If you want to see tarmac roads, corn fields and plenty of other tourists on bikes then go for this bike trip.
It’s about an hour hot, sweaty bike ride to the closest village on the lake which is already quite full of touts wanting to take you somewhere. Don’t let them rip you off, but do ask them to direct you to the currently un-named restaurant at the end of the bridge which looks more like somebodies house, its nice to sit and eat fired rice and watch local life pass you by.
Ok, maybe I am being slightly unfair, the village of Mine Thouk is nice, quaint and worth seeing, the wooden bridge which is special due to bridging the land village and water village thus making it so successful is a cool bridge (although the bamboo one at Ywama village looks much more interesting), and it does still feel quite legitimate and local here despite the kids trying to sell you canoe trips and tours. It is certainly more authentic than the town of Indien, where you would likely be taken on the standard boat tour, and the people here are mostly just going about their business and ignoring you.
Life is carrying on, men are weeding their floating gardens and women are heading to and from some sort of market that I only ever heard of but never saw.
At the end of the famous bridge will be someone waiting to take you in a tiny wooden canoe to the restaurant that you’ll see opposite. It was almost worth it just to be in the wooden canoe to see close up the man rowing with one foot. The food at this end of the bridge restaurant was decent enough (don’t expect more than fried noodles), and I didn’t get sick from it, so thumbs up all round. It’s a nice opportunity to watch the comings and goings of locals in their little wooden canoes heading down the lake to the village, I assume toward this mystery market.
Here is also the typical drop off point for your bikes to head to the other side of the lake. You wont need to look far for a boatman to take you and they will charge around 4000/5000kyats – although they will start with 8000.
How I would do this bike ride differently
- I would visit the forest monastery, it’s up a big steep hill, which is great because it put most people off from going. Hence its full of no-one but Monks and is a truly legitimate monastery where you can get all zen and monk-watch while meditating and looking out at the lake through a sea of thick green forest.
- Be more adventurous. The road to the first village of Mine Thauk is very paved, so why stop there, keep going until the road turns into a trail and see what you find.
- Take a motorbike/scooter instead of an old fashioned bicycle. At the time of writing I believe tourists are still allowed to do this, until someone crashes and they change the law (see Bagan and Mrauk U where it’s illegal to even ride on the back of a scooter). You will have time to see a lot more, be a lot less sweaty and irritable, and not get that horrible chaffing rash from the mix of sweat and bike seat.
- I wouldn’t bother visiting the Red Mountain Estate Winery, unless you truly LOVE wine. As a vineyard it’s very nice and lovely, nothing against the actual place itself, but you could be at any vineyard anywhere in the world, France, South Africa, California, it looks just like the rest of them, it doesn’t feel at all like Myanmar and rumour has it it is Chinese owned. The view of the lake from there isn’t overly spectacular anyway.
Here’s an Inle Lake bike route map to help you out a little.. It’s interactive so you can zoom in and out 🙂
The black arrows lead to unknown adventures. Blue and Red arrows explained below.
Red arrows indidcate the red route, blue arrows the blue route.
This route is slightly easier, with flat tarmacked roads for most of the route. It will take you past the Red Mountain Winery if you choose to go up there (it’s a steep road getting up there). This way also leads you to the village of Mine Thauk where the famous bridge is, To get to Mine Thauk takes a while, depending on your cycling skills and energy levels approx an hour, you know you’re halfway there when you have passed ‘Princess Resort’. The Forest Monastery is also this side of the lake.
For the Hot Springs and maybe more dirt track (although that may have already been tarmaced by the time you read this), take the blue route. The Hot Springs look more like swimming pools but apparently the water is still very good for you and comes from an underground spring.
The ‘loop’ is when you do both the red and blue routes together. This might take about 3 hours, but very dependant on how much you stop and your fitness levels. To complete the loop you and your bike must take a boat across the lake, there are plenty of boat men prepared to take you, with the starting price around 8000Kyat (but you can get it for 5000 if you bargain).