After a 4.5 km long canal from Nyaung Shwe town, suddenly opens to broad view of crystal clear water stays between two green mountain ranges. Floating gardens and numerous villages sit against the hazy mountain range. Air gets cooler and drier. Fishermen rowing with their legs, casting the rigid conical shape nets from their shallow canoes, and farmers tending their floating tomato, vegetable and flower gardens anchored to their lake bed with long bamboo poles, are the scene of this pictures Inlay lake. Sound of loom clanking, iron smith tapping, girls chattering while making cheroot, and smiling kids greeting through open bamboo shutter and wooden houses adds a more enchanting experience for the visit to this lake.
Indein is 5 km to the west from biggest village, Ywama. It seems like a quaint little village. The boat ride to get there attracts you amazing vistas - the locals washing themselves and their buffalos in the creek, some are fishing and some are loading up ox carts. Near the boat landing of the Indein village you can see a beautiful Bamboo Forest. It looks so peaceful. The covered walkway looks quite nice from the outside with its beautiful spires sticking up. If you walk past the main walkway, you can see some of the old Pagodas with trees growing on them. Some of the Pagodas are in a state of ruin but they are still interesting enough to wander around the area. We could also see out over the lake which was also a magnificent site. Finding the small passageways in the temples is an exciting experience.
Sagar is accessed from Nampan village along broad water way to the other part of lake. An old assembling of stupas at the edge of a picturesque wide lake between the Shan mountain ranges in the south of Inle lake. The name is said to be taken from the Sagarbin (Frangipani tree). King Asoka is said to have built a pagoda in the center of Sagar with an image made of Saga wood (Frangipani wood) and built a town around it. Since the mid 1600's the area has been home to complex irrigation and agriculture systems. There are a few ancient pagodas which are simple but beautiful nonetheless. It is worth visiting the area on the market day when people from local tribes come together. Although a longer boat ride, the trip to Sagar is a beautiful one that passes a couples of tribal villages and is a perfect daytrip for the traveler looking for away from others.
Pindaya is a small quiet town ( 1182 m elevation), a two hours drive from Heho airport. It is centered round a lake called Boatalok Lake. The main sight in the area is Pindaya Cave where hundreds and thousands of Buddha images in various size and shape are installed since the 11th century. The main stupa dates from the 12th century. The caves are supposed to be 200,00 million years old and since ancient times they have been places of worship and veneration with 8,049 Buddha images made from various materials like teak wood, marble, alabaster, brick, cement and lacquer, and all were enshrined in the nooks and corners of the winding caverns. At the entrance to the main cave thee is a pagoda 50 feet in height. This pagoda is called Shwe U-min Hpaya or the Golden Cave pagoda.
The entire length of the cave is 490 feet. The numerous stalactites and stalagmites in these limestone caves, from fanciful shapes and have given rise to such names as the "Fairy Princess Loom", "Posts for tying horses and elephants" and so on. Some of the smaller caves used meditation chambers are accessible only if you crawl in on your knees and elbows. Visitors should plan to stay for one or two nights in Pindaya to explore the natural beauties all around; the tranquil lake, the limestone caves, the ancient pagodas and images and the lovely old trees. Huge monastery compounds with numerous pagodas and temples in different stages of dilapidation are much respected by such ethnic groups as the Shans, Danus and Paos living in the environs of Pindaya.
Kalaw is a hill station was popular with the British during colonial rule. This small-town offers cool temperatures (Kalaw sits at 1,315 meters elevation). It's about one hour west of Heho airport on the rim of the Shan Plateau, in the Pineland, remains a favourite place for holidays. The main attractions of Kalaw are the town itself, with its mock-Tudor colonial bungalows, its ethnic mix of people, and its setting within trekking distance of many ethnic minority villages. Another bonus of being in Kalaw is to be met the rotating market, a lively event runs on a five-day cycle moving each day from town to town around the southern Shan state. It's a typical outdoor market everything for the locals - meat, produce, herbs, and spices.
Trekking around Kalaw
Kalaw has plenty of trekking opportunities. One-day hike journeys are long about 18~15 kilometers respectively, though overnight treks are available. The treks include the usual assortment of villages, agricultural life, and plenty of mountain scenery. Expansive views of the surrounding hills, a never ending series of ups and downs - with none particularly steep. The vegetation is not even, a colorful line of figures clung to the side of a steep hill. Young teenagers are singing happily while harvesting tea leaves, cheroots, oranges, bananas and some other crops. At a cheroot factory a group of women sitting on the floor chatting, joking, rolling, and smoking. Some part of hike over a mountain ridge leads to a monastery where we would relax for lunch. In some villages many of the families live in longhouses inhabited by several families with a total population of 50 -60 people. Some at a private home, the residents produce a stack of crafts, weavings, and assorted clothing - scarves, hats, etc. Frequently you can hear the sound from loudspeaker is blaring the voices of monks or nuns or laypeople reading Buddhist scriptures from monastery or nunnery. This was a 24-hour-a-day event that would go for 3 to 7-day. The purpose was that by reading these scriptures non-stop, the village would gain much merit and everybody would see an improvement in their lives.
Taungyi and Kakku
Taunggyi is the administrative capital of Shan state and the 4th largest centre after Yangon, Mandalay and Mawlamyine. Taunggyi literally means 'big hill' an understated description of the dramatic scarp slope on which the town stands. The weather is cold when compare to the other parts of Myanmar. The capital of the Shan minority is always worth an excursion: The market place with its colourful dressed ethnic groups is a walking museum of the glory that was Shan. It is home to some of Myanmar’s finest cheroot factories and boasts an impressive local market.The Shan State Museum contains good collection of tribal costumes, weapons and artifacts as well as a collection of antique opium weights and musical instruments (including a snakeskin guitar). Taunggyi is the Havana of Myanmar. Ayetharyar vineyard exists at Taungyi and the wine is the best.
The Kakku relic pagoda is situated about 40 km south-west of Taunggyi. The legend of Kakku goes far back to the 3rd century B.C to the reign of King Ashoka of the Indian Empire, and also to the 11th century Bagan dynasty during the reign of King Alaung Sithu. During one of his royal tours along the Shan State, he was deeply enchanted by the unrivalled scenic beauty of this location. The king commanded his retinue to build a pagoda atop the hill over looking this magnificent valley. The assemblage of Kakku pagodas consists of two architectural presentations- one was known as the “Yun” the structures have distinctive tapering spires. The largest pagoda of “Yun” design stands at the eastern sector .The seconds presentation followed the Myanmar design initiated by King Anawratha . The pagodas in the western sector generally followed the Bagan Design. The later generations donated many smaller pagodas around the two large stupas. Thus the numbers grew through the passage of time heightening the aura and also enriching the architectural kaleidoscope.