Overlooking the mountains and rice fields on the shore of Inle Lake lies the Sofitel Inle Lake Myat Min, the first Sofitel address in Myanmar.
The boutique resort, AccorHotels’ sixth property in the country, celebrated its grand opening on 5 March 2018 and may be one of the last new hotels built directly by the water because the area was designated a UNESCO Biosphere World Heritage site in 2015.
I spoke to David G. Daguise, cluster general manager for Sofitel Inle Lake Myat Min and Novotel Inle Lake Myat Min, about the property – and its role in the local community.
“Sofitel are storytellers and there was a strong story here, especially with the French DNA input in Myanmar,” starts Daguise. “Everything was so relevant to Inle. When you establish a hotel in a UNESCO Biosphere, you need the think about how your property fits into the lake environment – and use that to build a story around the property.”
Even the journey to the hotel can tie into the local culture. The hotel is, of course, accessible by car but can also be reached via motorboat for guests who wish to see Intha rowing, where boatmen propel themselves across Inle lake using the traditional one-legged rowing technique.
The Sofitel Inle Lake Myat Min’s 101 rooms include 36 Luxury Rooms – “in a cosy village configuration” describes Daguise – plus 25 Junior Suites, 12 Prestige Suites, 27 Opera Suites, and 1 Imperial Suite.
The resort’s architecture shows design accents native to the region and the decor features traditional Burmese materials such as bamboo, rattan and silk.
“The design scheme of each room type is based on what you can find in the local environment,” Daguise continues. “Much of the upholstery reflects local tribal colours.” For example, the Field Villas (Luxury Rooms), clustered around reflective ponds, are inspired by the reds and oranges of the headscarves of the Pa-o women.
The Marshland Villas (Prestige Suites), which feature canopy beds inspired by the region’s stilt houses, have green woven fabrics as seen in the Padaung women’s clothing; and the Lake Villas (Junior and Opera Suites) draw on the blue chequered patterns of local men’s longyi trousers.
Dining and facilities
The all-day dining restaurant offers international and local flavours with buffet and a la carte options. The fine dining Pavilion Restaurant serves fusion and Burmese-inspired dishes, with indoor and outdoor lakeside spaces.
“The environment at Sofitel Inle Lake Myat Min is so serene that we want people to see this resort not as a one-stop destination – ‘see the caves, see the lake and then go’ – or a party resort; it’s more of a wellness retreat, which doesn’t really exist in the country currently,” explains the hotel GM.
He continues: “We believe that our property will extend the length of stay in Inle, to three or four days. The Sofitel Inle Lake Myat Min is meant to become a destination in its own right, especially with a culinary aspect including our tailor-made menus and specific spa treatments with local products.”
That’s easily visible in the resort’s activity programme, which roots guests into the local Shan way of life, with sustainability initiatives such as shopping at the floating market and visiting local pagodas and temples, plus bicycle excursions to the nearby winery.
Resort facilities include two swimming pools; one of which is an infinity adult pool set directly on the water, and the fitness centre and Sofitel spa offer yoga and meditation programs. Also available are a clubhouse, kids’ club, Mac corner, and games room; and the resort’s meeting room, measuring 150 sqm, can host up to 100 guests.
The community and environment
“90% of our staff are locals,” says Daguise proudly. “We wanted to be integrated into the community and it’s amazing to be able to say ‘I need you to help with the floating garden’ to someone that has already been growing food this way.”
Of course, this type of integration has two benefits as it includes the locals and protects the environment. “The vegetables and herbs we use in our restaurants are grown in our floating gardens. Our onsite water treatment plant reuses greywater so nothing is sent to the lake, and all villas have bio tanks,” confirms the Sofitel Inle Lake Myat Min GM.
When talking about the hotel, I observe that Inle Lake is very different to some of his previous hotels’ destinations, such as Hua Hin – the vibrant Thai beach resort, where he launched the hotel rebrand in 2013. He replies by saying that in each career, there’s a time and place for each specific hotel and destination.
“Inle is very remote – like Seychelles or the Maldives – and that means there is a very different way of life here,” he explains. “You have a different mindset: in a resort like the one in Hua Hin, you may become an entertainer for the visitors and you have to be vibrant at all times, but here you grow the community for the locals.
“At destinations like Inle, you’re not just a GM to the hotel but you also have a big responsibility to the environment and local population.”
Sofitel Inle Lake Myat Min: More information
Sofitel Inle Lake Myat Min is located 47 km from Heho Airport, and 600 km from Yangon, a one-hour flight away. The hotel offers special opening rates starting at USD 130 per night. The offer includes accommodation in a Luxury Room inclusive of breakfast for two and 10% discount on spa treatments.
Normal rates for a Luxury Room start at USD 198. This offer is available for bookings until 30 June 2018. For reservations and general information, visit accorhotels.com.