Authentic and colourful
Published/Last edited or updated: 28th March, 2017
Nyaung Shwe market is hard to miss: it's that vivid green square thing stuck smack bang in the middle of the little town. This is the permanent, daily market, open from early morning to mid-afternoon. Thankfully, and perhaps surprisingly considering the influx of visitors to Inle Lake's gateway town, it's managed to remain largely traditional and authentic, which is more than we can say for some of the rapidly changing lakeside village markets.
Officially known as Mingalar Market, it offers the usual mix of fruit and veg, household goods, fishing equipment, clothing, motorbike parts and just a smattering of souvenir-type stalls. Around the edge (it borders Lan Ma Daw and Yone Gi streets), are tea shops, barbers, grocery stores, karaoke bar and, not least, in the southeast corner our favourite Nyaung Shwe restaurant Lin Htet. While the market all winds down mid- to late-afternoon the restaurants, tea shops and karaoke bar (not recommended) are open into the evening.
Apart from its permanent market, Nyaung Shwe also has a five-day market, though note that it's not connected to the Inle Lake five-day market. Rather, it has a separate schedule that it shares with the nearby towns of Kalaw, Aung Ban, Heho and Pindaya. Every five days then, Mingalar doubles in size and overflows onto the surrounding streets and pavements.
Since most visitors would tend to be out on the lake during the daytime, this market is less tourist-orientated than the further-flung lakeside ones, some of which now see as many tourists as locals and have as many souvenir stalls as fruit and veg ones. Especially colourful at Mingalar are the flower growers bringing their temperate flower varieties of roses, carnations, chrysanthemums and so on down from the hills to sell.
During high season, when the lakeside markets can get very busy with foreign visitors, this is a much quieter and appealing alternative. Sure, you won't have the boats and lake background, but you can sample the atmosphere (and local snacks) of a traditional Burmese market in relative tranquility, and it won't cost you anything to get here. Vendors are mostly Shan or local Intha people, though you'll also see Pa-O and even occasionally Palaung from the nearby hills.
The market is an excellent spot to while away an hour or two. Find a perch in an adjacent tea shop and watch the morning activity, explore the market, then perhaps head to Lin Htet for a local-style curry lunch.
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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