It was 1901, when the Strand Hotel Rangoon (now Yangon) opened to the public, back in those days when a bed sheet and mosquito nets are considered a luxury. The famous Armenian hotel empire, the Sarkies Brothers (who also built Raffles Hotel Singapore) acquired the property, opened it as the Strand Hotel and made it one of Southeast Asia’s Grand Colonial Hotels, now one of Yangon’s significant icons, The Strand.
Back then, Rangoon (now Yangon) was an important trade hub for the British empire. Its ideal location in front the historic Irrawaddy river makes it appealing to merchants, business and leisure travellers. Through the years, it went on series of improvements and patronised by royalty, nobility and distinguished personalities. Among them are George Orwell (British novelist) Sir Peter Ustinov (English actor), Somerset Maugham (British Novelist), Prince Edward VIII of the British Monarchy, David Rockefeller (CEO of Chase) and Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. It is a privilege for my name to be included on the guest register together with these famous names who have all stayed at the Strand.
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The Grand Lobby maintained its grandeur throughout the decades. The fans on the high ceiling and enormous and luxurious chandeliers gave an impression of contemporary colonial design. It was a warm welcome by the hotel staff, shortly followed by a cold towel and refreshment, a relief from the excruciatingly hot weather in Yangon. We met with the Operations Manager, Mark, who gave us the tour of the hotel and gave some insights of the incoming renovation. We were escorted to our suites by the butlers. There are just 31 suites in this fantastic property and butlers are available 24 hours in each of the floors to assist you with your needs and ensure you have an enjoyable and memorable stay.
The suite was marvellous! It has a teak wood flooring, high ceiling with floor to ceiling curtains and windows, something you would expect from a colonial style property. Modern touches are everywhere but did not surpass the glorious and possessed luxurious feel. The bathroom was covered in classic white tiles, spacious and clean with separate tub and showers. Toiletries were placed in ceramics with a small piece of Thanaka branch used traditionally in Myanmar as a cosmetic paste for sun rays protection.
The staff were wearing their traditional Longyi uniforms and very accommodating. We were met by the Operations Manager after settling ourselves from our suites and gave him a brief of our very early flight to Bagan the next day for The Strand Cruise Experience. We had a quick visit to the restaurant, café and the famous Sarkies Bar.
It’s a merry social life in Yangon at the Sarkies Bar through the years. During the old decades, this is where French Merchants seal their deals; British civil servants play billiards and some members of the Burmese elite sipping their beers. Now, it’s a place popular for its Strand Sour cocktail where tourists, businessmen and locals meet for a social drinking. While the restaurant is famous for its house version of Lobster Thermidor, it’s a must for every visitor of Yangon. Unfortunately, the restaurant is closed for a private function when we visited. We also checked out The Spa at The Strand Yangon, which offers a comprehensive treatment menu, including a Traditional Myanmar Massage, Signature Strand Massage, and Bathing Ritual.
It was a short but memorable stay. We needed to catch a very early flight to Bagan, and we had a wake-up call from our Butler at 4 am. Our breakfast boxes are ready upon our check- out, it has different types of freshly baked breads, fruits and chocolate truffles. This was a unique gesture which was not offered by many luxury hotels from around the world. We are looking forward to going back once the renovation is completed and have full blast experience of this beautiful hotel.
The Strand Hotel Yangon’s Future: A Return to its Glory
The Strand Yangon is closed from May 1 until November 2016 to undergo a complete facelift that will return the award-winning heritage hotel to its former glory. The classic colonial style hotel will retain its heritage architectural details, such as marble and teak wood flooring, ceiling fans, chandeliers, lacquer wood furniture, Burmese antiques, and signature service elements, while being given a complete upgrade and contemporary twist through a refreshed colour palette and subtle decorative details.
The interiors of all the hotel’s 31 suites will be redecorated in keeping with the Strand’s legendary style and elegance, while at the same time updated with the latest technology, including new air conditioning, sound and communications systems. The Strand is famous around the world for its flawless, personalised service and suites will continue to be attended by the hotel’s team of highly trained butlers.
The hotel’s gourmet dining restaurant, the Strand Signature Restaurant, renowned as Yangon’s most elegant dining room, will be re-open as the city’s finest dining pop-up outlet only open during high season and lead by a Michelin-starred chef. The casually elegant Strand Café, which overlooks the bustle of the Yangon Road, will serve a menu of Burmese and Western dishes for breakfast and lunch, and continue to be the setting for the famous Strand afternoon tea, which will be preserved and expanded with more British and Burmese delicacies. The café’s traditional rattan furniture and black lacquer ceiling fans will be complemented with a new colour scheme, accented in the traditional Burmese longyi uniforms of the staff.
The famous Sarkies Bar; the social epicentre of the hotel for over 114 years and meeting place for adventurers, explorers and storytellers, such as Noël Coward and Rudyard Kipling. Swapping stories over a classic Strand Sour cocktail will also be fully refurbished and an extensive selection of whiskies and single malts will be added to its offering.
The warm welcome and intuitive service of the hotel’s team is at the heart of every Strand Hotel experience and is considered its greatest asset. Associates will be retained during the closure period, during which time the hotel will invest in extensive service training and language courses for the team.
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Note: This is a sponsored hotel stay with The Strand Yangon in Myanmar. Opinions on this article are my own.
About the Writer
Jaypee Licudan is a Filipino Expat based in Singapore. He’s a traveller and writer for Two Monkeys Travel Group – Community Travel Blog and has been to over 30 countries across 4 continents. He’s major long term goal is to go back to the Philippines for a long time travel to discover the hidden gems of his home country. Follow his personal blog: The Rustic Nomad
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