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As Myanmar’s main business center modernises and develops into a full-fledged Asian city, modern and luxury hotels in Yangon are springing up. However, the best ones are still the Grande Dammes of the orient, the hotels whose glory precedes the country’s openness to tourism.
Whereas famous pagoda sprinkled Bagan is yet to welcome any international chain, Yangon already has its fair share of world renowned hoteliers and icons of yesteryear, defending a world that was once filled with colonial powers and grandeur.
Before you set off to more remote and harder to reach destinations, spend some time in the best luxury hotels in Yangon and set a base from where to explore the city’s apparent chaos mixed with modernity.
1. The Strand
Image from The Strand
Talking about luxury hotels and Yangon and not mentioning The Strand would be sacrilege. One of Asia’s oldest hotels, The Strand stands proud in front of the sea and is now off limits to impromptu visits by non-guests as it had become something of a city landmark to tick off for tourists’ check-lists. After the 2016 renovation, The Strand may have recovered its title as “The finest hostelry East of the Suez” as author John Murray indicated in his 1911 ‘Handbook for Travellers in India, Burma and Ceylon’. Today’s Sri Lanka, where you can find Galle Face Hotel, is another location for these fabled old charm hotels. Built in 1901 by the Sarkies Brothers, known for other emblematic hotels like The Raffles Singapore, The Strand’s long past has not impeded its current modern look at hospitality with original period furnitures blending in with technology and 21st century creature comforts. Expect nothing less than supreme service and attention to detail with a generous dose of the history. If the walls could talk they would certainly recount many epic stories of adventurers and personalities that no longer exist but in history books. Be sure to also have a look at The Strand Cruise which covers the route from Bagan to Mandalay.
2. The Governor’s Residence
Image from Belmond
The Governor’s Residence is another equally established and historical luxury hotel in Yangon. Part of the Belmond Group, who also charters the long-running Road to Mandalay cruises on the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River, The Governor’s Residence is slightly out of town in the Embassy quarter, and is housed in the former residence of the Ruler of the Southern States of Myanmar. A colonial mansion with teak floors and lush verandas, the hotel provides a great place to retreat and relax after a day of trodding the dusty streets of Yangon. The traffic jams that now fill Yangon’s streets are far away from the tranquility of the gardens and suites. The Governor’s Residence style and decor reminds of Luang Prabang’s Belmond’s La Residence Phou Vao and emphasises local materials and furnishing.
3. Sule Shangri-la Yangon
Image from Shangri-la.
Formerly Traders Hotel, the Shangri-la has brought Asia’s fine hotelier experiences to Yangon. When I first visited the city the hotel was still under the former brand and was the best value for money alternative for the business traveler whose budget did not extend to the USD500+ prices of The Governor’s Residence or The Strand. Then Shangri-la rebranded it into a finer version, keeping the hotel largely the same but improving the service and refreshing the look. When I returned in 2015 the new brand was visible and the service levels had improved. In fact, the entire Yangon had changed. The Traders Hotel used to be the rendez-vous place for businessmen and women visiting the city. UN and other organisations had their headquarters there as business space was non-existent. Despite the city’s expansion, Shangri-la remains the place for meet and greet of business minded individuals and its location, right in central downtown, on the same street as Sule Pagoda, is a plus. A more practical version of The Governor’s Residence or The Strand if still keeping with the city’s rich past.
4. Parkroyal Yangon
Image from Parkroyal
An ostentatiously grand marble lobby gives entrance to the Parkroyal Hotel, rebranded and refurbished from the former Grand Plaza Park Royal. As expected, you’ll find everything you need and would want from a hotel of this brand name but without any of the heritage feel or beauty of the previous hotels. International chain beds and buffet breakfasts and good service make it a suitable option for business. Take a second thought about visiting the Music Club in the basement, the activity that goes on there is not for everyone’s taste.
5. Novotel Yangon Max
Image from Novotel
A recent addition to the city’s business hotels, Novotel Yangon Max is comfortable, modern and new. It has everything you will ever need when visiting for business and is also a comfortable choice for leisure thanks for a large swimming pool and a pleasant rooftop bar. Rooms are modern and well appointed and the Accor attention to detail is visible across. Meetings and conventions can also be held at the hotel thanks to its adjacent business center.
6. Melia Yangon
Image from Melia
Spanish hotel chain Melia has opened one of the newest and most modern hotels in town. Located by Inya Lake with sprawling views over the water, especially from the pool. It is also right next to the Myanmar Plaza new shopping mall with plenty of eateries to choose from. Bright, clean, spacious and well appointed. The gym gets great reviews as does the staff.
7. Savoy Hotel Yangon
Image from Savoy
Less luxurious than the three heritage options but providing an equal amount of colonial flair, the Savoy Hotel is a great boutique hotel that has remained locally owned and managed since it opened its doors in 1995. Despite being small, it has a fantastic pool and a popular bar usually filled with expats. It is central, very near Shwedagon Pagoda, but remains quiet. The same teak furniture and furnishings and the flowing windows and foliage will transport you back a couple of centuries.
8. Kandawgyi Palace
Image from HTOO Hospitality
Located on a large property on the shore of the lake of the same name, Kandawgyi Palace overlooks Shwedagon Pagoda and wins several points for location and views. Housed in a colonial palace the decor and look and feel is local and heritage inspired. Both the grounds and the rooms are spacious and the best ones have terraces with sunset views over Shwedagon that can’t be missed.
9. The Loft
Image from The Loft Yangon
A boutique modern hotel that defies the old world charm style mould of the rest of the hotels in the city. Located in a refurbished warehouse, The Loft channels New York’s loft style and industrial design through red brick walls and metal staircases in the duplex suites.
With so much development already cloaking the streets of Yangon, new luxury hotels will continue to open. Announced is already the Pan Pacific Yangon, located by the Bogyoke Market right in the city center, and expected to open in 2017.