Indawgyi (Lon ton) is a town in Kachin State, Northern Myanmar. Popular with local tourists, Indawgyi Lake could become a second Inle Lake if security in the region improves. It reportedly receives only 500 visitors a year as of 2019. It is notable for its rare migratory birds in winter and the beautiful island monastery, Shwe Myitzu. The name in Sjan-ni means "coming down from the hills" and "finding food".
Tourism here is in its infancy and most villagers are employed in fishing or farming. Tourist services are of a low quality, and there are mixed reactions from locals to foreign visitors if you leave the tourist areas around Lon Ton and the pagodas.
As of April 2019, tourists were only permitted to stay in Lon Ton Village, and a curfew and roadblock was enforced after 18:00. There are only two hotels foreigners are permitted to stay in (both in Lon Ton) and value for money is somewhat lacking.
Travel north of Nyaungbin is prohibited, as is travel to the mountains west of the lake, because of the security situation.
You can take a train from Mandalay/Katha, the station is called "Hopin". A taxi/shared van can be taken from the station. Vans might cost around 5000 kyat.
The train does not have an online timetable, so ask at the station. The train is overcrowded and you're not likely to get much sleep if you try to take it overnight.
Most tourists hire a speedboat and guide to see the area. These can be arranged at Lon Ton Village and might cost 80,000 kyat. Safety standards are nonexistent, so if you cannot swim, ensure you have a life jacket or something that floats that you can hang onto. Exploring independently can be difficult because you must return to Lon Ton Village by before the curfew at 18:00 and there isn't much public transport around the lake. Locals often use empty trucks as transport.
Crossing the lake by local boat might cost 1000 kyat in the northern villages, but greedy boat owners may ask as much as 20,000 kyat to cross closer to Lon Ton! Just laugh at them and hope the locals laugh too.
Crossing might take 20-50 minutes depending where you are and how the weather is.
Rare and migratory birds
Shwe Taung pagoda, on a hill north of the lake you can get a great view.
Shwe myitzu pagoda (on a island in the lake) can be accessed by boat if the lake is full. You can see young monks praying and huge numbers of tourists during festivals. There are restaurants and it's easy to reach from Lon Ton. Sleeping at the monastery is strictly forbidden.
Villages around the lake
-Lon Ton, with the only official accommodation and tourist services it will probably be your base
-Hepa, an attractive village on the south-east section of the lake
-Hepu, north of hepa
-bwemun village, nice for sightseeing and has coconuts
-nammiyuang village, sells a range of amber products (receipts available but no certificates of value /authenticity)
-making nuang, traditional woven fabrics can be bought here.
-ton San kha, close to the shwe tuang pagoda, A village where a village group can organise traditional food, visits are strictly with a guide only because the village is politically volatile, nobody speaks English and landmines have been found nearby in the forest... Better to skip lunch here.
Nyaungbin, a large and attractive town in the north west of the lake, it has nice restaurants /bars and makes a good lunch stop.
Rent a kayak, perhaps the best way to see the lake, the wetland info center rents them out (single person kayak and life vest: 3000 kyat/hour, 7,500 kyat/4 hours, 15,000 kyat/day). Bring a hat and sunglasses because the sun is punishing
Rent a bike, the wetland center has bikes for 1,000 kyat/hour, 3,500 kyat/4 hours, 7000/day.
Birdwatching is possible in the surrounding wetlands, guides with books and binoculars available from the wetlands info center, 20,000 kyat/day.
Hiking in the region is no longer officially allowed because of the threat of armed groups and land mines, day hikes around shwe tuang (Hill pagoda) are possible but it's better to just take a boat.
Boat tours: quiet expensive but perhaps the best way to enjoy the lake. From the wetlands info center (from Lon Ton, 25000 kyat to the island pagoda, 60,000 kyat to Shwe Tuang monestary north of the lake, 80,000 kyat for a whole-day lake tour).
Lon ton has a number of local restaurants 1500 kyat for a dish.
The smaller villages may only have one noodle stand.
Try the local noodles cut from a huge block or rice jelly, or the sweet coconut flavoured milk drinks with added rice noodles!
The guest houses are all in lon ton village on the south west shore
The Indawgyi Motel, a nice hotel built out of local hardwood, nice view of the lake. US$10/night for single rooms, no wifi and outside bathrooms,
Indaw Mahar guest house, 8 rooms. Double 10,000 kyat. Nice lake view, outside bathrooms, great dining area. you're probably better in Indawgyi Motel if it's available.
Homestays were availability in the past but these have been banned following undisclosed issues, locals in villages may offer to host you but be aware they could face serious repercussions from the government.
Power outages are very common and phone service is poor, keep this in mind if calling your guesthouse to make a booking. Consider buying a head torch for about 1000 kyat.
Snake bites pose a significant risk in this wetland area including kraits and Russell vipers. If bird watching or walking in the long grass wear protective boots if possible, do not approach or threaten snakes, if bitten avoid movement and call for help
Landmines and unexploded explosives reportedly remain a threat north of the lake and in the surrounding hills. Hiking without a guide is not recommended.
The lake is safe for tourists, but the mountains to the west and north have illegal mining operations are are not under effective government control, don't go there.
Heroin use occurs in the region, but unless you're outside Lon Ton late at night you're unlikely to see any.
The nearest train station is Hopin. Trains leave Hopin Station at 14:00, 19:30. There is no published timetable, so check with locals.
To get to Hopin Station, take a shared van (5000 kyat) or a taxi.