One of the best community experiences I’ve had, this lodge was a few kilometres from Myaing in central Myanmar, about a third of the way between Bagan and Mandalay. It was built by ActionAid as part of a reservoir project, and funded by the Intrepid Foundation, providing exclusive access to Intrepid tour groups.
The lodge supports four villages, home to around 1,200 people, providing income from tourists, and training facilities for the locals. It opened four years ago with the goal of 1,000 guests a year. Unfortunately due to conflict in the border regions and resulting safety concerns visitor numbers have dropped significantly since 2015. Hopefully things will begin to settle and more people will visit this fascinating country.
The lodge itself was the flashiest of its kind that I’ve stayed in (comparing with Cambodia, Mexico, Iran, Papua New Guinea, Peru), with the best showers I had in Myanmar, a wonderful dinning hall / training area, and a beautiful reservoir side setting.
The sunrises and sunsets were pretty special, particularly on the windless first evening, with near perfect reflections on the reservoir.
That night we were treated to a cultural experience from one of the local villages, with a spot of increasingly interactive music and dance.
The lodge had decent mountain bikes which we used to visited two of the local villages. They explained life in their villages, and shared their plans and priorities (water, electricity, English language skills). We had fun playing with kids who had just finished school, who helped us with a spot of tree planting.
In our free time we also used the bikes to visit Myaing, surprisingly home to one of the most enjoyable temples I visited in Myanmar.
To end with photos from a couple of hilltop temples in Sagaing, about four hours from Myaing and an hour from Mandalay. Umin Thounzeh is home to 45 Buddha in a row.
Pon Nya Shin Paya had expansive views over Sagaing and toward Mandalay in the distance.