The Pool Bar at Novotel Yangon Max, Myanmar, has a selection of beverages, cocktails and snacks for guests looking to relax by the pool.
Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city and former capital, is abuzz as new skyscrapers, shopping malls and condos shoot up. And with visitor numbers reaching new heights — five million in 2015 from just 800,000 five years ago — the inventory of hotel rooms is finding it difficult to keep pace with the demand.
So the new five-star Novotel Yangon Max, which is the first five-star hotel to open in the city in 17 years, has brought a much-needed breath of deliciously French fresh air. Midway between the international airport and downtown, which is an ideal location given the gridlock levels of Yangon traffic, the hotel is something of an optical illusion, as it is much larger than it looks from the initial approach, consisting of 342 rooms in two towers. Indeed the rooms and suites and also the public areas, starting with the lobby, are exceptionally spacious and have lots of natural light with, appropriately enough, Burgundy red featuring throughout the property.
Le Cellier, the French restaurant, offers the option of refined dining.
We got the warmest of welcomes from Director of Marketing Nathalie Leung Shing ([email protected]; 011-959-254-415-538) who whisked us up to our Executive Room. We liked its uncluttered comfort and features like the separate living area, iPod dock, espresso machine and spacious working desk with plenty of electrical sockets. Like the Executive Suites, these rooms give access to the Premier Lounge, while the Deluxe Rooms and Suites are of the same size and have similar facilities, but without lounge benefits.
Our room had a Shwedagon view which made it even more special as the 2,500-year-old golden Buddhist pagoda that soars over the city is the country’s spiritual and architectural icon, and is stunningly beautiful at all hours of day and night. Nathalie says that for clients who particularly enjoy sunsets you should ask for the 31 and 32, 28 and 28 series of rooms, while families can choose from 36 adjoining rooms.
The Executive Room has a separate living area, an iPod dock, an espresso machine and a
spacious working desk.
Having arrived in Yangon on an early-morning flight we tossed a coin to decide between a massage in the Manida Spa or the rooftop pool and fate decided the spa, which turned out to be the perfect antidote. We had the signature 90-minute Manida Experience consisting of a sauna, facial, scrub and relaxing Lilawadee massage. Mrs Manida ([email protected]; 011-959-262-432-611) told us it is a good idea to book treatments in advance as the 10 rooms, of which two are for couples, are in high demand.
The Square, open 24/7, has live cooking stations at dinner and Asian and international favorites at breakfast and during the day. Le Cellier offers the option of refined dining or a bistro-style atmosphere with a tapas menu which tempted us. We sat outside on the terrace and were not disappointed with our choice of a Foie Gras Terrine, Chorizo Croquetas and Blinis with Smoked Salmon and Sour Cream which, unlike most tapas, turned out to be almost full-sized portions. Executive Chef Pedro Carrillo ([email protected]; 011-951-230-5858) suggested fantastic wine pairings and asked us to try the outstanding Peking Duck in the Royal Pavilion Chinese restaurant which, he said, also does a great Dim Sum Sunday Brunch.
Assistant Concierge Manager Zaw Win Oo ([email protected] & [email protected]; 011-951-230-5858) knows all the best places in town, from restaurants to markets to shops, like the Junction Square Shopping Centre, which is walking distance from the hotel. But don’t expect Madison Avenue-style shopping here, as things are still charmingly unspoiled in Myanmar. In fact, Yangon got its first international fast-food outlet only a few months ago.
We learned from Zaw that walking tours around the city’s unique colonial heritage architecture are popular and that the Shwedagon is an absolute must. Hint: Tell your A-listers they have to remove their shoes when entering the Shwedagon and other temples in Myanmar. Zaw said we should go across the Yangon River to Dala, so we hopped on a ferry for the 15-minute crossing, then took a trishaw and discovered a rural lifestyle very different from that in the city. Back in Yangon, and a short walk from the ferry terminal, we stopped for a bowl of noodles at Monsoon (011-951-295-224), which has a great choice of pan-Asian cuisines. And next door is Pomelo (011-951-295-358), a not-for-profit treasure-trove of unique Myanmar handicrafts, where we bought papier maché animals, brightly hued woven shawls, pochettes crafted from recycled materials and jewellery made from pearls and old Burmese coins.
In Myanmar, Accor also has the MGallery Lake Garden in the new capital Nay Pyi Taw and the upcountry Novotel Inle Lake Myat Min, and General Manager Philippe Battle ([email protected]) told us four new properties will open over the next 18 months, making Accor the leading hotel company in the country. He also explained that Accor takes CSR very seriously, and how this is particularly important in a country like Myanmar where basic necessities are not within everyone’s reach, and so the Yangon Max supports a soap recycling project called Soap for Hope.
Philippe recommends making early bookings, as hotel rooms are in short supply in Myanmar, especially from November to March. He says that for VIP needs, and to book the 400-square-foot Presidential Suite, the person to reach out to is Revenue Manager Khine Khine Khine Myint (Ms. Khine) ([email protected]; 011-951-230-5858). For foodies wanting to try local favorites, Philippe’s choice is Le Planteur (leplanteur.net/home; 011-951-514-230), a colonial-era mansion with a beautiful garden. Run by Swiss-French chef and restaurateur Boris Granges, Le Planteur has long been regarded as one of Asia’s finest restaurants for its French fine dining and Myanmar nouvelle cuisine.