Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Stay in Myanmar’s Grand Old Strand Hotel

“Dear Mr. Smith,

. . .You share our Guest Register with the likes of George Orwell, Sir Peter Ustinov, Somerset Maugham, David Rockefeller, Sir Noel Coward, Rudyard Kipling and HRH Kin Taufa’ahau Tupou IV of Tonga (in 1936), who have all stayed at The Strand.

Enjoy your ‘Burmese Days’ and the magical experience that is Myanmar and its wonderfully friendly people.”

That excerpt from the welcome letter from The General Manager was to set the tone for an extraordinary stay at The Strand Hotel, Yangon, Myanmar.

Stepping into the lobby – admittedly small in stature and décor when compared to today’s 5-star behemoths – with its marble floors, rattan furniture and lofty ceiling felt as if we were stepping back more than a century in time into the British Colonial Far East.

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Lobby of The Strand - Yangon, Myanmar
For three days and two nights we’d get a taste of the genteel grandeur of British-influenced early 1900’s in the still developing Rangoon, Burma, as it was then called. Today it is Yangon, Myanmar, one of the ports of call of our Oceania cruise that took us from Bangkok, Thailand to Istanbul, Turkey last spring.

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The Strand, Rangon, Myanmar, left, Raffles Hotel, Singapore, right

Because the cruise line allowed for on-shore stays, we’d planned to stay in this historic haven since booking our cruise. This neo-classic charmer was built in 1901 by John Darwood, and was later acquired by four Armenian brothers – the Sarkies – as part of their early 20th Century luxury hotel collection that included The Strand, the Eastern & Oriental in Penang and the Raffles Hotel in Singapore.

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Serenaded at checkin; we sipped watermelon juice with another couple from the ship
‘Genteel’ became the operative word for this stay. Doormen greeted us and the reception staff ushered us to cushioned rattan couches and served us fresh watermelon juice while we listened to live music and another staff member completed the paperwork for our stay. No long lines or impersonal registration counters here.

A Brief Hotel History

From its beginning this three story hotel, “was regarded as ‘the finest hostelry east of Suez’ and Murray’s Handbook for Travelers in India, Burma and Ceylon, 1911 edition, says the hotel was patronized by ‘royalty, nobility and distinguished personages’,” according to Philippe Delaloye, the current General Manager.

However, during the intervening decades, the British Colonial period ended and Burma became an independent country (1948). The once-luxurious hotel served as a home for Japanese soldiers during Japan’s occupation in World War II and then fell into a state of disrepair in the 1960’s. A Burmese businessman purchased it in 1988 and commissioned its extensive renovation. There were no new towers, fitness clubs or pools added; it was simply restored to its once-luxurious self. And a few modern conveniences like free wi-fi and  flat screen televisions have been added.

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Fresh blooms and toiletries in our bathroom
It reopened in 1993 as a 31-room, all-suite, 5-star hotel and is currently the only hotel in Myanmar to be part of the prestigious Leading Hotels of the World.

We were shown our second-floor suite by the butler assigned to our floor.  A butler (or two) are assigned to each floor 24/7 and simply await a call from guests ~ they open your door for you when you return to your room, push elevator buttons, and lock up your suite when you leave.




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The Butler's station was manned 24/7 on each of the hotels floors
Double doors led from our suite's entry hall into an oversized bathroom with separate shower, tub and toilet area. At the end of the hallway we entered an enormous bedroom with king-sized bed. A separate sitting area with sofa, chair and coffee table was the perfect place for afternoon coffee and cookies – served . . . by the butler, of course!

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Suite 102 The Strand, Yangon, Myanmar where treats were left each night by the butler
My favorite spot in the room was the large desk where I could imagine literary giants of yesteryear penning novels that would transcend the decades and continue to tantalize readers like us with tales of the British Colonial period.

Dining at The Strand


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Dining was a delight at The Strand from breakfast to dinner
Several of you – who read the earlier post on drinking water served from communal cups attached to water tanks along the streets – asked about the food.  We didn’t try street food and ate one (very good) meal at a British pub a few blocks from the hotel. The majority of our meals were eaten at the hotel. Breakfast was included in the price of the room. The menu offerings included items like fresh banana pancakes and fruit for breakfast.

The hotel’s specialties included Onn-Not-Khao Sive, a chicken in light coconut gravy with egg noodles, crispy noodles, boiled egg, shallot and lime (pictured lower left) and the Strand Mohinga, a signature dish, a lemon-grass and ginger infused fish soup, not pictured. We tried them both - they were excellent!

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Enjoying the genteel life at The Strand, Yangon, Myanmar
Our time at this hotel, named for its address 92 Strand Road, was far too short.  We vowed we’d have to return. With any luck we will one day. 

That’s it for our visit to Myanmar. We returned to the ship and that evening set sail for our next port of call, Cochin, India. We’d have three ‘sea days’ while crossing the Bay of Bengal, the largest bay in the world before finally setting foot in India.  Was the hassle we had with getting an India visa worth it? We’ll let you know in our next post!  Happy travels to you and yours until we meet again~

Linking up this week with:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening
Mersad's Through My Lens
Photo Friday - Pierced Wonderings
Wordless Wednesday

48 comments:

  1. It looks lovely and I like the idea of being connected to all that history, but a butler to do things like push elevator buttons and close doors would make me crazy! Good for you for getting off the cruise ship!

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    1. Cindy, I have to admit that the butler's attention was to the point of being overkill. And we drove them crazy when we'd leave the room and he'd run to push the elevator button only to have us head to the stairs -- we were only one floor up, so we walked the stairs. . .guess most guests of 'our age' don't do that! thanks for the visit and comment~

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  2. I am not one for flash hotels - especially big ones - but this one is just so gorgeous. I would love to stay there.

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    1. This was certainly not flash - just a happy trip back into another time and place. Thanks for stopping by Jan.

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  3. Looks so refined and full of personality. What else can you ask for? Great to know the hotel has been renovated to is former glory.

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    1. It really was a classy old place -- history seemed to envelop us as we walked through the front door. Thanks for stopping by Ruth!

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  4. What a wonderful place! It's so rare to find a beautiful hotel that has great food to boot. Excellent find. :-)

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    1. It really was Krista - hopefully we will go back one day. Have a great weekend! xx Jackie

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  5. It looks majestic and grand!
    I hope you'll come link up at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2015/08/double-play-on-way.html

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    1. I certainly will be there! Thanks for the invite~

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  6. What a great place to stay (and the food looked wonderful)!

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    1. It was magic, that is the truth, Ruth, and the food was as good as it looks. Thanks much for the visit and comment today!

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  7. What a welcome and a step back in time to think of all the famous people who have stayed in the Grand Old Strand Hotel. Time spent here soaking in the atmosphere and enjoying what looks like fabulous food would be well spent!

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    1. It was a great step back into history with all the modern comforts. Only wish it wasn't half a world away! Thanks Anita for the comment and visit~

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  8. What a lovely place! While I do enjoy the conveniences (& cost!) of motels, sometimes it really is nice to experience the luxury and service of a hotel.

    Thank you for joining us for Photo Friday again this week!

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    1. We love historic hotels and do our best to seek them out and experience them whenever possible. Thanks to Kayak or Hotwire we also found a reasonable rate for this experience. Love Photo Friday, see you again next week!

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  9. I was looking at your first few photos and thinking of how much The Grand Old Strand reminded me of the E&O and the Raffles. With only 31 rooms, surely one of those notable people must have stayed in the same room you did. The food sounds delicious and like dishes that I would enjoy.

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    1. It does have that same elegance about it doesn't it? I kept telling myself that I should have a Zen moment with that writing desk and perhaps my writing would be improved. . . .hmmmm ;-)

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  10. Oh, my goodness - what a gorgeous hotel!

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    1. It was a beautiful one - with very understated elegance! Thanks for stopping by~

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  11. It is a beautiful hotel! The food looks delicious. Thanks for sharing your visit. Have a happy day and new week ahead!

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    1. Hi Eileen, glad you enjoyed this look at this wonderful old place in Myanmar history!

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  12. The Grand Old Strand looks and sounds elegant and luxurious, and, as you said, a step back in time. It would be great to stay there.

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    1. Oh it was a fantastic place to stay. While I don't believe in haunted hotels, I did hope that some of those literary greats before me would rub off on me as I slept though. ;-) thanks for the visit, Donna.

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  13. The very mention of all those authors had me immediately thirsting for more info about the history, which was fascinating. I'm not one for big flashy hotels, but this looks so elegant and discreetly grand that I'd love to stay there.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Jo. This definitely lacked 'flash' but was filled with charm and personality! You'd love it there. Happy travels.

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  14. What a gorgeous hotel, and those rooms are stunning. I would love to just have a nice long meal or even breakfast which looks lovely.

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    1. We had some on the cruise ship who came and did just that Noel; some had tea and toured the common areas and to a person they said it hadn't been long enough and they wished they had 'jumped ship' as we did for a longer taste of the hotel's magic. Thanks for the visit!

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  15. I love how the hotel looks like luxury from a bygone era but also has wi-fi. The butler thing could get annoying but if it employs people who need jobs I guess you can just smile and move on!

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    1. The butlers only aimed to please so they were not in the way in any means. They were simply delightful although being waited on took some getting used to. Guess 'the other half' probably considers it routine so it is a nice taste of how the other half lives!

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  16. British-influenced alright, especially with the butlers! What pampering you had. I guess its size, 31 rooms, allows it to have all this personal care. I love the elegant and delicate rattan furniture, a fresh look from behemoth hotels. But it must have cost a fortune. This frugalista might have stayed in the ship!

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    1. Actually Carol we paid about $150 US per night which is $10 more than we paid to stay in a Marriott Fairfield Inn in Yakima, Washington last month. . .and let me tell you there was no comparison between those two stays!

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  17. Hi Jackie. I sat in the lobby, when I was in Yangon. I loved the furniture, and just the overall atmosphere. I also remember having a delicious lunch, or maybe it was high tea, in the restaurant. That was fun and delicious! If I ever get back to Yangon I will definitely make a point of booking one night at The Strand. Your suite looks amazing.Thanks for linking up this week. #TPThursday

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    1. Oh Nancie you would absolutely love soaking in that tub and having cookies and tea brought to your room . . .it really was a beautiful experience!

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  18. I love to stay at grand hotels, and it looks like The Strand Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar, is one of the best. However, I tend to not like to have a butler waiting on me--give me privacy, please! But I'm back on board for that breakfast spread and think the banana sandwich pancakes look like they would be fun to duplicate at home.

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    1. Well Carole, I don't think aside from cruise ship room attendants who dote on you in much the same manner, that I've ever had a butler at my beck and call. So it was very different, but also very nice. Pancakes are one of those 'don't make at home' treats for me any way; Joel opted for the traditional dish!

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  19. This is sooo wonderful...just beautiful and I know you had a fabulous time...so glad.

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    1. It was an amazing time. . .in fact so many of our stops were so amazing that as I put the posts together and look through the photos I still can't believe that I was there and did all this. A blessing, this world of travel. . .

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  20. Well, the Strand sure sounds grand, my friend! What a beautiful room, and what goodies you got to indulge in every night, left by your butlers! It's these special, little luxuries that make hotel living, which tends to be rather clinical and cold, feel like home away from home.

    Wishing you safe and happy travels, until next time!

    xo
    Poppy

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    1. It was a real treat and such a fun experience. . .if only some of those writers could have rubbed off on me Poppy I could be writing a novel! Sigh. hugs to you - Jackie

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  21. The Grand Hotel Strand looks like a great place to stay. I love old hotels with history like this one.

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  22. Your stay at the Strand Hotel was an opulent experience with the beautiful decor and a butler at your service. Of all the names listed, Rudyard Kipling impresses me the most, what a gratifying feeling to know he stayed there too. Wouldn't he have loved the ease of a computer with the hotel WiFi? LOL
    Thanks for linking to Mosaic Monday Jackie.

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  23. What an amazing introduction to let you the know what illustrious company that have stayed in the Strand. Very good marketing too. I would feel special.

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  24. Love the understated elegance of the Grand Hotel Strand...the food, especially that Strand Mohinga, sound divine. I'm ready to book my stay there!

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  25. Oh boy, as a classic film buff would I love to step into the lobby of the Strand Hotel and experience some 'Burmese Days'!

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  26. The first thing to visit this blog is useful information and add our insight and knowledge for us all thank you admin..toko jaket kulit visit my website

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  27. It looks beyond wonderful! And the butler service-oh my! I could get used to that!

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