Nyaung Ohak was one of my favorite places to visit around Inle Lake in Burma. A typical visit to Inle Lake involves a day or two visiting the villages around the lake and the floating market. Nearly all of the sights around the lake are treated as fairly equal by the Burmese, though that is far from reality. Nyaung Ohak is by far the best of the places to visit around Inle Lake.
Getting to Nyaung Ohak involves a winding boat ride through a long and narrow canal. Young monks are playing in the water and farmers are planting rice and diverting water from the canal to their fields. Around every turn there are small dams built of bamboo and mud with a narrow spillway in the middle that the long boats shoot through at rather high speed.
Once you reach the village you are greeted by tourists stalls filled with t-shirts and other souviners. If the market is at Inthein (Indein) that day then it is even more crowded and crazy. Fortunately the market was elsewhere when I visited, so it was relatively calm.
Getting to Nyaung Ohak involves a short walk through the village and then up a covered stairway to the top of the hill. Nyaung Ohak is near the bottom and is overgrown with vegetation. I felt like I was one of the first to discover this hidden treasure even though there are plenty of touts nearby.
Walk off the covered stairway and out into Nyaung Ohak and you are in a whole different world. Crumbling pagodas with amazing carvings and buddha statues fill the area. The carvings are what really grabbed me. They are absolutely beautiful! The disappointment is that no one seems too interested in them. They are truly unique with more rounded look than Angkor or Thai sculptures. There are carvings of elephants, peacocks, devas (female deities), chinthe, and more.
The souvenir carvings that are sold all along the covered walkway up to She Inn Thein Paya are of a high quality, though I didn’t see any that depicted what I saw carved on the pagodas. Instead, there were typical Thai buddhas and Khmer (Angkok) style devas. I found that terribly disappointing.
After spending quite some time at Nyaung Ohak, I worked my way up the staircase only to stop a short distance away. The landscape was literally covered with little zedi (pagodas). of every size, some standing tall and others crumbling upon themselves. I was awestruck at the sheer number of them. There are, in fact, 1054 of them. While not as elaborate as the carvings at Nyaung Ohak, many of tilting and ruined zedi still had fabulous carvings of mythical beasts, half human and half fish, as well as the familiar devas, peacocks, and elephants.
Eventually I continued up the hill to reach She Inn Thein Paya. The pagoda is smaller than many in Burma, but still impressive. Once again several zedi were crowded into the main enclosure, though these were in far better shape, many guilded with gold. The pagoda also affords a panoramic view of the ruins and the surrounding valley.
A visit to Inthein on Inle Lake would not be complete without a visit to Nyaung Ohak and She Inn Thein Paya. I enjoyed this part of my trip to Burma more than anywhere else. The area is small and easily done in a couple hours, but the ride to Inthein and the amazing carvings made this the highlight for me.