Samkar Review – Inle Lake Time Well Spent

Samkar Myanmar
Leaving at 6 AM, we were able to catch a lovely sunrise over Inle Lake

Samkar- reached by a long boat ride

The boat ride from Nyaungshwe to Samkar is long--- three hours in each direction.  You may feel a little sore from sitting in your small boat seat without a good stretch for that time.   You may also notice that the town is connected to others now by a road, perhaps making the boat journey superfluous.  

Samkar Myanmar
The shore of Inle Lake in morning mist
Samkar Myanmar
Across from Samkar you also see stupas that are part-submerged in the waters

Scenery abounds

Yet, the scenery you take in and the surprises that even a short visit to Samkar serves up make it well worth a visit.

Without the many stops to merchandising villages-on-stilts that the usual day boat journey around Inle Lake entails, this is more a chance to see the varied lakeside landscape and ethnic enclaves on the shoreline without distraction. 

Samkar is actually not on Inle Lake proper, but along a smaller connecting lake with stretches of vegetation overgrown canals and many narrow locks that your boat somehow manages to navigate with ease, though you may have difficulty imagining how it can.

Samkar Myanmar
Stupas at the Samkar pier, that at other times are part-submerged in water

Tip:  Leave for Samkar as early as you can

Leaving very early in the morning, our boat arrived at Samkar before any other tourist boats did, such that we had the (temporary) notion that we’d be the sole Westerners to visit that day, a thought dispelled an hour or so later when other boats sailed in to the itsy pier.  

Samkar Myanmar
Stupas by the Samkar jetty that would be partly under water at other times

Magical water covered stupas

And what a pier it is!  Crumbling stupas that in other times when there is no drought are half-covered in water greet you, with colors and postures that seem to announce you have arrived in a special place.

Samkar Myanmar
"Samkarer", is a recently opened gourmet restaurant just steps off the small Samkar jetty

Gourmet restaurant?

Incongruously, the very next thing you see is the rare white table cloth Inle Lake restaurant, which opened just a few months ago and serves up the most delectable fare we tasted in all of Myanmar.   

This restaurant is the serious hobby of a young physician who had moved to Samkar several years ago to run the town’s hospital.  Thinking he needed a new project, he talked some of the town’s young adults into giving this high-end restaurant in Samkar idea a go.  When we arrived, several of the staff were busily folding napkins and stretching out white tablecloths for what we learned was an expected tour group coming for lunch later that day.  With gourmet fare made from local foods—e.g. a frangipani flower  (a.k.a. “samkar” in Burmese) salad—and a view overlooking the crumbling stupas on the shore—you can’t help but feel the magic.

Samkar Myanmar
Our late morning meal: squash delicately sauteed with herbs and a tangy and delicious salad made from local frangipani (a.k.a. Samkar) flowers
Samkar Myanmar
The young and energetic doctor who started the restaurant to find a new outlet for his energies when not at the Samkar hospital that he directs

Exploring the town

Fueled with good food your explorations of the town can begin and be concluded in about an hour.  There is a feeling of prosperity here.

Samkar Myanmar
On the road in Samkar
Samkar Myanmar
The stupas surrounded by sand are in the Samkar town

Signs of prosperity

Most of the homes have their own pigs, chickens, and garden plots.  Many have colorful exterior paint decorations speaking to mindsets focused on aesthetics. 

Samkar Myanmar
There are only a few roads in Samkar. The leaning pole is actually part of the electric infrastructure of thentown
Samkar Myanmar
One of the many colorful houses you see in Samkar

If you equate abject poverty with remoteness a visit to Samkar will make you edit that bias.   

Tip:  If you are looking for a place to plant in Myanmar that allows you lots of private time and fewer intrusions by fellow tourists, make a mental note that there is at least one hotel in the town.  

Samkar Myanmar
Women vendors who had been at the market, wrapping up their wares
Samkar Myanmar
Large beautiful trees line many of the towns roads
Samkar Myanmar
The Market was wrapping up when we arrived
Samkar Myanmar
Entrance to the temple across the lake from Samkar
Samkar Myanmar
There are many plaques on the stupas at the monastery and temple near Samkar acknowledging the many people and places who helped restore them, notably Singapore and Malasia.
Samkar Myanmar
a view of the lake from the temple
Samkar Myanmar
A visit to the rtemple across the lake from Samkar could in itself take a couple hours, but in the heat of the bright afternoon, sun does tend to drain your attention
Samkar Myanmar
After peeking into so many pagodas to find Buddhas, it was a bit startling to instead find pilgrims with sleeping bags trying to rest before a famous monk gave a lecture later that day
Samkar Myanmar
a Buddha inside a pagoda accross the lake from Samkar
Samkar Myanmar
Exterior stupa detail
Samkar Myanmar
Samkar Myanmar
At the temple and Monastery across the lake from Samkar
Samkar Myanmar
At the temple and monastery across the lake from Samkar
Samkar Myanmar
Across the lake from Samkar, we climbed a hill to get a first view that revealed how swamp like the area is, even though the water levels are way down

Across the lake from Samkar

Just across the lake another world swirls into view. 

First you see stupas popping out from the landscape.  Nestled in the cluster is a temple that seems to draw worshippers and pilgrims from far and wide to hear lectures by Buddhist monks.

Not far from this religious center there is also a fourth generation “jungle rum” distillery where they take a break from their work to do table top wine and rum tasting akin to those you sample in Italian or French vineyards.  

The three hour journey back in the boat is welcomed time to process all that you’ve seen and let it sink in.  

Samkar Myanmar
The family that runs the distillery will share the formula of how they make their hooch...
Samkar Myanmar
and they give you ample time to buy it (at quite inflated prices)

Bottom Line:  Boat trip to Samkar—time well spent!

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