The two relax destinations in Myanmar on my two-week journey were Inle Lake and Ngapali Beach.
From Bagan, I took a bus to Nyaung Shwe (Inle Lake). It took me 8 hours to get there and I’d definitely recommend you to take a plane if your budget allows it. The bus journey is exhausting and way too long. My pick up guide was already waiting for me at the bus station and took me to my hotel Paramount Inle Resort. The hotel is nearly at the end of Inle Lake. It is built on stilts and can only be reached by boat. The advantage: it is very beautiful, the food is good and you have time to relax. However, you are far away from any village and are bound to stay there in the evening.
I hired a boat in the morning to capture the sunrise on the lake, visited a monastery on stilts and a small village nearby. Nga Phe Kyaung monastery was very close so I decided to visit it. It is also called the jumping cat monastery although I haven’t seen any jumping cats. I hear that the cats used to be trained by monks, but not anymore. The monastery is the oldest there and the architecture is quite interesting. Apart from that, I would not call it a highlight.
The biggest highlight on Inle Lake was my sunset boat trip on the lake to capture the fishermen with their special technique. They are balancing on one leg while wrapping the other leg around the oar to guide the boat. This technique allows them to stand on the boat and keep their hands free to handle the huge conical net. The men from Inle region begin fishing when they’re 13 years old.
You see a lot of beautiful pictures of Inle Lake fishermen when you google. Most of them are staged. You can do that too and pay a fisherman to hop on his boat and to pose. I decided not to and just guided the boat driver to the most photogenic guys on the lake. All these pics were captured with my tele lens.
If I visit Inle Lake again I would stay in a hotel off the lake in order to walk around in the evening and capture a bit of the everyday life there. And I would probably hire a boat for a day and drive along the river. I stayed in Inle Lake two nights, which was enough and I would not recommend to stay there longer.
From Inle Lake, I flew to Thandwe to relax a few days in Ngapali Beach. Soe Soe from Luminous Journeys booked The Pleasant View Resort for me, which was totally fine. It is located on the beach and it was not very crowded. You can enjoy beautiful sunsets and excellent seafood all along the main road. Just get a bike from the hotel and off you go. I stayed in Ngapali Beach three days. Three days of lying at the beach reading and just relaxing – perfect.
I would recommend the hotel although one evening when I arrived back in my room after diner I found a rat running from the room into the bathroom. I locked the door and asked the reception for help, but the beast was gone by the time the caretaker arrived in my room. The next morning I found out that it came back while I was asleep – I’m still glad I kept the bathroom door closed. There was a hole in the wall beneath the toilet through which it could get into my bathroom. The hole was shut in the morning and I had my peace back.
The main beach with all the hotels is really beautiful and the sea is clean. One evening I walked all the way down towards the area of the beach where the local fishermen and their families live. If you do that, wear shoes or at least flip flops. Unfortunately, the local people there do not have any awareness about pollution of the environment. The garbage is just everywhere and it is really sad. Dead fish and eels lying on the beach where the children play, garbage everywhere. The most awkward experience was when I found myself in the middle of the local’s public „toilet“. At the very end of the beach, there is an area with rocks and I thought, this is perfect to capture the sunset. It was a bit weird because the people looked at me quite strange – usually, they’re super friendly. I realized a strange smell and suspected dogs first. I was a bit disgusted by the malodor but set up my tripod and took a few shots. Then I saw two women coming along doing their bathroom deeds right beside my shooting spot. The shooting was canceled this very minute…
Even though it seems that I had two odd experiences in Ngapali Beach, I would always come back. The beach and the sea are amazing and it is a perfect place to relax without the big crowds.