February 22, 2013 by farbolino
In between Yangon and Mandalay along the Irrawaddy river lies Yenangyaung, a place most tourists have never heard of, and probably never will. This region of the country is one of the driest and hottest places in all of Myanmar, which can make life quite difficult for most people who live in the surrounding villages with no running water.
Perched on a hill overlooking the Irrawaddy river in the distance is Lei Thai Gone Guesthouse (meaning gentle breeze in Burmese). The guesthouse is run by Eric, who was born in the town yet left for better opportunities in Yangon. He only returned to Yenangyaung after his wife died of AIDS in 2002. Eric himself has HIV, but you’d never know it because he’s always quite active.
He started the guesthouse shortly after his wife’s death and the revenue goes towards helping 86 orphaned children in the surrounding villages. Unfortunately, Eric does absolutely no advertising for his guesthouse, and people find out about simply by word of mouth.
The only thing I knew about the guesthouse I had read here where it briefly mentions the guesthouse as relaxing and not having deluxe amenities. This led me to believe the place was quite basic, when in fact it was anything but.
We arrived at 3am to the guesthouse when we were expected to arrive around 8am. Eric woke up to let us in and never said a word about the ungodly hour we arrived. We promptly fell asleep and awoke to breakfast of eggs (note that I didn’t say EGG) with toast, unlimited butter, jam apples, oranges, bananas, tea and coffee. All the while, the breakfast area overlooks the valley below with the Irrawaddy river in the background. Unlimited amounts of fruit are also available throughout the day.
Above is a photo taking from the breakfast area at sunset. Sorry for the low quality.
Then there were the rooms, which were built of stone, and would be best described as a chalets. Each chalet had two separate rooms, and all of the rooms had balconies with bamboo chairs, new bathroom fixtures, Air-conditioners, fan, desk, refrigerator, comfortable beds (and soft pillows! A rarity in Myanmar). Just about the only thing that was ‘basic’ about the rooms was that they didn’t have hot water. Considering the days are nearly always 35 degrees Celsius (nearly 100 degrees F) I didn’t find it to be a problem.
Eric and the staff did everything in their power to make us feel comfortable and at home, and when Eric had the time he even took us by jeep to the surrounding villages to show us the various ways that the money from the guesthouse is being put into use.
On the last day Eric even had his staff cook us an amazing dinner that he didn’t charge us for. When it was time to leave Yenangyuang, we went to settle the bill, Eric didn’t even charge us for the additional night we spent from arriving at 3am. The icing on top was he offered to drive us to the bus station instead of walking.
I really couldn’t recommend a place more then this, especially in a country where accommodation seems to always be overpriced.