The Strand Hotel -Yangon. Twice was nice
I just ordered morning coffee and before I could finish the sentence: ’I’d like a big pot of coffee…’ the butler said ‘with a pot of hot skimmed milk…’. So I said ‘you remember…’ and he laughed.From a three time Strand guest and colleague of mine.
You know those lists – ‘Places to stay before you die‘, ‘Top Ten Colonial Hotels‘, ‘Hotels to spend your Honeymoon in‘ and ‘Re-born hotels‘ – well the Strand should be listed in all of them.
This is an extraordinary hotel. It gets the facilities right, but way more importantly, it gets the service right. Your ‘butler’ always welcomes you back to your floor and brings you something refreshing to drink in your room on your return. They will get you a cup of tea,
This really is one of the Leading Hotels of the World. They make this feel like home, except with invisible staff.
Location and Arrival
Since this was a birthday celebration for one of our friends, the itinerary was very much controlled by them
Well, these count. I’d seen images of the hotel’s port cochere on-line when our travel agent had suggested staying here. However, you know what those shots are like – taken from the perfect angle, staged, tweaked, colour corrected, saturated, idealised.
The reality was not quite as good. The road was busy, the road not perfectly clean, and across the street, a tall two-metre high fence covered in advertising.
Fortunately, that was the end of the bad impression.
We were greeted by the doorman, and our bags handled deftly by a small posse of bellboys. We were expected, our name was checked rather than discovered.
We were a little wrecked despite our overnight in Bangkok, and eager to get to our room, unpack, freshen-up, and then get a little light therapy to help our jet lag.
Check-in is a little old-fashioned – in a good way. There are two desks in the vast central foyer/reception room. Both are used as check-in areas and allow you to be seated. It’s old-fashioned because there is something instantly welcoming about being seated while the formalities are completed. It forces you to relax. That’s a good thing, because passports and visa’s need to be photocopied and checked, and forms filled in. Remember this is a former British colony, so bureaucracy is an artform.
Far from a chore – this is a charming process with the staff conversing in perfect English, and using it as an opportunity to get to know you – and by get-to-know-you, I mean work out how they might help you, and what you might be expecting from your stay.
‘Then, we were offered a tour of the hotel, or the opportunity to go straight to your room. We opted for going directly to our room. So, up to the first floor in one of the two very small lifts, and into our room, centre front – in fact opening onto the roof of the Porte Cochere. Our luggage arrived almost immediately.
The hotel first opened in 1901, It was built by the British entrepreneur John Darwood but later acquired by the famous Sarkies brothers.
As a centre of colonial Rangoon, there are many tales of colonial excess and restraint.
“The finest hostelry East of Suez”John Murray in his 1911 ‘Handbook for Travellers in India, Burma and Ceylon’
The hotel has had several owners over its more than a century of existence, including occupation by the Japanese during WW2.
Suites – all suites
This is an all suites hotel, ranging in size from 55m2 (Superior), 60m2 (Deluxe), 65m2 (Executive) through to the Strand Suite at 200m2. We were booked into Deluxe rooms (Rm 106 for our first stay) for both stays, but for the 2nd
Our Floor butler opened the room – not with a key card – just an old-fashioned key with a rather large brass tag. Fortunately, you will never have to hold on to it. One of your floor butlers will take care of it each time you leave your room. On return they will leap to their feet, key in hand, open your door (assisting with any bags or packages), and leave the key on the bar dresser in your room, before returning with a life-restoring refreshment.
We declined an offer of assistance to unpack and our butler returned with the aforesaid life-restoring non-alcoholic beverage made with pineapple juice. It’s a little thing, but in this heat and humidity – much appreciated.
The room itself has four zones: bed, bar, office, and sitting room, as well as separate bathroom and dressing room.
Bathrooms – updated colonial
The bathrooms vary in shape according to room, and although elegant and functional, are not the most spacious or the best designed –
Take a note of those floor tiles – you will see the design repeated in the carpet of the room, but in a different palette.
The bath is good and deep, but a little short. I loved the hand held shower.
Ammenities are L’Occitane – a brand I like, and suitable to the hotel.
Lacquerware – a feature of Myanmar is showcased in the bathroom amenities, such as the black and gold canister with the hotel’s ‘Lion’ logo and the black incised tray on which it sits. Not to mention the tissue box cover.
I’m a sucker for fresh flowers in a hotel room, so that single white rose wins the prize for me. The rest of the bathroom is a combination of square tiles, feature maroon borders, patterned tile, mahogony finished wood, and pink/brown granite.
Separate basins, separate mirrors, and a shaving mirror for the man (pity there are two of us), bottled water, hand towels, soap, power outlet – everything a hotel should provide in a bathroom.
The bedroom in both our rooms was huge – you could park several cars in it, and probably stack them 2 or 3 high, given the roughly 3 metre ceilings. These are rooms on a grand scale.
Each room had a room divider to help define the spaces of ‘bedroom’ and ‘sitting room’. The divider featured a range of wood carvings, green lacquerware offering bowls, and books.
The beds were insanely comfortable, with a soft topper. Down/feather pillows came as standard, and were heavenly. The doona/comforter/duvet was also feather, and was light as befits the tropics.
Hats off to the interior designer. The combination of subtle green walls, dark wood, yellow accents, and the repitition of the bathroom tile pattern in the rugs made for a very soothing palette without being bland. You can see some further detail in the gallery below
On the other side of the divider from the bedroom lay the sitting room, featuring a 2.5 person lounge (sofa), two tub chairs, a coffee table and some side tables. Accents were provided by blue cushions and striped fabric, providing an excellent contrast to the yellow accents of the bedroom. This was a great place for just sitting and chatting, or sharing a drink. You could see the TV from the couch, but it wasn’t the best viewing position. I loved the bowl of fruit and photographs of old Rangoon.
I spent a bit of time opposite the lounge area at the desk in the study. I work and travel and travel and work, so there are always emails and bits and pieces to catch up on, not to mention keeping up this blog.
The desk was
The welcome letter summarised the facilities of the hotel including Sarkies Bar, The Strand Restaurant, The Strand Cafe – and the most recent addition, the Pool with associated Spa and Gymnasium, which has only been added in the most recent renovation.
That’s the Bar in the room, not Sarkies Bar . . .
The bar was well stocked and complimentary. Everything you needed to make a decent Gin and Tonic, including the limes, cutting board and knife. This is a hotel that knows what its guests want – including a cocktail shaker.
On the left of the entrance corridor – or on our second stay – as a vestibule to the bathroom, was a walk in wardrobe, or dressing room, with hanging space and room to place your suitecases at a convenient height for packing and unpacking. The butler offered to do this for us – but call me old fashioned – I don’t want anyone but me going through my smalls!
The hotel has a fantastic swimming pool, cabana, and cafe complex out the back. It also incorporates a spa (not visited) and a gym, which is adequate and better than many, with modern equipment – although not a lot of it.
Myanmar (Burma) is really hot in April – like really hot – 34C or 100F, so the cabana’s and pool were fantastic. I think the hotel is still bedding down the service. A couple of times we had to go find someone – but then we were quite often alone at the pool. I think maybe they need a full time pool attendant who can alert catering staff when the pool is being patronised, and when service might be required. Teething problems. The staff are incredibly well-meaning and friendly, so these little oversights can easily be forgiven.
Bar and Restaurants
I’m going to give this a separate entry. Given that it was Thingyan (Water Festival) and most restaurants outside the hotel were closed – we ate in quite a lot. It made us feel like we were staying in our own private club – which is a tribute to the management and staff.
This is one of the great hotels of the world. It’s small, intimate, friendly, gorgeous. The floor butler concept is a triumph and would probably only work in such a small and intimate hotel. The huge, beautifully decorated, and well-provisioned rooms and the extremely generous staff are the major assets. You are missing a big
One of our party has visited another three times since our stay, and the staff remember his preferences, and welcome him openly as ‘very important guest’. That’s the kind of hotel I like.