In Dein, occasionally referred to as the 'Shan Bagan', is a huge collection of partly restored and partly ruined stupas begun in the 12th century and added to by Shan princes up until the 18th century. It is a highlight of any visit to Nyaung Shwe and should not be missed.
In Dein lies off the lake to the southwest and is reached by travelling up the scenic In Dein River from the lake village of Ywama. The restored section -- a forest of shining spires restored on a low hill -- creates a spectacular effect (although the restoration would give an archaeologist a heart attack). The still ruined, vegetation-clad brick stupas on the lower slopes are also simply superb.
The site lies at the foot of the hills overlooking Inle Lake, which provide a wonderful backdrop. The river is picturesque and carries visitors to small In Dein village, with its numerous cafes and souvenir shops. From here, a short walk through the market area takes you to the start of a long, covered corridor lined with non-stop souvenir stalls which climbs the gentle hill to the central pagoda. During quiet periods, your boatman may moor directly at the foot of the bridge by the entrance to the pagodas.
Many of the more spectacular ruined stupas lie to the sides of this main corridor, so try and branch off left as soon as possible to visit the clump of ruins situated to the south, which houses some of the most dramatic and photogenic sites.
The largest of this group of ruins has preserved murals and a recently uncovered Buddha image while moving to the far left of the group will afford wonderful views up the slope towards the main temple site.
From here, a newly sealed track frequented by Pa-O people coming and going from villages further up the slope, leads to the south end of the main stupa 'forest'. But there's also a spectacular section on the right side of the main corridor, so head back into the souvenir stalls and look for a small pathway leading off to your right. This will take you on a short circular route around a very quiet group of 10 or so ruined brick stupas clumped densely together. These house particularly good stucco work and carvings overlooked by most visitors. It can get impassable due to vegetation during rainy season though.
Criss-crossing the covered walkway again, head back off to the left where, following the track, you'll enjoy the best views of the main group of stupas on the hill's summit. From here you can head into the main pagoda, which while prestigious for locals is of less interest to visitors. Carrying your shoes with you, you can then return down the main walkway. Look out for an open area on your left with some buildings, which will take you back to the jetties by way of the 'bamboo forest' and a riverside path, a particularly scenic walk lined by friendly Pa-O hawkers.
This is a slightly fiddly route, but it's well worth the effort to get the best out of fabulous In Dein. A riverbank trail continues east from In Dein and which, time permitting, is fun to follow for a while. You could perhaps ask your boatman to pick you up a bit further downstream. A couple of chic tourist cafes now lie alongside the river as it exits the bamboo forest, plus several more local-style tea and noodle shops can be found in the tiny village between the boat jetties and ruins.
In Dein is on the five-day market circuit, but it's well worth the effort to get down here early any day, since in high season it can get very crowded. Allow up to two hours for your visit.
Expect to pay 18,000-25,000 kyat to hire a standard longtail carrying five passengers from Nyaung Shwe for the day. You can book directly with a boatman at one of the jetties, though you’ll also fine plenty of touts along Nyaung Shwe’s streets.
By Mark Ord
Last updated on 17th August, 2016.