Inle Lake Festival, Myanmar, Shan State

Myanmar Travel – Unique & Fascinating Paung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival at Inle Lake

For world traveler, Inle Lake is undoubtedly a fairy tale worthy place and if you happen to visit this place in around October, you will treat yourself with majestic festivity of Annual Paung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival. It’s an extravaganza of color and devotion which is yet to get its due share in world travel map.

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Exploring Myanmar – Paung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival

During my solo trip to Myanmar, I reached Nyaungshwe town early morning around 5:30 AM from Bagan and was very well received by boat vendors asking me to join them on a boat ride. Being a golden hour fan, I wasted no time in checking in and boarded a long tailed boat for I had only 18 hours of pit stop at Nyaungshwe which is the gateway to Inle lake. Nyaungshwe and Inle lake are famous for the floating market, beautiful Inle loongyi and Shan bags, Intha leg rowers and its scenic beauty.


Inle Lake –  Shan State, Myanman

I planned to visit Inle Lake primarily for two purposes; first for the natural beauty of this vast lake and second for its leg rower tribe of Intha people. I had no idea that my excursion would coincide with the sacred month of Thadingyut when Inle lake becomes the natural grand opera orchestrating a show of pomp, frolic and devotion during Paung Daw Oo festival.

Though I belong to the land of festival i.e. India, but I must say this festival is the most photogenic of all festivals I have ever seen. Paung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival is one of the biggest festival of Inle Lake and considered as one of the most sacred and colorful festival of Myanmar. The festival gives life to Inle Lake and infuses its horizon with psychedelic colors and trance rhythms. Local tribal people living around Inle Lake stitch together a magnanimous show of symphony, color and rhythms which transcended me to some other world.

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Brief on Paung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival at Inle Lake

The festival starts on the first day of the waxing moon day of Thadingyut and ends on the 3rd day of the full moon. This is September/ October on the Western calendar and as per Hindu Calendar it coincide with Sharad Poornima. Burma or Mynamar share close historical & cultural ties with India and during this time two main festivals take place in India too – Vijayadashmi, Sharad Pornima and Diwali.

Paung Daw Oo festival starts from Paung Daw Oo Pagora which is the most sacred place in Shan State and houses five golden images of Budda that, according to legend, date from the twelfth century BC.

During this festival, four of the five Buddha statues from Shan State’s main Pagora Paung Daw Oo are taken around to all the villages of Inle Lake over a period of 18 days. The fifth statue remains in the Paung Daw Oo Pagoda, guarding their resting place. Images of Buddha are placed in ceremoniously gilded barges pulled by hundreds of famous Intha leg rowers. Tis elaborately gilded royal barge is called “Karaweik” which is the mythical bird of Mynamar. Tens of other long boats manned by countless one-legged rowers are strung together creating magnificent procession which then passed through the narrow water ways of Inle Lake. Thousands of people from villages around the lake and in the surrounding mountains bring fruits, sweets and flowers on lacquer trays in their own boats of varied shapes and pay gratitude as the holy barge passes.

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My Moment of Serendipity at Inle Lake

After experiencing the unplanned festivity of Paung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival, I could understand the meaning of serendipity. Without my permission or briefing me, my boat man took me deep into the river, I kept asking him to show me leg rowers for golden our photography and he kept accelerating his boat through low hanging clouds.

And then suddenly we stopped at a place and when I inquired he told me the reason for his haste for he wanted to secure a vantage point for me and of course for himself to witness soon to be unfolded Annual Paung Daw Oo Festival. We were the first to reach there and shortly the place was flooded with all kind of boats carrying locals from all walks of life. I was still clueless for I knew nothing about this festival and then when procession of colorful boats with famed leg rowers started to appear in the horizon I was in classic catch-22 situation whether to enjoy the scene trough all my senses wide open or capture the scene through my lenses.

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Every passing boat and every passing moment put forth a ceremony which was quintessentially unique. It was a floating carnival for me which I never imagined. I found it more fascinating because I have natural affinity to anything water.

Inle Lake – A place like no other

I spent close to 4 hours in magical Inle Lake which giave me an opportunity to witness and experience things which are worthy to be classified as first in life viz. long tail boat ride, cruising through low hanging clouds, witnessing annual festival and all this culminated to photography Intha Leg Rowers.




Boat Riding Through Clouds


Intha Leg Rowers

This vast lake has many more things to do and experience such as floating villages, floating farms and floating markets which have to be visited. Though serendipity favoured me in the morning, it rained whole day and I could not explore Inle Lake and the town. However, I have no regret as I could see more than I planned for.

Burma or Myanmar offered a different world to me where life is still simple and life is still snailing. Festival at Inle Lake showcased true spirit of Myanmar and gave me a peep into rich heritage of the country which is so essential to know a country and its people.

This is Burma – A Land Like No Others



Would love to know what you think about my story of Inle Lake, please comment below.

If you feel motivated, please share this blog post with your loved ones so that they can break the mundane cycle of everyday life and explore the world.



19 thoughts on “Myanmar Travel – Unique & Fascinating Paung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival at Inle Lake

  1. Ryan Biddulph says:

    Love it buddy! We visited last year in March. Inle Lake is magical. Visiting during a festival makes it even more special. The views of wildlife and surrounding hills stuns you, right? Awesome post. Thanks so much for sharing 🙂


  2. zestinatote says:

    I had no idea about this Pagoda festival until I read your blog. Sounds fascinating. And your moody photos have captured both the lake and festival quite well.

  3. Medha Verma says:

    You had such a nice boatman that secured you the best seats in the house for viewing this festival! Also, its always nice to come across unplanned events such as these! I have been in two minds reading about Myanmar. There are lot of people going there nowadays and tourism is picking up but I am not sure if its the sort of place I’d enjoy going to as a solo traveller. I would, however, appreciate being a part of a cultural festival as this one, if I ever make it.

  4. Indrani says:

    Indeed such a colorful festival. Knowing about Paung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival for the first time and loved the festivities a lot. So similar to Kerala’s boat race yet so different.

  5. Jonathan Wooley says:

    I have not know about this Phaung Daw Oo pagoda festival. This is an amazing culture of Myanmar. This will be a great adventure to see this Festival. You capture some stunning pictures, I think every traveler will crazy to experience this festival.

  6. authenticfoodquest says:

    Myanmar…what a beautiful place. The best is serendipitously discovering the local festival, Paung Daw Oo Pagoda. Gorgeous photography. I especially love the picture of the fishing with one leg. Great experience all around and thanks for sharing about this unique event.

  7. Suruchi Mittal says:

    What an amazing experience you had. You actually captured the soul of this festival. This is the first time I am hearing about Paung Daw oo Pagoda festival and I would love to witness it in real. It is so colorful and the golden hues in the sky are breathtaking.

  8. AllGudThings says:

    What an amazing experience you had. This is the first time I am hearing and reading about paung-daw-oo-pagoda festival and I would love to witness it in real. The Inle lake look so colourful during the celebration. You have captured the soul of the festival.

  9. Mansoureh says:

    lucky you, not only you got to see the festival, but you had a great boatman. I can imagine how annoying could be for you when you ask him to do something and he ignored you, but I am glad you both were happy with the result. To be honest we are happy too, since you shared great photos with us

  10. Jennfier says:

    This reminds me of New Orleans Mardi Gras float just without throwing all the beads and shoes. Plus the crazy drunk people. The Paung-daw-oo-pagoda festival has so much color and fun. Can you kayak on the lake when the festival isn’t going on?

  11. Leah says:

    How lucky you were to stumble upon the Paung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival. I’ve certainly never heard of it, so thanks for broadening my knowledge of Myanmar. I think my favorite photo is that of the Intha leg rower. Such balance, strength and skill required not to fall in the water.

  12. SeizeTheGlobe says:

    Wow! I’m certainly glad you managed to capture these photos. They’re absolutely jaw dropping. Also cheers to your boat guide for securing that fabulous position for you to witness it all!

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