Yangon, Myanmar

The Governor’s Residence

 

 

 

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Governor’s Residence
Relax At The Governor’s Residence on the verandah.

Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar, also called Burma, is the most unusual of the great Southeast Asian cities. Forget soaring skyscrapers, skytrains and glossy shopping malls. In this large and bustling city, which is home to the world’s biggest collection of 19th-century colonial architecture, you really feel you have stepped back into fin de siècle Asia.

The Strand, which is in the downtown area, has been a symbol of excellence in hospitality since it opened in 1901. Even when it debuted as an all-suite boutique hotel in 1994, it had not added a pool, tennis courts or more rooms, and is a wonderful example of how heritage wins hands down over modern facilities. 

You can take the elevator to the two upper floors, but we found it so much nicer to walk up the red-carpeted stairs, and peek over the wooden landing railings at the lobby with its marble and teak floor, wicker furniture and potted palms. On these landings, which are Wi-Fi enabled, you find the smiling 24/7 butlers who wear traditional Burmese dress jackets and longyi sarongs, and make you feel at home.

The Strand
The Strand has a pristine, old-world vibe. Shown is the bathroom of a suite.

The eight Superior and 23 Deluxe Suites have 12-foot-high ceilings, large windows and separate seating areas. The property faces east, so none of the rooms get sunset views, but those facing the river get the sunrise, and Nos. 204, 205, 206 and 207 have the best views of the Strand Boulevard.

Luxury travel advisors should book via GDS, www.ghmhotels.com or www.lhw.com, but their contacts for The Strand Suite are General Manager Didier Belmonte ([email protected]; 011-951-243-377) and Guest Services ([email protected]). 

It is impossible not to be awed by The Strand Suite, at 2,152 square feet with Georgian fanlight doors, a large living room, master bedroom and 24-hour private butler service.

Rudyard Kipling, Sir Mick Jagger and royalty have all stayed here. For big families, take it with a connecting twin-bedded suite, or ask for two connecting suites (104-105, 112-113, 204-205). All the bathrooms are different and have lots of wood, double sinks, and separate soaking tubs and showers.

 

The Cafe at the Strand
The Cafe at the Strand draws locals and guests throughout the day.

The spa is a converted suite with two treatment beds. GM Belmonte suggests the Traditional Myanmar Massage, which uses finger and elbow pressure, and says Khin Zaw is one of the most popular therapists.

For elegant dining, The Grill has the lavish atmosphere of a grand hotel, right down to the live classical guitar music. The signature dish of Lobster Thermidor is a work of art and, as Belmonte says a new executive chef is on the way, expect exciting changes in the menu. The Café is for casual lunches and snacks and serves breakfast à la carte. Tip: Tell clients to leave enough time in the morning to relax over a real “British” breakfast and enjoy the homemade jams, breads and pastries. The famous Friday Night at the Strand when the iconic Yangon Bar—packed to the doors—is a great place to pick up tips on where to go and what’s happening in town.  

 

Getting Around

In Yangon, some neighborhoods are exactly as they were when the country became independent from Britain six decades ago; a walking tour is the best way to explore this hidden treasure. Start at the downtown Sule Pagoda and walk east, passing the City Hall, the former Rowe & Co. building and Yangon’s High Court. Turn right on Pansodan Street into the original financial center with imposing bank and insurance buildings, one of which houses an art gallery. Continue west past the old Customs House and then walk north on Mahabandoola Garden Road back to Sule Pagoda.

Yangon is called the “garden city” for its lush parks, many of which have large lakes. Get your guide to show you the herbal medicine plantations and learn what the different plants are for and how they are processed. Then go to a local herbal medicine pharmacy where the pharmacist will be happy to answer your questions.

Take a half-day excursion to Dala on the other side of the mighty Yangon River. The local ferry leaves Pansodan jetty every half hour from sunrise until after sunset. On the 10-minute crossing you will see how locals travel and goods are loaded and unloaded.

In Dala, hire a trishaw and discover how different it is from Yangon! While Yangon is a bustling city, Dala feels like a sleepy country village. Visit the famous pottery shop and bell tower in the town center. Have a sundowner on the terrace of the restaurant at the jetty and watch the action while you take in the historical skyline of Yangon which has not changed in decades.

—Thomas Carnevale, Myanmar Asian Trails

 

Head Concierge Than Zaw ([email protected]; 011-951-243-3777) arranges private elephant rides less than an hour away, inclusive of private transfers in a six-seater vintage coach with butler service, and also three-day private tours of Yangon. He can also arrange with a local ground handler for private jets and set up babysitting, and knows the best places for shopping. We thought the Scott Market was fun shopping for cheap souvenirs but found the large selection of quality Burmese and Asian crafts in The Strand shop hard to beat!

The Governor’s Residence (www.governorsresidence.com; 011-951-229-860) is on a quiet street in the embassy quarter, just 10 minutes by car from downtown Yangon. The old colonial-style mansion is set in lush gardens and has a large fan-shaped swimming pool. Glowing teakwood features are everywhere, from the house itself to the stairs, furniture, floors, bathrooms and the wraparound verandah where guests can relax and dine.

If you have clients who put a premium on a lot of space, then ask for the two-bedroom Junior Suite that sleeps up to five, or one of the Governor’s Rooms; they have bathrooms with double sinks and separate showers; all rooms have Bulgari amenities. The Deluxe Garden View Rooms, though smaller at 420 square feet, have the best garden views, and some also look out on the pool. Hotel Manager Shwe Sin Ei ([email protected]; 011-951-229-860) and Regional Managing Director–Asia Philippe Bissig ([email protected]) handle all VIP enquiries. 

Note: As there is no gym or spa, we found the pool a great way to relax after a day in town or touring. Another option was to ask Font Office Manager Win Pa Pa Yin ([email protected]; 011-951-229-860) or Bell Captain Myo Thant Swe to set up in-room massage treatments. Ask them also for city tours, market tours with cooking demonstrations, and Yangon sunset tours with free-flow cocktails.

Bissig says to check with Win Pa Pa Win for upcoming special events like wine tastings and wine cellar dinners. And, for sophisticated city dining, he suggests Le Planteur, which has a French menu, and the Padonmar and Monsoon for local specialties. Of course, the in-house Mandalay restaurant, where Executive Chef Iain Murray’s signature dish is papilotte of red snapper fillet with mango infusion, is another prime choice. As this is a family-oriented property, there are plenty of board games and a billiard table for children and a large amusement park is just five minutes away.

 

The Governor’s Residence
The Governor’s Residence is a colonial-style mansion that’s part of Orient-Express.

Note: In Myanmar, Internet connections are often slow and sometimes unavailable and international mobile phones do not work. While there is no problem making and receiving international phone calls at all the major hotels, we suggest advising clients to tell families and friends before they leave that communications can be difficult, and so “no news is good news.”  

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