Nyaung Shwe is a relatively small town in Shan State, but has gained fame for its proximity to Myanmar's famous Inle Lake. Many tourists visit the town solely to take a boat trip on Inle Lake. The lake is so huge that you can easily spend a full day sightseeing around the lake and the villages that border it. However, there is MUCH more to do in Nyaung Shwe than seeing Inle Lake.
Here are a few tips of things to do and places to see if you are spending time in town:
Take a canoe ride around town. Nyaung Shwe has a vast network of canals and local people use the waterways every day of the week. You can rent a canoe and explore these scenic waterways at your leisure. A fascinating way to get a glimpse of local life.
Take a long walk or rent a bicycle and explore the area. Nyaung Shwe is a very cycle friendly town (but beware of speeding motorcycles!) and there are many interesting places to see. Venturing down some of the narrow dirt roads around town, don't be surprised to find some old stupas or ancient temple ruins.
Visit a local monastery. Nyaung Shwe has dozens --- perhaps over one hundred --- Buddhist monasteries. One of the most famous is Shwe Yan Pyay, an old teakwood monastery with its distinctive huge oval windows. That monastery is located on the main road leading to town, very close to the ticket booth where tourists are required to buy their Inle Lake zone pass. Not only is the main building of Shwe Yan Pyay an interesting sight, the adjacent white sanctuary is packed with colorful shrines and Buddha images.
Another interesting place to visit that combines laidback local life and Buddhism is Tat Ei village, located about 2 kilometers east of town. Once you have left the main road, the narrow road to the village (thankfully, it was paved in late 2015!) is a bit hilly (don't feel bad if you have to stop peddling and push your bike up one of the inclines!) but well worth the effort. Beautiful green hills surround you and most days you won't see any vehicles on the road. The village itself is home to a primary school, a small monastery (dozens of friendly novice monks are in residence), and also a few interesting small caves.
During the cool season, from November through February, you will often find children flying handmade kites around town. You may never see as much kite flying in Myanmar as you will find in Nyaung Shwe! In addition to kite flying, you will often see late afternoon games of football (soccer) and of course our favorite sport ... chinlone!
Nyaung Shwe's bustling morning market is also a must see for visitors. A colorful array of flowers, vegetables, fruit, clothing, and other items are for sale every day of the week (except on public holidays or full moon days, when the market is closed). Every five days is the offical "Market Day" when the market becomes even more packed than normal with vendors from nearby villages also selling their wares. The market can get quite congested, and your nose may take offense at some of the more punget fish sellers, but a visit is a feast for the senses.
And don't forget festivals. Myanmar has many wonderful festivals during the year, ranging from the Thingyan Water Festival in mid-April to the Full Moon Balloon Festival in nearby Taunggyi (normally held in November), plus plenty of colorful temple festivals. Another "must see" is the Phaung Daw Oo festival in September, held at the temple of the same name. But this festival isn't confined to the temple, boats and floats are paraded onto Inle Lake and to nearby villages. A most amazing sight!