In Focus

A Haven at Inle

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By MARIE STARR

Approaching from the lake by boat, engines are switched off and guests are rowed through the private bay to the hotel jetty by a resident Intha leg rower. The low-lying traditional wood bungalows slowly raise their sleepy heads and emerge from their blanket of the green Shan Hills. Passing by blooming lotus flowers and the gentle lapping of the water against leg-powered oar makes for a charming start to an experience in bucolic pleasures. Managing Director Ma Yin Myo Su, who first opened the resort in 1996, recognized from early on that people visiting Myanmar wanted an authentic local experience. Getting around by boat and sleeping in stilted lakeside houses gives visitors an insight into the typical Intha lifestyle.

“The real art of travelling is to experience things that you don’t usually experience. People who come here want to learn about how we live, what we eat how we sleep what we enjoy and so on,” said Ma Yin Myo Su. Inle Princess has 36 rooms of four varieties – mountain, garden, lake and princess houses. Rooms are beautifully designed, spacious and bright wooden structures with delightful outdoor garden showers in most units. Careful consideration went into the selection of every detail of the finishes and soft furnishings with traditional Intha textiles and crafts visible all around.

The lake and princess houses feature verandas over the water with lounge chairs and fantastic views across the lake and on to the blue mountains on the east side of Inle. Nature lovers will delight at the binoculars and old bird watching book provided in these rooms. The resort grounds are green and leafy and guests can wander around the pond, vegetable garden and craft village on site. The spa offers free morning yoga classes on a platform overlooking the lake. While these little comforts add to the guest’s experience, Ma Yin Myo Su believes that the real charm of a place lies in the people and the human interactions guests have during their stay. “You can have a very modern hotel with great amenities but this is only the hardware. Where is the software? To me, the software is in the community.” In fact, the resort is something of a village with the majority of the staff and their families living on the grounds. At breakfast on the terrace over the lake, guests may see school children leave the jetty using their legs to row themselves to their school on the lake. This is community that makes up the ‘software.’ Inle Princess appears to go to great efforts to preserve the delicate balance of the health of the lake which has suffered in recent years due to changing agricultural practices, overfishing and an exploding tourism industry: all waste water at Inle Princess is treated through bio filters on site and recycled in the irrigation of the gardens. Organic pesticides are used in the gardens and textiles are made using only natural dyes, for example. “This lake is a rice pot for everyone. If we damage this, people won’t come. If they don’t come, we can’t fill our pockets or our tummies so that sense of responsibility is very important for hotels and all across the tourism business.” Many elements in the rustic design of the resort are produced locally or even on site. This was initially a result of the cut-off nature of Myanmar as a country at the time Inle Princess opened – Ma Yin Myo Su found that it was easier to use what they have in the local environment than to try and source modern goods from abroad. In fact the on-site ‘craft village’ where guests can watch and participate in the making of traditional crafts such as basket weaving, paper making, pottery and wood carving was initially established as a supply workshop for the resort. The resort is located a one-hour journey by boat and car from Heho airport and a 20-minute drive from Nyaungshwe, the nearest town where more restaurants and entertainment can be found. Trips on the lake can be arranged through the hotel and the nearby Red Mountain vineyard is a must-visit around sunset. Bike rides in the area are popular and another great way to take in local life.

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