I’m travelling with a group, and the hotel collects us from Yangon’s new airport in one of its charming restored buses from 1942, with teak interiors, armchair-like seats and staff clad in traditional uniforms. We’re offered cold towels and water, then it’s about an hour’s drive through sometimes dense traffic. Once at the hotel, a restored 120-year old teak mansion, I’m offered cold tea and taken to my room. The hotel is beautifully laid out, with gardens and a pool, and you experience a sigh of decompression walking through it, with the sound of peacocks and cicadas and the scent of the tropics.
Situated in a low-rise, quiet, diplomatic area called Dagon, the hotel is about 10 minutes’ drive from the Shwedagon Pagoda and about half an hour from downtown Yangon.
The hotel only has 49 rooms, giving it the feel of an exclusive boutique hotel. The buildings are built in grand but homely colonial style, mostly of wood, with plenty of open areas, including restaurant terraces both upstairs and downstairs in the main building. Most of the guest rooms were built just 20 years ago but blend in with the rest of the buildings. The majority of the guests are from the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States, with a similar mix from Asia, mainly China, Japan and Thailand. There’s a spa, a bakery and a jewellery shop on the ground floor.
The rooms are in four categories in several three-storey buildings behind the main building. They are beautifully presented, with wood floors, comfortable, netted beds and luxurious bathrooms. Mine is a first-floor “governor’s room”, with a small private balcony, generously sized living area with a daybed, an attractive bathroom (there’s a rain-bath shower but no bath), a fruit bowl and tea- and coffee-making facilities. The air conditioning works well.
The buffet breakfast is excellent, with fresh tropical fruit, and fruit juices, including coconut water and sugar cane, local yogurt, home-baked pastries and a noodle soup station. I tried the buffet dinner at Curry Table. For US$51 (Dh187) it’s fairly good value; I liked the large selection of fresh local salads and the Shan noodle salad. There’s also a barbecue and selection of curries.
Staff are well-trained, speedy, articulate and kind, without being servile. The in-room welcome letter says the hotel aims to “hark back to the elegance and simplicity of an earlier time”.
The way my room felt like a retreat, the breakfast buffet and a 90-minute “Ku Nye” massage treatment ($90; Dh330), which is a mix of Tibetan massage with essential oil and kneading with hot stones and herbal poultices.
The hotel devotes one TV channel to a documentary about Aung San Suu Kyi and an Anthony Bourdain Myanmar episode, but at the times I wanted to watch, the TV system was being reset. There is no fresh milk in the room for tea and not all rooms have bathtubs.
A unique, beautiful and memorable place to stay.
The bottom line
Double rooms at the Belmond Governor's Residence (www.belmond.com) cost from $350 (Dh1,285) per night in low season to $900 (Dh3,300) per night at the peak of high season, including breakfast.
This review was done at the invitation of the hotel.