The gateway to Inle Lake is Nyaungshwe. It’s a nice town with a backpacker vibe.
I came from Kalaw where I took a pick-up at 6:30 am bound for Tuanggyi. I was let-off at Shwenyaung, which is the junction for Inle Lake and hour and a half after.
From Shwenyaung, you can take a taxi or a pick-up. I chatted the entire pick-up for 5,000. If you ride with others, it costs 2,000.
Heading to Mandalay, I bought my VIP night bus departing at 8pm at Joy Hotel. It includes transport to Shwenyaung. You get a reserved seat as the hotel calls up the bus company for the booking.
There are buses to Bagan. JJ Express seems popular.
Stayed at Joy Hotel which is at the jetty. Cheap rooms with shared bathroom. My guide told me 888 Guesthouse has really cheap rooms.
My favorite place is Sin Yaw which is just across Minglar Market. Cheerful and attentive English-speaking youngish staff and delicious Bamar, Shan, and Inle food. Linn Htet has good Burmese set meals. Coffee and snacks at Thu Kha. Head to Minglar Market for 500 kyat noodles.
Booked a trip to Inthein for 20,000 at my hotel. Booked directly at the boat dock for Thaung Thut and Kaik Taing for 20,000. These are standard prices for trips to the southern part of the lake. Shorter ones are 15,000.
Enjoyed the 5-day markets at Inthein and Ywama. Got very nice Shan cotton shirts for less than 10,000 (bargained down from 15,000) at the latter. When bargaining, start with 50% off the quoted price.
So-so. Not really worth it unless you have extra time. You van just take a bike and see the sights such as the cave monastery and the winery. I was told that the overnight trek is better.
There is a KBZ bank and atm machine across Minglar Market.