The Sofitel Inle Lake Myat Min requires three modes of transport merely to reach it. If this crosses you as a bit “extra”, we’ll happily take a slice of that opinion and tell you that after spending a full weekend there, the stay was indeed nothing short of extraordinary.
A gateway to explore Myanmar’s Shan State, the Sofitel Inle Lake Myat Min is located on the edge of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and is one of the last new hotels to be built directly on Inle Lake. Amongst floating gardens and centennial pagodas, the resort manages to weave together French art de vivre with beautiful Burmese culture. Between an airport that felt like a throwback to the ‘70s and a sunset session that ruined us for any future to come, read ahead for our full review.
[All images courtesy of Sofitel Inle Lake Myat Min]
Getting to the Sofitel Inle Lake Myat Min makes up for a good half of the fun. It feels like you’re travelling right into the heart of a well-kept secret, with something slightly Narnia-esque about the whole experience, as you transcend from small town to mountainside to lakeside.
To get there, we took a one-hour domestic flight from Yangon to Heho Airport in Shan State. The tiny pastel green airport has a great ‘retro’ charm to it, and acts as a warm welcoming ground to the transfer van. In the company of freshly-pressed juices and walnuts in glass jars, the ride from the airport to the resort takes about an hour and a bit. You’ll pass by mountains that feel like you’re in the Swiss Alps (it’s also a lot cooler in temperature up here), and whilst the hills aren’t quite alive with the sound of music, they’re alive with a rare sight to see in Asia. Memory fails us, but we could swear we saw a black and white speckled cow, too.
The Sofitel Inle Lake Myat Min is one of the last new hotels to be built directly on Inle Lake. It overlooks the waters on one side, the mountains on the other, and is nestled within marshlands and rice fields. The combination of all these elements is considered very lucky, and superstitious or not, this sense of bliss definitely persists throughout your stay.
This resort likes a grand entrance. If you arrive from the land side (you can also arrive from the lake side by motorboat, just FYI), you’ll walk up a dramatic staircase before being greeted by a sprawling view of the resort and the lake in the distance.
Its architecture and layout were designed to be evocative of the traditional villages that surround the lake, and this is evident in the local accents within the rooms and dining outlets. Rattan, bamboo, and silk make precious appearances throughout, where a sense of quintessential Southeast Asia meets modern luxury.
There are 101 rooms in total, and during our visit, we stayed in one of the Lake Villas. There are also Field Villas and Marshland Villas available — either of which are beautifully decorated and impressively large too — yet if you take one snippet from this review, let it be this: book a Lake Villa.
The second-floor Prestige Lake Villas feature a large bathroom and living area, and a massive terrace to take in the view that is inarguably the highlight of the entire stay. Inle Lake is insanely gorgeous. A floating garden, a quiet fisherman, an interplay of colour from dawn to dusk: all seem to swim along by the tranquil lake right before your eyes.
The room knows of this beauty, and is aptly designed for you to make the most of it. From the daybeds on the terrace, to the almost perversely comfy (classic Sofitel, really) indoor bed that faces the lake, to the huge standalone tub in the bathroom; each element sings indulgence, and blends together traditional design with contemporary comfort. It also makes you feel like you should be here on a honeymoon, but a few sighs of solitude aside and even the avid singleton can find joy within the dreamy mosquito net draped above the bed. Also, great selfie lighting at golden hour.
There are two restaurants within the Sofitel Inle Lake Myat Min, one of which is an all-day dining eatery, and the other Pavilion Restaurant being more centred around fine-dining. Both feature international and Burmese dishes, with the latter also highlighting interesting fusion dishes. A lot of the ingredients used at the property come directly from the resort’s organic farm, ensuring freshness and taste, but also sustainable practice. We ship it — and the green tomatoes especially are a definite must-try.
Beyond the restaurants, there is also the Lobby Bar and the Pavilion Bar. Both gorgeously-designed spaces make for sweet sundowner spots. Did you know that Mandalay Rum cocktails are really quite nice? Now you do.
The resort boasts two swimming pools (one of which is an infinity pool directly on the lake), a fitness centre, meeting rooms, kids clubhouse, and a spa. And whilst all these components give you plenty of excuses to never leave the premises, we highly recommend you do, even if only for a day trip.
When we talk about travel to Myanmar, it is often Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, and increasingly the Mergui Archipelago that we talk about. The fact that Inle Lake is not on this list is wholly gasp-worthy, but on second thought all the more appealing.
Discover a Myanmar less discovered, and take a boat tour to the villages around Inle Lake. The hotel arranges a really great tour (with bicycle tours available too), wherein you’ll get to witness local craft-making from silver jewellery to lotus cloth-weaving and Burmese cigarette-rolling.
Definitely also do the trek and climb to the Shwe Indein Pagodas, a mysterious set of what feels like hundreds of ancient stupas, which you’ll reach after a bit of a walk and a winding waterway ride into the jungle.
For those hesitant of boat adventures, fret not: the boats are extremely comfortable, not at all sea-sickness-inducing (it’s also a lake, to be fair), and each passenger is seated in a very relaxing armchair of their own for the entire ride. Definitely bring a hat and wear sunscreen, though. Don’t be that guy.
Ever the Bangkokians, we can admit both timidly and proudly that we get escapes from the city pretty easily. An hour and you’re in Ayutthaya, Phuket, or even Chiang Mai. An hour and a bit and you’re in Luang Prabang, Siem Reap or even Hanoi. Quick getaways and serene changes of scenery are easy; but something about Inle Lake is next level — and we’re not just talking travel time.
Where the regional market can at times seem somewhat saturated, the Sofitel Inle Lake Myat Min feels almost primitive, private, and pure. That is not to say it doesn’t uphold a world-class standard for luxury and style, but rather that it manages to translate to a language of the contemporary a deep respect for the local culture and surrounding nature.
Granted, it is really quiet, and if you’re looking for nightlife, it should not be your go-to. Yet if you seek silence and serenity, you’ll find it here in new and inspiring ways, with a view from the bed and a cocktail by the infinity pool. Golden, and magical, even if only for the weekend.
Sofitel Inle Lake Myat Min, Pin Laung Road Thaleoo Village, Myanmar, +95 9 44263 5270.