Going later this year but have limited time and can only fit in one or the other. Would appreciate any advice
#1 johnthornton has been a member since 7/3/2011. Posts: 2
I'd say that where you go might depend on how much time you have, weather, and what your interests are. Both are loaded with fantastic sites, and both are worth visiting. Things to consider when trying to decide ...
- The road over the mountains to Inle is (at least, it wasn't) very good. It's not paved and the dirt was ground to a fine powder when I made the journey. The trip there and back will probably be painfully slow. If it rains, you might not even get there (or out.)
- Mandalay is much easier to get in and out of by road, air, train, and water.
- Nyaung-shwe is small, quiet and pleasant with some good places to stay and eat.
- Mandalay is big, sprawling, and also has good places to stay and eat. Excellent Shan restaurants.
- Inle Lake and the area has some lovely villages (In Dein, for example), great hiking opportunities, floating gardens, cottage industries, and such. Touring the lake is great. It's a fantastic place for doing things outdoors. I found it to be very peaceful and relaxing.
- Mandalay has deserted capitals of former kingdoms (Saigang, Mingun), grand temples and Buddhas (Mahamuni!!!), and some very special neighbourhoods (Mahamuni and Amarapura, for example.) Life on and along the river is fascinating and worth seeing. Of course there is the palace and Mandalay Hill (but I skipped both so can't comment.) Mandalay also has its industries ... wall hangings, marionettes, carvings, if you're shopping for souveneirs. It's not really a good city for walking, but it is easy to get around and transport is inexpensive. Using a trishaw will get you where you want to go, and will usually provide you with a knowledgeable tour guide, as well.
- If you want to get out of Nyaung-shwe there are villages, caves, and other places to explore.
- If you have time and want to get out of Mandalay for a few days, you can hop on the 10-hour ferry to Bagan and spend a few days there seeing one of the most spectacular places in the world. Recommended.
Good luck making your decision. You can't lose, regardless of which place you decide on.
Inle isn't my favorite place in all of Myanmar but I preferred it to Mandalay for sure. (Didn't have Tilapia as a guide when I was in Mandalay mind you!).
You could always fly to Inle from Yangon if time is short but there are quite decent buses from Yangon to Inle nowadays. The road over the mountains seemed improved last December compared to my previous visit 5-6 years ago too. It's still quite a long bus trip (15 hours? can't remember exactly!) but the bus I took last December was quite new so it wasn't too bad at all compared to the 24 hour nightmare bus ride from Yangon the first time I went there. (Tip: Try and use a bus company that doesn't put wee plastic seats in the aisles for extra passengers and bring warm clothes because the A/C is usually ferociously cold)