My favorite hotel in Yangon is not, probably, the best hotel in town, but it’s certainly the most gorgeous. In a city which seems to open a new hotel every month, it’s pretty hard to choose the top four. There are a slew of brand new, high-rise places each one more shiny and slick than the next, as well as older, more established places.
If you like modern, high-rise hotels, with (mostly) good views and standard amenities, you will be spoilt for choice. The newly opened Pullman, the Melia, the Park Royal, the Rose Garden and many similar places will give you all that and more. The problem with these, is each one is like the next. The service is good, but not great. The amenities are generally of similar quality. The restaurants offer mostly decent food. But they all seem the same. There isn’t much to distinguish them. You could be anywhere in the world.
The really excellent hotels in Yangon have a true, local, heritage feel to them. They ooze old school charm and whisper to you of days gone by. They are tastefully furnished with hand-picked items and interesting nick-nacks. Some of these hotels are actually made of antique teak. You feel like you’re in Myanmar, not in Hong Kong, Singapore or New York.
Mostly (but not exclusively), the excellent hotels have been around for a long time. They have stories to tell, they’ve been beaten up, rejuvenated, and lived to see another day. These places are labors of love, and they make you curious -about who else has stayed there, and about the country, it’s history and the people who live here.
So which ones were the best of the best, for me?
Which of the top hotels make the cut?
The Strand is the absolute grande dame of hotels in Yangon. Right down near the Yangon river front it stands out from the equally large buildings nearby. This hotel, originally built by Briton John Darwood, opened its doors in 1901.
Over the years it briefly accommodated Japanese Soldiers during WWII before falling into disrepair. Subsequent renovations have seen the place properly restored.
It now has a spa, swimming pool and outdoor terrace as well as the more traditional dining areas. Wood pannelled Sarkies bar, named after early owners, Aviet and Tigran Sarkie, has an excellent cocktail and drinks menu and is well worth a visit even if you aren’t a guest.
The teak and marble floors, mahogany furniture, and other original pieces make this hotel a real Yangon gem. Years ago it was known as “the finest hostelry east of the Suez”. While that would probably be a stretch today, it definitely makes my cut of the top four in town.
The Sule Shangri – La
The Shangri – La is different from my other four in that it’s modern. A tall skyscraper of a building with shiny foyer and statement staircase, It doesn’t have years of history, teak floors or wide verandahs. What is does have is amazing amenities and a very very good restaurant. It caters to comfort in a way the other modern hotels don’t.
Cafe Sule has justifiably popular buffets featuring different cuisines almost every night. Hugely popular with the army of ex-pats that live in the city, the hygiene standards are also high. Food safety in Yangon is a top priority for locals and tourists alike and this place delivers.
Add to this, the heritage-styled Gallery Bar upstairs, the swimming pool, the gym, very good WiFi and the excellent location right opposite Bogyoke Market and you’ve got a winner. On top of all this though, Sule Square shopping centre is right there in the same complex. With a good supermarket and excellent Italian, Chinese, Japanese and other eateries pretty much under the same roof the Sule Shangri-La has far and away the best amenities of any other hotel in town. And so it makes my top four.
The Belmond Governor’s Residence
Known to locals simply as ‘The Governor’s Residence’, this is the most expensive hotel in town. And with good reason. Stunningly gorgeous and beautifully decorated, this garden oasis is reached by crossing a teak bridge over well stocked lotus ponds. The simple and elegant low-rise building is surrounded by lush green foliage and huge trees covered in climbing flowered creepers. It’s a world away from the noise and bustle of the city outside.
This hotel oozes style and ambiance. Built in 1920, it was originally the official home of the British colonial governors of Burma. After independence, it continued to be a residence for post-colonial rulers. In 2006 the two-story teak building started a new life as an Orient-Express Hotel.
The hotel has two restaurants, The Mandalay and the Burmese Curry Table, a spa and a ballroom as well as some very well-stocked shops selling local crafts.
However, for me, the main attraction was the beautiful resident peacock, Charlie. After stalking him for a photo for some time, he suddenly noticed me and obliged by fanning out his unbelievably iridescent blue and green tail. And strutted around the garden, posing this way and that for the camera.
Sitting on the wide verandah that circles the main building, watching Charlie and the resident swans, it’s not hard to imagine how life was in colonial times.
Unquestionably the best hotel in town, but still not my absolute favorite. The Governor’s Residence comes in at number two on my list.
The Savoy Hotel
This. This is my favorite hotel in town. Understated, elegant, beautiful. Unassuming and top-notch all at once. The sense of timelessness here is underscored by the highly polished wooden floors, the teak furniture and the many personal touches throughout the building.
The three-story hotel was established in a lovely old heritage building in 1995. It has two high end restaurants, Kiplings and Le Bistrot which serve Asian and European style food respectively. It also has a very attractive snug-style bar called The Captain’s Table, with a sports screen. Add to that a large pool and terrace, a small spa and generously sized rooms and the hotel is extremely comfy indeed. Very good hygiene standards are underscored by a private water source.
On top of this, the hotel management is committed to sustainability and is part of RecyGlo Myanmar, a waste management and recycling system.
Close enough to the centre of town to feel like you’re part of the action, but far enough away to be relaxing, this hotel really does hit all the spots.
It would be hard to find better value for money in Yangon at a high-end luxury hotel and this one gets full marks from me.
I’ll be back!