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Nyaung Shwe

Nyaung Shwe is Inle Lake’s social hub. Only 5 kilometres from the banks of the lake, Nyaung Shwe (also written Nyaungshwe) is believed to be the oldest of the Inthar settlements on dry land. Nyaung Shwe is where most visitors in Inle stay, though if you are elsewhere, tour boats can take you to the town or you can hire canoes and paddle down the canal yourself. Lonely Planet aptly describes Nyaung Shwe as Myanmar’s one and only ‘backpacker scene’. For now at least, this should be taken as a positive, as it has led to a buoyant and laid-back atmosphere as well as a score of nice bars and cheap(ish) eateries serving both local and Western cuisine. We would recommend the One Owl Grill for top barbecued meat and beer cocktails; The French Touch for lounging back for a coffee and the over-affectionate attention of the resident Pekinese; and Pwe Taw Nin for the best Shan cuisine, including the surprisingly tasty ‘pummelled sparrow.’

Just a little outside the centre of Nyaung Shwe is a museum offering visitors an insight into the culture and history of the Inthar people. Amongst artefacts and antiques, this museum also tells the story of the last leader of the Inthar, who was arrested when the military took power in the coup of 1962 and was to later die in Yangon’s Insein Prison. Not far from the museum is the newly renovated Shan cloister, Nigyon Taungyon Kyaung. Today this monastery is primarily used for meditation. It is worth popping inside to have a look at the water basin here surrounded by stone impressions of the mythical dragon-snakes, the naga, as well as manothiha, a beast which is half lion, half man.

There are a variety of cookery classes now on offer in Nyaung Shwe, as well as a horse-riding club towards the east. Also in this direction is the Sunflowers weaving workshop supporting marginalized women in Myanmar, and a coffee house which grows its own beans. Additionally, to the east one can escape the well-beaten trekking routes and hike up to a handful of quiet villages of the Taungyo - with a guide of course.

Treks to the awe-inspiring ancient pagodas of Kakku can also be made from Nyaung Shwe. Additionally it is only a short bicycle ride to the nearby Red Mountain Vineyard where you can taste their tipple while savouring the most spectacular view over the lake.

Leading out of Nyaung Shwe is a long and straight road lined with columns of tall trees that may well remind visitors of the boulevards of Provence and le Gere. This road leads to the Shwe Yaung Gwe Monastery, the most picturesque location in Nyaung Shwe, if not all of Inle. The oval shaped windows of the monastery are unique to Shwe Yaung Gwe, and have become iconic due to the charming frame they create when novices peer out of them down into the courtyard. You will see in Nyaung Shwe how some of the hip bars and cafes in the town have taken to mimicking the windows in their own establishments, albeit without, as yet, the saffron-clad boys. Both novices and monks have cottoned onto this trend and subsequently have become coy about appearing at these windows for the entertainment of the expectant travellers below. Therefore visitors to Shwe Yaung Gwe may have to be satisfied with a picture of themselves smiling through the egg-shaped windows.

The Yadana Man Aung Su Taung Pyay Pagoda adjacent to the monastery is one of the 84, 000 pagodas built by King Thiri Dhamma Thawka and has been renovated and repaired numerous times since its initial construction. The gold and crimson colouring sets it apart from most pagodas in Myanmar and it is justifiably regarded as one of the most beautiful in the country. The Cultural Centre and Kyauk Phyu Ghi Buddha image are also worth a visit.

You can have a look here to find out about hotels within and around Nyaung Shwe. On the following pages you can find out more about Sampan Travel and our Suggested Journeys.

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