Any Inle Lake visit will include stops at some of the numerous and still largely traditional their special floating gardens. Pagodas, schools and markets tend to be built on land reclaimed by piling up lake-floor mud while attractive wooden walkways and bridges often connect different houses or village sections. These make great places to wander if your boatman can find the right place to drop you off, while taking a stroll away from many of the handicraft workshops can work too.
The gardens and villages are typically visited on a day trip from Nyaung Shwe, which will take in the various handicraft villages as well. Standard day hire for one of the Lake’s motor-powered longtail boats is 18,000-25,000 kyat from dawn to dusk. You can book directly with a boatman at one of the jetties, though you’ll encounter plenty of touts in Nyaung Shwe’s streets. Pilots – most of whom will speak at least minimal English – may offer discounts during quiet periods while if you choose hotels with them, it can include a small commission, but there’s more incentive for reliability.
The best and most extensive gardens are towards the north and west of the centre, especially around Kayla village, so they are easily fitted in during a return journey to Nyaung Shwe. We have seen floating gardens in one or two other spots in Southeast Asia, but nowhere are they as spectacular and widespread as at Inle. Floating gardens are not traditional to the lake, having only been introduced in the 1960s, and their environmental impact is highly controversial.