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Nyaung Shwe is a charming town nestled in the hills of Myanmar's Shan State, with several restaurants, shops, markets and a bustling waterfront area. But while it is pleasant for a daytime or evening stroll, Nyaung Shwe is really famous for one thing; being the gateway to Inle Lake. One of the largest lakes in Myanmar, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and home to floating farms and the famous "one-legged" Intha fishermen, Inle is rightly considered to be one of Myanmar’s – and possibly Southeast Asia’s – most interesting and intriguing destinations. While it is almost 6km from Nyaung Shwe to Inle Lake, the two are connected by the Nyaung Shwe Canal, which provides a channel for the tourist boats that take visitors out onto the water. Book now at Best Western Thousand Island Hotel and discover everything this captivating destination has to offer.
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While Inle is not quite the largest lake in Myanmar, it is surely the most beautiful. Located approximately 880 meters above sea-level in the remote Shan State, Inle Lake is a vast body of water that covers 116km² and showcases some spectacular scenery. Perhaps equally as famous as the lake itself are the people that live on it, the Intha. Many reside in simple wooden villages that are elevated on stilts above the lake, and grow fruit and vegetables and in large gardens that float on the water's surface. The Intha fishermen also practice a unique style of paddling, wrapping one leg around their oar. No visitor to Nyaung Shwe should leave without having taken at least one boat trip on Inle Lake.
Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung
Located to the north of Nyaung Shwe, within easy cycling distance, Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung is a traditional stilted monastery that features unique oval windows and an impressive carved wooden ceiling. While the building itself is quite rustic, it does demonstrate the charm of Myanmar's rural Buddhist culture. The highlight of the monastery is an interior wall that is covered with hundreds of small alcoves housing miniature statues of Buddha, plus a colorful glass mosaic that depicts classic Buddhist tales. Visitors are permitted to take photos in Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung and the young monks are often happy to have their pictures taken.
Several different ethnic groups and hill-tribes live on or around Inle Lake, so to ensure it serves each community equally, the area's market rotates between five different locations. This so-called "Five-Day Market" moves every day from Nyaung Shwe to Heho, Taunggyi, Mine Thauk and Shwe Nyaung. Traditional traders dressed in colorful costumes gather at each location to sell a vast assortment of goods, from vegetables and cheroots (local cigars), to clothing, religious items and ornaments. Guests seeking a souvenir can pick up a traditional "longyi", Shan-style bag or wood carving. There is also a floating market as part of the five-day rotation.
Red Mountain Winery
One might not associate Myanmar with wine, but up in the hills around Inle Lake local vineyards are producing thousands of bottles each year. One such company is Red Mountain, which is located a short drive from Nyaung Shwe. This winery initially imported 400,000 grape vines from France and Spain and experimented to find the right varieties. It now produces Shiraz, Tempranillo and Pinot Noir red wines, plus Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay whites and a “Rose d’Inle” made using Shiraz grapes, in a vast facility that includes a laboratory, a bottling production line and an underground cellar. Guest visits and wine-tastings are available.
Guests wanting to learn more about the culture and history of the Shan State have several museums to choose from. In Nyaung Shwe, the Museum of Shan Sawbwa is dedicated to the former Shan rulers, most notably Sao Shwe Thaike. It displays costumes, furniture, religious materials, manuscripts and other related historical artifacts, all contained within an impressive brick-and-teak building. And a short drive away in the state capital Taunggyi, the Shan State Cultural Museum also focuses on the area's former chiefs, with a collection including swords, fans and chairs, plus traditional costumes, painting and old coins of the various Shan tribes. Both museums command a small entrance fee.
Things to do in Nyaung Shwe