Nyaungshwe is the principal hub for Inle Lake, to whose northern shore it is joined by a 3.5-mile (5.5-km) feeder canal. Fleets of motorized long-tailed boats leave on sightseeing trips throughout the day from the jetties lining the waterway’s banks, and the sound of their engines churning through the green-blue water has become characteristic of the town.
Set on an orderly grid plan, Nyaungshwe is bisected by Yone Gyi Road, a broad main street running east–west, lined by open-fronted hardware shops, restaurants, and cafés. Northeast of the point where it crosses Main Road, the principal north–south axis, is Mingalar Market, the town’s main source of fresh produce, sold by Pa-O and other ethnic minority vil- lagers from the surrounding hills. Every five days, their ranks swell when the covered bazaar plays host to the area’s rotating market, worth catching in the early morning, when the air is filled with the aroma of cooking as stallholders prepare Shan- noodle breakfasts for shoppers.
The sandy streets south of Yone Gyi Road are dotted with numerous stupa complexes and Buddhist monasteries, best explored by bicycle. The largest is the Yadana Mon Aung Pagoda on Phaung Daw Seiq Road, whose centerpiece is a gilded stupa of unusual octa- gonal stepped design, set in a white-walled compound. A couple of blocks east, along the banks of the Mong Li Canal, the adjacent Hlaing Gu and Shwe Gu monasteries are home to the 200 or so novices and monks who file through the town with their alms bowls each morning at dawn.
Prettiest of all the monasteries in the area, though, is the Shwe Yaunghwe Kyaung, about 1.5 miles (2.5 km) north of town. Retaining its splen did carved teak eaves and white washed staircases, the tradi tional thein, or ordination hall, is lined with unique oval windows, creating frames in which the young novices happily pose for photo- graphs when foreign tourists visit the monastery.