Theravāda is the oldest surviving Buddhist branch. The word is derived from the Sanskrit sthaviravada, and literally means "the Teaching of the Elders". It is relatively conservative, and according to Dr. Rupert Gethin, it is closer to early Buddhism than the other existing Buddhist traditions.
For many centuries, Theravāda has been the predominant religion of Sri Lanka (now about 70% of the population) and most of continental Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand). Theravāda is also practiced by minorities in parts of southwest China (mainly by the Shan and Tai ethnic groups), Vietnam (by the Khmer Krom), Bangladesh (by the ethnic groups of Baruas, Chakma, Magh, and Tanchangya), Malaysia and Indonesia, while recently gaining popularity in Singapore and the Western world.
Nyaung Shwe (Burmese: ညောင်ရွှေမြို့, pronounced: [ɲàʊɴ ʃwè mjo̰]; Shan: ယွင်ႈႁူၺ်ႈ also known as Yawnghwe) is a town a few kilometers north of Inle Lake in the Shan State of Myanmar. It is located south of Sakangyi and southwest of Taunggyi. Bawrithat Pagoda lies in the southern part of the town.
Nyaung Shwe is the tourist hub for visiting Inle Lake. It consists of one main thoroughfare with numerous side streets and a few parallel roads. The main street has numerous shops, several restaurants, a few stupas, travel agencies and a market (located behind the storefronts). Near the end of this road, a bridge crosses the river channel near an impressive mirror-tiled stupa.
The town serves as a marina for the numerous long boats carrying tourists into the lake. The lake itself is located a few kilometers south through a river channel.