What's special about this place? Opened in 2011, Villa Inle Resort & Spa comprises 10 lakefront villas and six lakeside garden villas, with a winding pathway leading up to each. Those looking onto the freshwater Inle Lake, in Nyaungshwe, in Myanmar's Shan State, offer spectacular views from spacious, sunset-facing balconies. With each unit raised above the edge of the rice paddies that lead down to the lake, there is water beneath your feet, and the balconies provide wonderful star-gazing opportunities - just don't forget the insect repellent. (For those of you who have grown accustomed to Hong Kong evenings, "star" refers, here, to a celestial body rarely seen in our skies, rather than a Canto-popper.) Inside, high ceilings with exposed beams and large windows create an open feel complemented by warm colours and generous use of wood, in particular for gorgeous flooring. Mosquito-netted beds face out towards the lake, so you need never miss the view. Out on the water, engines are killed and boats paddled through a gap in the paddy fields to and from the hotel's jetty (left), to keep things tranquil. And the green flag is flown with vigour.
Just how green is "green"? The hotel prides itself on its commitment to sustainability, and there seems ample justification for that. The resort has a "sustainable department", dedicated to implementing practices such as using wood left over from construction for room decoration, signage and even key rings. Green also means verdant: from almost every spot in the villas there are sweeping views of Mother Nature. Bananas, limes, papayas and mangoes can be picked straight from the tree, many of which were planted on site by the hotel's owner. Natural fertiliser - from kitchen waste, organic waste and dried leaves - is used throughout the grounds, which include an organic vegetable garden that supplies the resort's restaurant.
Tell us about the restaurant. This is the one disappointment. The fresh and tasty vegetables are a saving grace and the menu is extensive, but the food mediocre. The restaurant feels like a large barn, lacking atmosphere and warmth. Breakfast can be special, however, if it is taken on your balcony, in the cool, fresh morning air, mist shimmering in the distance, over the lake.
What is there to do? Unusually for hotels in this area, Villa Inle has a spa, offering various massages including the traditional Shan (a fairly robust option), Thai and aromatherapy versions. And with all the wildlife here, bird watching is another activity open to guests.
What's the bottom line? Villas cost US$350 per night. For more information, visit www.hotelininle.com