar

Cheap Trekking Shoes Myanmar

Wooden Cart Kalaw to Inle Lake Trek 3 Days

What to Expect: Kalaw to Inle Lake Trek (3 Days), Wet Season

Ever Smile, arguably Kalaw’s most popular trekking company has this reminder: The landscape between Kalaw and Inle Lake changes dramatically. It is mostly green and wet during the rainy season, and brown and hot during the dry season.

We completed our 3D2N trek in August, so we can attest to the “lush, wet and green” scenery. We have yet to do the same trek on a different month.

We signed up for this trek because a hike to a summit we liked cost hundreds of dollars, which we couldn’t afford. Check out this list of Southeast Asia’s tallest mountains

Did we regret this decision? Not at all.

In fact, we’re glad we did the trek. Not only did we see a beautiful side of Myanmar – something you don’t get to see at lot in Southeast Asia – we also gained new friends.

Ever Smile Kalaw to Inle Lake Trek: How Was It?

The Kalaw to Inle Lake trek was mostly a sightseeing activity on foot, featuring the scenic countryside of Myanmar’s Taunggyi District and ending with an exciting boat ride on Inle Lake.

It’s not a cultural immersion per se, but a guide kept us constant company, explaining when necessary some important details about the life and culture in this part of the country.

Here’s our guide explaining about tea.

Ever Smile Guide Explaining About Tea in Kalaw

We trekked from village to village, made our way through muddy footpaths, and shared stories while walking past rice paddies, water buffaloes, and the most beautiful vegetable fields we had ever seen.

Also read: Vibram Five Fingers Trek Ascent Review (Kalaw-Inle Lake Trek)

Kalaw to Inle Lake Trekking Wet Season

“It feels like I’m in Ireland,” someone in the group said when on the second day, we were greeted by a breathtaking sight of rolling hills of vegetables.

We have yet to travel to Ireland, but we agree that the fields looked idyllic from afar. We don’t think there’s one like it in Southeast Asia, although Sa Pa’s terraced ride fields elicited almost the same reaction.

Sadly, this image doesn’t give it justice.

Rolling Fields of Vegetables Kalaw to Inle Lake Trek

During the few times we interacted with the locals, it was all about showcasing their products – like the time when we all sat down to watch a woman weave headscarves, and when at Inle Lake before the trek officially came to an end, we were given a tour of an establishment making jewelry from silver.

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Kalaw to Inle Lake Trek Woman Weaving

The boat ride on Inle Lake was the most enjoyable part of the trek.

It would’ve been more memorable had we scheduled our Myanmar trip within the dry season when the waters are crystal clear.

We especially loved the floating gardens, which reminded us of a documentary about the “chinampas” of 15th century Mexico (Tenochtitlan).

Floating Gardens Inle Lake

Of course, we were all looking forward to seeing a leg rower up close. We weren’t disappointed.

Leg Rower Inle Lake

The trek ended at Nyaung Shwe. We checked in at the Hotel Emperor – Inle while our newfound friends chose Ostello Bello Nyaung Shwe.

Inle Lake Trekking Price

What’s Ever Smile’s Kalaw to Inle Lake trek price?

For our 3D2N Kalaw to Inle Lake trek, we paid 40,000 kyat for an all-inclusive service. This includes transporting your baggage from Ever Smile’s Kalaw office to your hotel in Inle Lake. We got a refund because we opted to carry our own backpack.

Also read: Pre-Trek Stay: Where to Stay in Kalaw, Myanmar

Poster in Myanmar: How to Be a Better Traveler

We came across this poster (see image below) two times during our Kalaw to Inle Lake trek. It reads “How to Be a Better Traveler,” and it has 12 tips.

It’s important that you read it before the trek because the tips included here are not the generic type. Through these tips, you can understand and respect Burmese culture better.

RELATED: More Backpacking Tips: How to Travel Light Across Southeast Asia

How to Be a Better Traveler

Here are the 12 tips.

  • Don’t give gifts directly to children. Giving candy, pens, balloons, etc. only leads to a begging mentality. We want our children at school not asking you for presents. If you want to give an appropriate donation ask your guide how this can be arranged.
  • Do wear suitable clothing. You are visiting rural communities, not taking a beach holiday. When in villager’s homes or monasteries your shoulders from knees should be covered. Very revealing clothing is never appropriate. [RELATED: Only 7 Things: What to Bring When Hiking Mt. Agung in Bali, Indonesia]
  • Don’t litter. Keep your rubbish and dispose of it correctly. Waste management is an issue in rural areas. Set a good example and carry your waste until it can be disposed of correctly.
  • Do check you are registered for overnight treks. For your safety and regulation of tourism in the region ask your guide to confirm that you have been formally registered with the Tourism Police before commencing your trek.
  • Do respect the family shrine. Every household will have a shrine. Never point your feet at it, never hang clothes above it and never sleep with your feet pointed towards it.
  • Don’t disrupt village life. Remember you are a guest. Drunken behaviour is not acceptable.If you are staying overnight keep quiet after 10pm.
  • Don’t kiss in public. Excessive dispalys of affection should remain private. Communities, villager’s homes and monasteries are not the places to dmonstrate your fondness for another.
  • Do use water wisely. Many regions including our Township suffer from severe water shortages. Little ways that you can help include limit the length of your shower, turn off taps when not in use, tell your hotel that you don’t need new towels or linen each day, wash clothes after not during your overnight trek.
  • Do let your guide know if you have a problem or questions. Your guide is here to assist and explain local culture. If you are unsatisfied with your guide’s knowledge, provide constructive feedback to them and their agency. Tourism is a new industry in Myanmar. Help us to improve our services.
  • Don’t sit on the pillow. In Myanmar culture the head is the most sacred part of the body.The pillow is where you head rests not your bottom.
  • Don’t get close to animals. Buffalo are unpredictable and can have a nasty temper.
  • Do enjoy your holiday. Smile, ask questions and immerse yourself in our unique culture.

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