Inle Lake is one of the prized possessions of Myanmar, laid out like a glassy jewel in the middle of the hilly Shan state in central Myanmar.
A highlight of any first-time itinerary to the country, Inle Lake is a perfect snapshot of local life, dotted with aquatic farms, long-tail boats and stilted villages that rise out of the sleek, mirrored lake surface.
On the banks of the lake, travelers can soak in the surroundings and disconnect from the outside world at the Sanctum Inle Resort.
Simplicity meets luxury behind the gates of the Sanctum Inle Resort. Designed like a Spanish monastery, the compound is a treasure trove of whitewashed buildings, echoing archways, exposed brick and open courtyards. The rooms are spacious and airy with high ceilings and massive windows that look onto the grounds or the lake. Rooms come in four categories, ranging from 430 to 1,076 square feet. Amenities include complimentary WiFi, bikes for rent, gardens, a library and a spa.
But one of the highlights of booking a stay at Sanctum is the menu of experiences that the resort can tailor. A full-day Inle Lake tour is an absolute must. This guided excursion takes guests out on Inle Lake aboard a private long-tail boat. Wind your way through the alleys of stilted houses to find hidden craft shops or pray at ancient temples and pagodas, many of which date back to the 13th century.
The day begins with a visit to the morning market where you can wander the stalls and explore the local products. Continue across the lake to pass through villages, stopping to see some of the local products, such as silk, textiles, silver and hand-rolled cigars. Along the way, catch glimpses of the Inle Lake fishermen, who steer their boats with one leg while fishing simultaneously, with the backdrop of the open water and sky.
The tour calls at Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, the lake's main sanctuary, which contains five sacred Buddha images and houses the royal barges used during the pagoda's annual festival. In the afternoon sail to Indein on the lake's southwestern shores. The boat will zip down a small canal to the village where travelers have the opportunity to stroll on foot taking in views of stupas and the lake.
Upon returning to the Sanctum, book a treatment at the spa. With six treatment rooms spread on two floors, the simple spa doesn't skip on service. The spa's signature treatment is a Tamarind Scrub. But a real treat when visiting this part of the world is a traditional Thai massage. This no-oil treatment combines yoga stretching with deep massage to promote flexibility and release any blockages in the body.
After a trip to the spa, end the day with a cocktail or glass of wine at the Cloister Bar before heading to the Refectory for dinner. The cuisine at the Sanctum is top-notch, devoting itself to locally sourced ingredients, much of which comes from its own organic garden. The menu has a wide range of Asian and Western cuisines, from noodles and soups to garden salads, samosas and curries.