Inle Lake, beautifully located at the base of steep green hills, is remarkable because of its inhabitants. Thousands of people live around the lake but, most impressively, many live on it. Whole villages rest on stilts surrounded by water, rather like a bamboo and teak Venice, where men steer rowing boats through water roads. The men have adapted a unique way to row, wrapping one leg around an oar and standing with the other, which frees their hands so that they can fish at the same time.
Tourists can hire a boat and driver/guide to lead them through floating markets and workshops making silks, cigars (cheroots) and jewellery. An impressive wooden temple on the water is also open to visitors; bizarrely, the monks at the temple are famous for having trained cats to jump through hoops and perform tricks.
Visitors first arrive in the town of Nyaugshwe to a host of riverside guesthouses and restaurants. Boat hire can be done through hotels or independently at the town's river. Expensive hotels on the lake can be booked in advance but more rustic accommodation can usually be found without pre-planning. Depending on the season the town can flood, making the concept of living on water a little more practical than it first seemed.