The folks who staff the guest experience at a remote luxury lodge in northern Burma come from nearby hill tribe villages. These villages provide guides for half-day and longer treks. Guests purchase handicrafts at their markets.
“These are just a few of many scenarios where folks traveling to this region of Burma can be assured that their money is making a difference locally and that they are supporting sustainable tourism at its best,” said Brett Melzer, founder and owner of the luxury Malikha Lodge in Northern Kachin State. Melzer’s Burma-based team also recently assisted with rescue operations following Cyclone Nargis in southern Burma.
Melzer, who owns Eastern Safaris (www.easternsafaris.com), also operates Balloons over Bagan, the largest luxury hot air balloon passenger service in Asia that affords the thrill of floating over 2000 ancient pagodas. ([email protected]). A 100 percent private Myanmar company, Melzer views Malikha Lodge and the access it provides to cultural and wilderness opportunities as an extension of his commitment to sustainable tourism.
The Lodge enters its second season this October in one of the last great areas of subtropical and mountain rainforest in the Himalayas where it is neighbors to the Lisu and Rawang hill tribes. The resort was designed by world-famous architect Jean Michel Gathy whose artistry is displayed at several Aman Resorts.
Access is by scheduled Air Bagan flight service to Putao every Tuesday and Friday from early October until the end of April allowing the option of 3, 4 or 7 night stays. From Putao Airport, a 15-minute drive brings guests to this 12-acre site bordering the local Lisu village of Mulashidi. Putao is the most northerly town in Burma in the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas.
Guests lodge in 10 bungalows overlooking rice terraces that lead to the snow-clad Himalayas beyond the tree-fringed Nam Lang River. The lodge offers the feeling of a private house party for all meals, with a choice of set menus prepared daily for lunch and dinner, including one vegetarian option. The theme is refined continental country style in keeping with the wilderness mountain location. With advance notice, special dietary requirements or special events can be catered for.
Here in the Putao Valley, one of the most isolated and remote valleys in South East Asia, opportunities for economic advancement remain limited. The decision was made to create a world-class lodge here in a valley wedged between India and China at the mouth of the Ayeyarwaddy River in the Eastern Himalayas.
This lodge makes a statement that it is both of the earth and from the earth in a recreation of traditional-style bungalows carefully sited to recreate a sense of idyllic village life in this garden paradise of old growth bamboo and jungle. A palette of muted olives, grays and russets emphasizes natural woods and stone that lead the eye to the surrounding pristine beauty here at the headwaters of the Ayeyarwaddy, the river that courses south to Yangon.
On-premise projects include providing training to farmers who supply the Lodge with quality market garden and livestock produce. A hunter accompanies certain short treks. A carbon offset pursuit involves reforesting a 100-acre grassland. The Lodge’s in-house doctor provides free malaria testing and treatment to local staff and their families in the surrounding villages. On some locally-guided day treks guests can view cottage industries, visit homes and see handicrafts being created. Early risers can visit the market, down a steaming bowl of Shan noodle soup in the early morning chill and practice haggling skills over spectacular Rawang village headman woven hats, colorful sarongs and fine baskets.
Guests have the choice of three distinct seasons – October and November is harvest time, with brilliant green colors and perfect visibility. Nights are extremely pleasant and guests enjoy sitting outdoors well into the late evening. December to February brings crisp, spring-like days and cold starry nights. This is the best time for viewing the snowcapped mountains that surround Putao, as well as cozy evenings in the main lodge around the fire. March and April see a return to warmer days and nights and the first occasional showers before the monsoon hits in late May.