Retreat into nature, disconnect from the world
Leaving the Yangon- Mandalay highway, the road narrows and we ascend into the Bago Yoma with the road winding higher and dipping dramatically as we go. Forests and teak plantations all around us become more abundant and mature. Through gaps in the foliage we catch enticing glimpses of the rolling landscape beyond. We descend again and come to a bridge over a crystal clear stream shaded by leafy jungle. Cows are bathing in the idyllic stream and nearby a villager waits patiently for a fish to catch his bait.
As we maneuver hairpin bends and buffalo traffic, the bars of mobile phone reception also rise and fall and at one point we all lose connection completely.
Little did we know at that point that connection wouldn’t be back for the next few days!
Though set on ten acres of land, you could easily pass by Bago Yoma Eco Resort without noticing it – the buildings are set below the road level and well covered by greenery growing in abundance everywhere you look. This is the first of many signs of the sympathetic and thoughtful design and the careful consideration for the preservation of the natural setting.
Opened in July of last year, the resort is located at the western side of the Bago mountain range just an hour and a half from the city of Pyay and about six hours from Yangon.
The first building that emerges from the forest is the hotel lobby which is an open plan wooden building with a fun spiral staircase in the centre which winds its way up to a coffee bar and a cute library area though this was still in development at the time of our visit.
As we wander around the site, we cross wooden bridges and wander along tree-lined paths, and note every detail of the woodwork – furniture, structure, stairs and bridges—has been meticulously planned, skillfully crafted and finished with a stroke of genius. At every opportunity, trees and plants are reaching towards us over balconies, in the dining area and along wooden walkways around the site.
Managing Director Yan Naing Lwin recognized that people living in big cities and towns are searching for a place where they can get away from it all and be surrounded by pure, uninterrupted nature.
“I also realized there is a lot of wildlife in the area,” he said when asked about his choice of location, “Representatives of the Myanmar Birds and Nature Society visited over ten times to do surveys. Last month we recorded 130 species of birds in the area,”
The resort’s 31 accommodation options are standard, superior, deluxe, junior suite and suite rooms. The suite room is the largest and built over two floors. Downstairs there is an open-air circular and cozy lounge area as well as a private kitchen. Upstairs of this is the bedroom with a generous veranda which reaches into the forest canopy with the sound of a gurgling stream somewhere down below.
The junior suite and deluxe rooms are also separate wooden cabins octagonal in shape. They are spacious and cool and entirely made of wood, including the ensuite bathroom which has both traditional water pot and brass scoop for showering if you want to try something more authentic though the remaining space is a rather tight squeeze.
At night in our superior cabin, with no TV, minibar, Wi-Fi or mobile phone connection, we drift to sleep to the sound of pure nature with a feeling of being completely enveloped in peace and tranquility.
“People choose this hotel because they want a quiet place. Some people even come to study what we have implemented,” said Hotel Manager Ye Lin Maung.
In addition to city dwellers from both Myanmar and abroad, the eco resort and teak plantation have hosted a number of students focusing on wildlife and the environment of the area. They have been from international schools based in Myamar as well as university students from abroad.
A highlight of a visit to the eco resort is surely the trip to the sunset viewpoint. The resort can have a 4x4 take you as far as the road will go and this is followed by an uphill walk to a wooden viewing platform at a height of 1600 ft which gives enthralling vistas over the thousands of acres of the plantation and the romantic and dramatic sunset as it covers the area in a rich blanket of gold.
The resort is set in a 2520-acre teak plantation, the head office of which is located a few minutes down the road and is an interesting place to spend a morning. Since it was acquired in 2006, the area has become an unofficial reserve for peacocks as well as hosting an abundance of rabbits, bears and wild boar. Visitors can go for short or long treks or even follow a plantation team around for a morning to join in the activities of planting and maintaining the trees. If you’re lucky enough to meet U Hla Thaung, manager of the teak plantation he may share his thrilling experiences from his days out on the plantation, climbing trees to escape wild boar and his secrets to growing great teak trees.
“I advise the forest workers to talk to the trees and touch them to help them grow healthily,” said U Hla Thaung.
For anyone wanting a break from the city and especially for those looking to truly disconnect, Bago Yoma Eco Resort is likely the best option in Myanmar.