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Myanmar has fascinated me since the day I stepped in Yangon. Mysterious and quietly isolated from the world for so many decades, as soon as the country opened up to tourism visitors flooded in en mass. I started to go there for work in 2012 at the very beginning of that period and I have seen the country change and blossom dramatically. But despite several visits to Yangon and a beautiful time in Bagan that will remain one of the best trips I have ever taken, I was missing a visit to Inle Lake, a box which got ticked as I embarked on Escapers 17, an Amazing Race type of trip with another 21 bloggers, influencers and journalists from countries all around Asia. Thanks to Accor Hotels, Tiger Air and Asia Holidays I got to visit Inle Lake in style and stay at the Novotel Inle Lake Myat Min.
Here is a brief video the hotel put together which gives a great overview for how it felt like. Scroll down for another short video that my friend Elaine, traveling with me, created and which shows my sunrise hued villa.
Arrival and check in at the Novotel Inle Lake
This has to be one of the most memorable arrivals and check ins at a hotel bar apart from the ones at Bora Bora or Maldives resorts. Although the Novotel Inle Lake Myat Min is located on land, on the lake shore, we arrived by local wooden boat while cruising through the lake’s shallow waters as the sun was lowering on the horizon. Our welcome, echoing the adventure we were in, was filled with music and hand shaking with all the staff after which we were given keys and shown our rooms. The jetty is at the very bottom and the property is spread out, so most guests would either arrive through the reception, at the top of the hill, or be scooted up on the resort’s buggies.
The hotel is located with a 30 minute drive from Nyaung Shwe, the main town on the lake, a 45 minute drive from Shwe Nyaung Railway station and a one hour drive from Heho airport, the nearest airport and where you would land if you fly in from Yangon.
The heading of this section says it all. The Novotel Inle Lake Myat Min has regular rooms with gorgeous views over the lake, as well as detached over the lake villas spread over the water. In detail, it has 40 Junior Suites in the main building, 22 Deluxe Suites Lake View, 49 Superior Villas, 8 Deluxe Villas Lake View and 2 Presidential Villas. I slept in one of the Deluxe Villas Lake View at the edge of the property, with views over the greenery and nature as well as the lake waters.
Here is a short video of my villa that Elaine from Suma Lifestyle put together.
The villas are huge, with four separate spaces. A bedroom area with a large bed and hanging mosquito net. A sitting area, open plan and connected to the bedroom with sofas and a TV. A bathroom, with a free standing oval bathtub. And an outdoor veranda from where to catch the magical undertones of an Inle Lake sunset.
I found the villas to be exquisite and, for the price, incredibly luxurious. Going for about USD200-250 per night this is an absolute bargain. The decor is modern but with Burmese undertones and the space is huge, somewhere I could easily have spent a few hours luxuriating and enjoying the warm breeze while reading a book. I particularly enjoyed the peace and the verdant views that could be enjoyed from the sofa when the temperature started to rise as it does in April in Myanmar. As they are set apart from each other you feel as if you are enjoying a holiday home without neighbours, especially if your villa is at the end of a row like it was in my case.
The bathroom had a large shower and an inviting free standing bathtub that would have been a perfect soak at the end of a busy day exploring the lake. The level of details added extra thoughtfulness to the experience. My evening turn down service included Burmese tea with a small note explaining the locals eat it hot but unsweetened and with a teaspoon of sesame seeds. Burmese sweets were left in the siting area and were a welcoming sight. Although I am not a huge fan of the Thai/Burmese sweets, I do love sago and mango sticky rice and can never say no to a helping of either, or both.
As I discovered during this trip, Accor Hotel is heavily involved and committed to environmental preservation, recycling and reusing and all the amenities in the bathroom were from fair trade. It is an approach that I admire as the hospitality business has so much to do and influence particularly across Southeast Asia, where they can make or break a country as is the case with Thailand, Cambodia or Laos. In addition to being good corporate citizenship, the shampoo and conditioner were just what my battered body and hair needed after a day sweating it out running around the lake.
The best part of the hotel, without any doubt, are the sunsets over the lake. I am addicted to the sun going down past the horizon and will organise my days and nights around the coming and going of the red ball of fire and Inle Lake just gave me the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen, filter-less and without any need for Photoshop. The hotel is located on the Eastern shore of the lake and so it overlooks the sunset. Both restaurants and bars are facing the lake, thus enjoying this fabulous view.
The main restaurant, by the reception and pool area, is buffet style dining with choices for everyone. At dinner time there is also a BBQ set up by the pool to get fresh meats and fishes grilled to order. As the team at Novotel Inle Lake Myat Min is largely French/Belgian/Swiss and heavily influenced by European cuisine, you can sample a variety of international dishes and some Burmese recipes which I thoroughly enjoyed. Then there is the bread, as it could not be less of an Accor Hotel, and you know I love bread. The food was fresh and tasty and just what I needed to end the day on a high note and with the best views. All seating is outside here and cocktails are provided by the Pool Bar which can prepare some pretty looking fantastic concoctions and can be enjoyed while still wet in the swim up bar on the pool side.
There is a second restaurant, Sunset, which is located by the lake and has a walk-in cellar and an attached bar of the same name. Here the sunsets are even more spectacular and instead of providing a bird’s eye view over the lake, they provide a mirroring effect with the colors of the changing sky perfectly reflecting on the still waters. You can dine outside or in the air conditioned indoor area from the international a la carte menu. The feel here is more formal and quiet.
Aside from the hotel’s restaurants, I found the in-room dining menu extensive and given how beautiful the villas were I would not have minded enjoying dinner in the romantic setting of my private over the lake residence.
Activities around Inle Lake
The hotel has a 24h gym and a spa where you can take care of all your creature comforts and needs. But you did not come here for that. At least not just that. The best part about the hotel is its location, on the water’s edge, and its speedboats which are perfect to explore the lake. Contrary to what I had initially thought, there is a plethora of activities around the lake and it is not all about simply floating aimlessly.
The hotel can organise activities and excursions to the main sites around the lake including the Natural Khaung Daing Hot Spring Spa on the north-western bank of the lake or the two famous pagoda complexes: Kakku Pagoda complex and Indein village and its pagoda complex by a narrow stream in the south-west. But perhaps the best way to explore the area is on a boat tour to the various pit stops with several opportunities to catch the picturesque and photogenic on-leg rowing Inther fishermen which have made Inle Lake so famous.
For all those hot middays and sunsets, the infinity pool was a highlight. The swim up bar, the great cocktails and the endless views over the gardens and the lake were just divine. I could have spent a few days there just relaxing and taking it all in.
I love Myanmar because the people are genuinely hospitable and friendly. Ever since I first visited I’ve felt as if I was truly welcomed. The Novotel was a great expression of that feeling. The staff, from the hotel’s General Manager to the Accor Hotels Cluster General Manager, responsible for all the chain’s hotels in Inle Lake, were all genuinely helpful and caring and the staff was always smiling, if shyly, and keen to help out resolve any queries or requests whether it was finding a plug to connect my phone to charge or creating a cocktail that was not on the menu.
Although I cannot compare the hotel to any other in the area I would be hard pressed to find a better way to spend a few days exploring Inle Lake. The Novotel was beautiful, luxuriously appointed and had the best rooms in the area without a doubt. But truly what made it extra special were the sunset views, be it from the pool or from the Sunset bar, those reflections on the still water of the lake were something worth or a return trip on their own. If any of my friends are looking to visit Inle Lake, I will be sure to recommend Novotel in a heartbeat.
Note: I joined Escapers 17 Press trip to Myanmar courtesy of Tiger Air, Myanmar National Airlines, Scott, Accor Hotels and Asia Holidays. However, as always, my opinions are my own and the editorial review above was not a commitment from the trip nor has it been edited by any of the sponsors. My stay was just too good not to review the hotel here.
Remember to Pin this to your #Myanmar board for your travels.