I awake just before dawn and linger under the warm covers for a moment, trying to find my bearings. As I step outside, the thick mist engulfing everything lights up a memory of London in Winter. But I could swear that just the day before I had walked the scorching planes of Bagan.
Nestled on a quiet inlet of the eastern shore of Myanmar’s most famous lake, Inle Lake Princess is a haven for weary travellers. Under the Blue Mountains and surrounded by lush tropical gardens, the resort is a gateway to the bustling lake. Yet, at the same time, feels a world away from it.
One of the first hotels in the lake, Inle Princess opened in 1998. Built by Inthar craftsmen out of bamboo and reclaimed hardwoods, the buildings follow traditional construction practices. Furthermore, the resort focus on booting and nurturing local communities and projects like the Inle Heritage Village.
Their sustainable practices make it one of the greenest hotels in the country. No-plastic policy on in-room bottles and on-sight water waste treatment are but two of the several practices in play.
There are four types of traditional houses on the property. Princess houses on the lake’s shore; Lake houses just over the lotus filled inlet; Garden houses by the lily pads of the tropical garden; and the Mountain house with majestic views of the Blue Mountains.
We stayed on one of their Mountain Houses. A spacious building using Inthar traditional materials like teak and pyinkado and decorated with Shan and Intha silks and ceramics. Every morning, sat in bed we watched the mist rolling down the mountains from behind the enormous window. Like something out of a Lord of the Rings novel.
And unlike other hotels by the lake front, there are no motor boats allowed in the inlet. If you happen to wake at 5 am, the culprit will likely be one of the many birds in the area.
Food and Drink
The Shan state is often called Myanmar’s culinary hub and the Princess does it justice. By cooking with locally grown and seasonal ingredients, they manage to make the bountiful lake and the wider region proud.
While the menu focuses more on fish caught fresh by the lake’s famed fisherman, they do cater to dietary restrictions. Chef Than New Oo can advise on meal preparation and customise them to one’s needs. The grilled Shan tofu with vegetables served during dinner was one of the best dished I had in the country. And it made me develop an obsession by the local yellow split pea tofu.
Dining or enjoying a cocktail by the lakeside decks was one of our favourite things to do during the stay. Watching the sun go down behind the mirror like water was a one of kind experience.
What to do in the Area
The resort offers plenty of activities. From the swimming pool and spa treatments to taking part in one of the craft village’s activities, we were spoiled for choice.
However, we chose to go out on the lake to explore its southern part. Floating villages, the weaving lotus factories, monasteries and the 7-day market are enough to fill a day.
Additionally, we rented bikes and cycled around only to discover one of the best restaurants in the region.
How to get there
Heho is the closest airport and is approximately 50 minutes away by car. The Princess has the option to transfer guests by a combination of car and boat, which takes roughly an hour.
It's not only a great way to see the lake as soon as you arrive but to also experience the serenity of the mirror-like inlet fronting the hotel. Motors are not allowed within 350 meters of the resort so oarsmen row guests to reception in the lake's one-legged style.
Coming to Inle Lake by minivan will see you stop first in Nyaung Shew, the lake’s biggest village. From there arrange for a tuk-tuk to take you to the resort.
Things to Know
- The resort only accepts US Dollars instead of the local Kyat. Credit card payments are ok.
- Bikes are available for rent and the front desk can advise on the best places to visit.
- Tours to the lake can also be booked through the front desk. The staff is knowledgeable of which location the 7-day market will be at and the best areas to see.
- There’s an Inle Lake zone fee of 10$ (or K12,500) to be paid upon entering Nyaung Shwe.
Our stay at the Inle Lake Princess was not sponsored. We chose the resort because of its sustainability policy, close proximity to the lake and by not being connected to the old regime. All opinions are our own.