Inle Lake is one of the most popular places to visit in Myanmar, and was one of our favourite destinations during our trip to Myanmar with kids. Inle Lake is an incredibly beautiful freshwater lake in Shan State, surrounded by mountains. We loved the charm of the wooden houses built on stilts where you can watch daily life unfold.
The local people, known as the Intha, survive as farmers and fishermen and through various artisan trades. The Intha are incredibly resourceful and innovative, as can be seen from their unique farming techniques – using floating gardens to grow their crops – and fishing techniques, where they have developed a unique fishing style using conical baskets and one-legged rowing.
There is so much to see here if you are visiting Myanmar with kids – from visiting the local artisan workshops and learning to make paper, to traveling slightly further afield to visit an elephant camp or get off the beaten path to see a more rural side to Myanmar life. Read on to learn more about all the fun things to do in Inle Lake with kids.
Take a Long Boat Tour
It kind of goes without saying that you should take a long boat when in Inle Lake – after all there is no other way to get around as there are no roads or pavements! But just taking a long boat around the waterways and watching daily life unfold in the water villages is a fabulous way to spend the day.
You can watch the local fishermen at work, famous for their conical baskets and one-legged rowing (this technique developed so that they could see their way through all the floating plants on the lake); visit the floating gardens where the local farmers grow all their crops, and stop off for lunch in one of the many overwater restaurants. There’s also the famous Jumping Cat Monastery to visit, although the cats stopped being taught to jump many years ago. We organised a one-day long boat tour around Inle Lake through THAHARA.
Visit the Local Artisans
One of the highlights of an Inle Lake tour is to visit the local artisans at work. There are many different co-operatives of artisans with studios around the lake, and they are all welcoming to visitors to come in and learn their craft (and hopefully buy a souvenir or two!)
Inle Lake has long been a famous weaving centre of Myanmar, and so visiting one of the weaving workshops to see how this is traditionally done is a must-do in Inle Lake. We had seen other weaving workshops in Bagan, but this is the first place we have ever come across lotus weaving. Who knew that lotus stems contain such as strong fiber?
We learned how these talented ladies cut open the lotus stems and use them to create thread for weaving. The process from collecting the lotus stems to the weaving looms is so intricate and time-consuming, and we were blown away by the talent of these women.
We also visited a cigar making workshop, boat building workshop and a pottery workshop, where the kids got to have a go at making teacups and teapots.
Make Shan Paper
We called in at a little Shan paper and umbrella workshop on our way to Inle Lake from Heho airport. I’ve seen this beautiful rustic paper inlaid with leaves and flowers many times in art shops – and even used it to make my own wedding invitations – but I never had any idea how it was made, so this was a fascinating visit and one of the most fun things to do in Inle Lake with kids.
The kids loved getting involved with the process. First they took paper dough made from the mulberry tree that had been soaked for several hours and got to beat it with a wooden mallet. Next they got to give it a good stir in some water, before laying it out on a wooden frame to drain, and decorating it with flowers and leaves.
Unfortunately we had to leave it behind to dry, but we also got to see how the resulting paper is used to make those beautiful Burmese parasols – made entirely by hand with impressive skill. And of course buy some pre-made parasols to take home with us.
Visit the Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp
This was definitely one of the highlights of our visit to Inle Lake with kids. The Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp is a family-run elephant sanctuary, where they look after elderly and disabled elephants, rescued from the logging industry.
Importantly there is no riding the elephants here – just the opportunity to join in with the daily care program – including feeding and bathing the elephants and giving them a cuddle of course! The kids (and the parents!) had a brilliant time.
The elephants are well looked after, and the owners of the camp also help with an educational program for the local village. In addition to the elephants, the camp also runs a reforestation program, and all visitors are encouraged to plant a tree during their visit.
Note it was a long drive to the elephant camp from Inle Lake (nearly 3 hours) and so not ideal with small children. If you can time it to travel straight there from Heho aiport, this would cut down your travel time by half.
Read more about the Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp on their website here
Inle Lake is a popular spot with tourists in Myanmar. But it doesn’t take long to get off the beaten track and a trip down to Samkar is a great way to do this. Samkar blew us away with its beauty. It is a good two hour-long boat ride from the bottom of the lake, but so worth it to get into the countryside and get a glimpse into rural Myanmar life.
We also came across the most incredible pagoda of our trip – the Takhaung Mwetaw Pagoda, sitting quietly on the banks of the river, where we were the only tourists looking around. It was breathtaking.
You can visit Samkar as a daytrip – but due to the long boat journey, if you are visiting Inle Lake with children I would recommend staying overnight. This way you can take some time to enjoy the serenity of the surroundings. We stayed overnight at A Little Lodge in Samkar, booked through THAHARA.
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Mum on the Move were guests of THAHARA during our one-day long boat tour of Inle Lake. As always, all opinions are honest and our own.