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Style: Monastic chic
Scene: Lakeside
Seen in the Lobby: Tourists in just-purchased local scarves and designer sunglasses

THIS has to be the perfect hotel arrival. Our boat skims over the glassy surface of Inle Lake. Our luggage is piled in the front of the narrow boat and water jets up from the back.  flying along,  like Suddenly the boat slows and turns into a quite channel with green water gardens on either side and the stited, spindly-legged house of Maing Thauk village.

sanctum inle resort restaurant
sanctum inle resort restaurant
sanctum inle resort corridor
sanctum night
sanctum inle resort garden
sanctum inle resort junior suite
sanctum refectory

Sanctum Inle Resort is in front of us, tucked in a quiet backwater. The hotel (which opened in May 2015) gleams white in the afternoon sun. We tie-up at the jetty and walk up the winding path to reception.  The hotel is certainly different from all the wooden silted houses and reed huts that surround the lake. This building is all archways, cloisters and cool tiles; I feel as if I’m about to be called to vespers.

  A hotel that looks like a Spanish Monastery in the middle of Myanmar may seem like an odd idea but, trust me it works.  This isn’t an historic building restored, it is a hotel with a deliberate motif. Myanmar is spiritual place, golden stupas and temples dot the country side and Buddhist monks in burgundy robes collect alms each morning.  So the owner of the hotel wanted the place to a meditative feel, with a Western twist – and it has.

Acclaimed French architect Brigitte Dumont de Chassart (who has designed luxury properties in Vietnam and Cambodia as well as back in her home town, Paris) has created a tranquil and aesthetic space. GM Philip Arnaud describes the 96-room hotel as a merging of “the spiritual and the secular, the past and the present, East and West.”  No small ask but it does work.

If only because the lake itself, especially on Sanctum’s own private inlet, is so calm and peaceful that it invites contemplation. I wander through its fountained courtyards  and shady spaces in a dreamy fashion enjoying the serenity of my surroundings.  Everywhere there are ecclesiastical references in the design and the names of the common areas:  The Chapter house (library), The Refectory (restaurant) ,The Cloisters (bar) .

The Interior design is Monastic minimalist too. With high beamed ceilings,  unadorned wood and teak  furniture and beautiful church-like doors. However I am able report that there’s nothing spartan about the incredibly comfortable  beds piled sinfully high with cloudy doonas and pillows.   

I might have to say few Hail Mary’s after visiting the cloisters bar too. Although it has to said that many monasteries have been known over the centuries for their excellent cellars, so I may be forgiven.

It is also hard  to abstain from the vice of ‘gluttony’ because the food here is excellent.  The aptly named Refectory restaurant has pew-like benches, high ceilings and architectural church etchings on the walls . The wide-ranging menu includes staples of the Shan state culinary tradition from noodles and soups to spicey Myanmar curries. There are also salads made from the onsite organic garden down by the water and well-cooked western dishes.

The real joy of Sanctum Inle Resort is of course its access to the astonishing lake  The hotel can arrange private tours with your own personal guide and boatman so the next morning we sit on gaily coloured boat chairs softened with woven cushions and set off across the lake.  There are the usual tourist stops at weaver and silversmiths but our overwhelming impression is of the staggering beauty of this unesco heritage xxx area.

In the early morning the lake is a watercolour of silvery grey, the inla fishermen and their delicate net are like ink-drawn silhouettes against the sky. Around the lake stilted villages look like paddling cranes. We visit submerged stupas, colourful markets and Venice-like backstreet canals  and old teak bridges.

At day’s end we sit on the balcony at Sanctum Inle Resort and toast our adventures in Myanmar brewed beer as the sun slides into the lake like melting orange sorbet.

The hotel also has complimentary bikes For those willing to risk life and limb and tour the area - Myanmar has as many potholes as it does temples and some scary driving from those who not so long ago were in charge of nothing more revved up that a bullock cart.  You can visit the local village or craftmakers or take a 30 minute trip up to Red mountain , Myanmar’s first winery. The wine isn’t at all bad.

Read more about Inle Lake, Myanmar in our TRAVEL section.

Editor’s note: Sanctum is run by Apple Tree Asia which is also responsible for the beautiful La residence Hua Hin in Vietnam. 
Check in: Maing Thauk Village, Inle Lake, Nyaung Shwe Township, Myanmar (Burma)
Ultimate Luxury: Pray for a saty in the two-storey Abbey Suite
Most Indulgent Moment: Watching sunset across the lake on the open verandah
Insider Secrets: Despite the Spanish monastery feel the owner is a Burmese business woman who also has property in Bagan
The Little Things: Cake snacks delivered to your room of an evening go down well - love that banana bread
Junior Luxies: Not specifically catered for but the grounds allow a little romping, watch them near the water
Dress Code: Relaxed after a day on the lake
Dent in the platinum:
Luxury Hotels Link: www.sanctum-inle-resort.com

 Hilary Doling 7/3/16
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