Shopping is an entirely different experience at Inle Lake and because it is a rural area, Inle Lake does not have malls, shopping centres or supermarkets. The Inthar people that live on the lake get what they need from floating markets present in every village. The sellers carry all their merchandise on boats and conduct sales from there. With so many people on boats hawking their wares, there are times when the canals of the lake experience heavy traffic.
Shopping at Inle Lake is also dependent on the five-day rotating markets. For tourists, the experience can be tricky since the market does not have a specific schedule and venue. The market is open every five days, and its location constantly changes. For market days, the tribe people from the hills come down to sell their goods.
For those looking for a particular product, the shopping can be done in the village in which the product is made.
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Inphaw Khone is not a market; instead, it is a village that has become a popular tourist destination because of its weaving workshops. Most visitors stop by to watch young weavers skilfully operate the looms made from bamboo and teak. The result of the weaving is high-quality fabric; in fact, the village is best place to purchase lotus-silk shawls. The shawls can be expensive, mainly because of the arduous process involved in production.
Location: West of Nampan Village.
The Mine Thauk Market is a large and bustling affair that features a wide selection of merchandise for shoppers. It is also known as the ‘five-day market’ because the people from the hills sell their products in five different locations over a five-day period. This is where the Inthar people buy produce such as tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and the like. There are also people selling Shan bags, Buddha statues and lacquerware.
Mingala Market is another good place to shop for local produce. In this market, there is also a lot of good food for those who are brave enough to try it and one of the most common dishes sold by vendors is ‘kauq-sweh’ or noodle soup. Another delicacy sold here is maung jet, which are round and flat rice crisps.
Location: Win Quarter, Nyaung Shwe Township.
Just like the Mine Thauk Market, the schedule of the Nampan Market also rotates, making it a bit difficult to keep track of. The scene at this market is rather lively, with various townsfolk selling colourful produce and an assortment of other products. It is a treat to see the Pa-O tribal people from the hills come down in their traditional dress to trade in the village.
Location: Nampan Village.
Ywama Village is well-known for its floating market because it is the biggest in the area. The canal is packed with local farmers’ boats trying to sell goods to locals, as well as pedlars selling souvenirs to tourists. To enjoy the market before it gets overcrowded, one must wake up early as the market is already in full swing by 08:30.
Location: Ywama Village.