“Did you like the mohinga?” Asked Chris, The Strand‘s head chef when he learned about us trying out the hotel’s specialty dish. “It’s the most popular breakfast dish in Burma, we always recommend it to our guests when they visit.” Despite being a native Australian, Chris dishes up a mean bowl of noodle soup — it goes without saying that his mohinga was probably the best breakfast we had in Myanmar. The lively and outgoing chef had swapped a life in cosmopolitan Dubai for this opportunity to relocate to Yangon with his Burmese wife, but Myanmar has clearly won his heart over.
After experiencing Songkran in Bangkok we arrived in Yangon, Myanmar just in time for the Thingyan festival, which involved even crazier water fights and outdoor parties. During our stay, we were hosted by The Strand hotel – a long-standing landmark of the city. Situated in the heart of Yangon, this luxurious, Victorian-style hotel was founded in 1901 by the Sarkies Brothers, famed for the founding of a chain of luxury hotels throughout Southeast Asia such as the Eastern and Oriental Hotels in Penang and the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. After decades of abandonment, the hotel underwent a 3-year extensive restoration in 1990 that brought it back to its former glory.
Today, the beautiful vintage hotel is reminiscent of the long-gone British colonial era, with an exterior resembling government buildings in the United Kingdom. Inside the stark white facade, you’ll find yourself surrounded by smooth pastel-colored walls, sparkling chandeliers, classic teak ceiling fans, marble floor, and red carpeted stairways. Leaving the busy and dusty streets of Yangon, you’re almost instantly transformed to the Burma of the 1900s. Black and white images of British Burma hang from the walls, while antique typewriters and telephones are on display in various corners of the lobby. There is even an antique shop at the back end of the lobby to further remind us of how the golden age of travel was like, when steamships would bring wealthy travelers to the exotic far east from Britain through the Suez Canal.
Saying that our superior suite was big would be a flagrant understatement. The teak floored room with its four-meter high ceilings and mahogany furniture was so spacious it felt like a chamber in a Victorian mansion. The general space was divided into an entrance hall where an open wardrobe and bathroom were located, the bedroom with a two-poster bed, and a living area with several elegant sofas and coffee table. The bathroom featured original fixtures from the British colonial days with a large bathtub and an adjacent shower.
But tranquility and relaxation is not all there is to this magnificent hotel — The Strand Bar’s happy hour on every Friday, featuring a two-piece Jazz band, is famous around the city and attracts expats and tourists looking for a good place to hang out. The restaurant is also popular for its high tea and local dishes.
But most of all, as a landmark in Yangon, The Strand is a must-see for history buffs – follow the footsteps of past guests like Somerset Maugham, George Orwell, Sir Noel Coward and Rudyard Kipling and make a stop here to experience the colonial Burma and its beautiful memories. Room rates range from US$278 to $63o per night.
Disclaimer: Our hotel stay was made possible by The Strand, but all opinions expressed above are our own.