One of the largest inland lakes in Southeast Asia, Indawgyi Lake is surrounded by 36 ethnic villages. A wildlife sanctuary, this area sees very few foreign visitors, for a variety of reasons: it is very difficult to get to, accommodation options are very limited, there is little to do once there and the government will occasionally deem this whole area of Myanmar off limits to foreign tourists. If you are interested, you can read about my journey to Indawgyi Lake.
Note: Due to a huge increase in visitors to Myanmar, prices have been skyrocketing. Locations and modes of transport I’ve listed as offering the lowest prices will still offer the lowest prices, but those prices will likely be considerably higher than they were when I visited in 2011 (last edited on Apr 5, 2013).
Best Time to Go
November to February is the best time to visit Indawgyi Lake, but the hot season from March to May is relatively bearable this far north as well. The rest of the year is the rainy season, meaning the road leading to the lake can become impassable—you might get through, you might not.
Getting to Indawgyi Lake
The nearest train station is Hopin Station. You can either take a train north from Mandalay (around 20 hrs, $6 or $7) or south from Myitkyina (6 hrs, $2). Be prepared for a very long, uncomfortable journey (read about my experience on the Mandalay to Hopin train).
From Hopin, you have to take a shared jeep. You should not have to pay more than 4000 Kyat and even that is already an inflated price. This journey is pretty horrible in ideal conditions and can become impossible during the rainy season (read about the jeep ride to Indawgyi Lake).
You can catch a ride on the public jeeps or you can walk. The government does not really want foreigners moving around the area much, so your options (and your possible destinations) are very limited.
The jeeps will drop you off at a guest house run by an army officer. He will charge $10 per dorm bed. You have no other option. There is another guest house just next door, but the army officer would not let us talk to anyone there. You get two hours of electricity per day.
Eating & Drinking
There are a few noodle shops and other restaurants near the guest house. Some will be full of soldiers. Some quoted very inflated prices, others were fair; ask before sitting down and if the price seems high, go elsewhere.
The biggest dangers in this area are dengue fever and malaria. Take precautions.
You will probably also meet a fast talking woman with good English ability in one of the restaurants. Get rid of her; she will try to milk you for all the money you have if you let her.
The ethnic minorities in the area are still in conflict with the government. While there is no fighting near Indawgyi Lake, you are staying with an army officer right next to an army base in an area whose inhabitants have no love for the government and are not happy about the army encampment in their midst. Just be mindful of this.
Things to Do
Very little. There is a pagoda in the lake, but the prices quoted for a boat ride were so ridiculous that we decided not to bother. Instead we walked a few kilometers along the road, passing through a bunch of villages. Many of the locals invited us over for a cup of tea and one family cooked us fresh fish for lunch and chatted with us for a while. Walking around and meeting some of the minority people in the area was not just the highlight of the trip, it was really the only bright spot. Read about our lunch with a Shan famly, if you like.