When we arrived at Inle Lake it was raining, not just raining but pouring so we were delighted to find out our hotel Sanctum lived up to our expectations – if we were going to be holed up in our room, this was a room worthy of spending time in. The hotel is setting the standards of accommodation in Burma by offering everything you’d expect in a five-star hotel. The huge bath tubs with windows at one end, private balconies, spa, infinity pool over Inle Lake, library, restaurant, bar, and games room made sure we had plenty to keep us entertained.
The next day once the rain had finally stopped we took two of the hotel’s swishy bikes and headed along the back road to Nan Pan village. An easy 22km round trip as the roads are fairly flat, quiet and luckily the sun wasn’t out in full force. It was market day at the village – the Inle Lake rotating market moves everyday and we had no idea so it was a great surprise. After exploring all of the weird and wonderful offerings, both food and crafts, we set off back to the hotel for a dip in the beautiful pool.
Once it got cool enough we decided to venture out again on the hotel bikes to the local vineyard Red Mountain. There’s only two vineyards in Burma, both are located in Inle Lake and it’s only possible to try the wines inside of the country. Red Mountain is set high up on the hills and has incredible views of the surroundings – in fact it almost feels like you’re in South Africa. We tried a couple of the whites and reds and whilst they weren’t amazing they were certainly drinkable, especially alongside the spicy salads and fried rice dishes and sunset views over the lake. Whilst we didn’t get to visit the second vineyard we did try the fruits of the Anathya vineyard’s labour in the hotel and they were actually pretty good – both the red and white. Rose – not so much!
No trip to Inle Lake is complete without a boat trip and we took a half day excursion around the lake. We stopped at a whole host of places but our favourite was Inle Heritage which houses 35 Burmese cats who would otherwise be extinct in Burma. It’s a charitable organisation and as well as the cats they support women who make crafts for the shop and run a hotel and cooking school to train staff. We also visited some traditional weavers using machines wooden looms, boat makers, and the Kayan ladies, famous for their long necks, before drifting around the floating tomato farms on the way back to the hotel.
We skipped the main backpackers town, Nyaungshwe, but having driven through it a couple of times we didn’t miss much and it was actually nice to stay right on the lake. In fact if there’s one place in Burma we’d recommend spending a bit more on a hotel it would be here, as staying right on the lake at Sanctum really made the whole trip to Inle.