14 July 2012
Our original plan was to break up the trip from Hsipaw to Inle Lake into two days. First we would take the bus back to Mandalay and spend the night in Mandalay and then take a different bus the following day to Inle Lake. However, once we found out there was a direct bus from Hsipaw to Nyaung Shwe (Inle Lake) we decided to take that route even though it was an estimated 15 hours!
We purchased our tickets from our hotel in Hsipaw, Mr. Charles Guesthouse. The cost was 13,000 Kyat/person. I’m sure you could save a couple thousand Kyat if you went directly to the bus ticketing office but the convenience was worth the price.
The name of the bus company was Yaung Ni Oo. The bus was air-conditioned, but with each bus we have taken, the quality has gone down. This one was an older bus, that was much dirtier than the others, but still adequate. The floor was littered with some empty wrappers from junk food. So it was clear that eating on this bus was ok. The seats reclined much more than usual which is important to sleep especially for this bus which was scheduled to arrive at the Inle Lake junction at 4:30 AM. They also provided the usual complimentary 500 ML bottle of water but also thoughtfully provided us with a toothbrush, toothpaste and a handy wipe.
Our bus picked us up 1/2 hour late and was almost full of passengers. This was the first bus we had taken that had originated from a different location. This meant that many of the passengers who were already on the bus were traveling a farther distance. For the first five hours of the journey we headed in the direction of Mandalay – the same way that we came from Mandalay to Hsipaw. After that point we switched to a different road that was older and less maintained, which meant the bus went slower.
As the sun began to set, the inside of the bus started to get very cold. In general, the locals come prepared as most of them brought jackets and/or blankets with them, but some of the passengers complained to the driver about turning down the air conditioning, but apparently there was no way to do this so some people tried to cover the air vents with the window curtains.
One person even bought a blanket at a rest stop and I think we would have done the same if we knew they were available! For the rest of us non-locals we began looking in our bags for any and all types of warm clothing that we could find. Then just out of our luck, one of the guys who we had trekked with the previous day found a stash of blankets at the back of the bus! Without that blanket I’m certain that both Heidi and I would have become ill. Thanks Davide! Molti grazie!! With that blanket and our light jackets we at least didn’t have to worry about the temperature for the next 12 hours!
The bus made frequent stops. For the first few hours it was to cool down the brakes of the bus as we were heading downhill and seemed the driver had to ride the brakes for long stretches. We also stopped at odd times throughout the night for bathroom breaks and/or lunch/dinners. Each of these breaks was much appreciated since it gave us a chance to get out and stretch our legs.
All of the rest stops were clean with different choices of food and had clean and free restrooms. At our lunch stop we had some great cheap Shan Noodles and at another they gave our table a free meal, just so we could sample their food. The People in Myanmar never ceases to amaze us with their kindness.
The bus arrived at Kalaw at the 13 hour mark of the trip, which I think was right on time. It was dark and in the middle of the night, but there were plenty of taxi drivers waiting to offer rides to passengers. Also, there were a couple of hotels that were within walking distance of where we had stopped, which appeared to be right on the main road. Some of the other travelers on the bus chose to get off the bus at Kalaw and then do a 2-3 day hike from Kalaw to Nyaung Shwe (Inle Lake). We thought about that option, but decided not to, since we had just done a strenuous hike.
A couple of hours later we arrived on time at the Nyaung Shwe Junction. It’s important to know that the bus doesn’t actually go to lnle Lake. Instead, you are dropped off on the side of the road at a junction to Nyaung Shwe, which is the town where most tourists stay when visiting Inle Lake. There were plenty of friendly taxi drivers that greeted us on arrival. The cost was 2,000 Kyat/person for the 13 Km ride into Nyaung Shwe. The taxi doesn’t leave until it has full capacity, which in our case was four passengers.
Inle Lake Zone $5 Entrance Fee
When you approach the Inle Lake area you will be required to pay a $5 Inle Zone fee which is required per person and is good for a week or five days, not 100% sure. You will also need to show your passport. As long as you have your ticket you can leave and re-enter the zone without paying within your allotted time.
The driver asked us where we wanted to go and we, as well as the other passengers, were open to his suggestions. The first place we looked at was full. So we suggested the hotel we had called ahead of time, Teak Wood, and it worked in our favor, since there were many other people who arrived in Nyaung Shwe around the same time as us and were hoping to get a room at the Teak Wood. By calling ahead of time the lady kept a room for us and let us have first choice of any of her available rooms while all the others had to wait until we decided. Pretty good service for not ‘officially’ booking with them. They actually prefer it that way, since they are hoping you will upgrade once you show up.
- If you are taking a night bus or one that goes deep into the night then make sure you wear socks and regular shoes, not flip flops.
- Wear a jacket and long pants and if you have a thin blanket, even better! It gets cold on the bus at night!