Trip to Myanmar -
The Strand Hotel, Yangon
We stayed at The Strand in Yangon for 4 nights in July 2015. We booked the room using booking.com and got what seemed to be a deal as it included free wife and breakfast. We arrived in the afternoon and took a taxi from the airport to the hotel. It was about 9 USD for the taxi and due to traffic it took about 1 hour.
The Strand is located in an old colonial style building and it does not seem to have that many rooms. The lobby was located in the open atrium upon entering and the check in was fast and we were shown to our room (room 110).
The room was much larger than expected when the door was opened – on the floors there were dark wood, the walls were light and the ceiling was high. There was space for both of our huge Samsonite suitcases in the suitcase table in the entrance hall which was excellent. The wardrobe had a few hangers but there could have been more. The room itself was dominated by the kingsize bed that had two types of pillows and a good duvet. The bed was also very comfortable in my opinion. Each night at turndown service we got a couple of snacks on the bed together with a calligraphic impression of various Myanmar words (e.g. smile, love, joy etc) together with a flower garland.
There were a desk with a chair, a makeup desk with a stool and mirror and a desk that was the stand for the TV and that contained the small fridge with various drinks. One coke was 3 USD and one large beer was 6 USD. In the grocery store the beer would cost about 1 USD btw. The room also had a small lounge with a small sofa, two chairs and a small table. The wifi was far better than expected and I think we were allowed to have 4 devices connected. We did not get much of a view – our window looked straight into the building next door and a dark alley.
The bathroom was in white and brownish tiles – there were two sinks with various amenities. The main amenities (shampoo, shower gel etc) were in small containers that were refilled daily. There was also a small pot with fresh flowers that had a lovely scent. There was a shower corner with a glass door and a bathtub right next to it. The water did take some time to get warm but it came around eventually. The bathroom also had a separate small room for the toilet. The amenities also included thanaka – the paste that Burmese women use in their faces as sun screen and decoration. The towels were good – some of the towels were extremely large!
There was no iron and ironing board in the room – but on our floor there was always a “butler” of some sort. When we wanted to send out some clothing for ironing the maid informed us that she could iron some of the items for us.
Breakfast was served in the restaurant with a view to the busy road outside. The breakfast was a la carte but it was possible to order eggs of your choice, homemade yogurt, cereal, fresh baked bread etc. The service was fast as there were not that many guests there.
I normally like to stay at new and modern hotels so I was not expecting that much from The Strand being an old colonial style hotel. But I was surprised and I have to admit that I found the Strand to be excellent. The service was great, the room was huge, breakfast was good and location was good. It is of course an old hotel but it is aging with dignity. It might lack some modern facilities but it is compensated with an eye for details and great service. Even the toilet paper seemed to be soft and thick! If you are going to Yangon and want to pamper yourself with a nice hotel I can highly recommend The Strand.
Amazing Bagan Resort, Bagan
We stayed at Amazing Bagan Resort for 3 nights in July 2015 and we booked the room at Booking.com. We took a taxi from the airport to the hotel and it only takes about 10 minutes and cost 5000 Kyat (about 5 USD). We arrived early in the morning but after a bit back and forth we were able to check in which was excellent. We did get a welcome drink but when I went to get a cup of coffee from the breakfast area I had to pay 2000 Kyat which seemed a bit strange to me.
We had booked a suite bungalow located near the pool and we got room 408. The bungalow was built in a style that resembled some of the temples that we would see later on and this was a nice touch. The room was decent in size with dark wooden floor, light walls and dark furniture. There were a couple of windows but as this room was on ground level we felt that we had to keep the curtains closed which made the room a bit dark. The bed was large enough but way, way too hard for me liking. There was a desk with a stool, international plugs so that we could charge cameras and phones, a flat screen in the corner that was a bit too small and had pretty bad signal and a cabinet of some sort with a small fridge with a few sodas and beer in it.
The bathroom was tiled in white and ocean green tiles and had a small sink, a bathtub with a shower and shower curtain. The shower was mounted very low on the wall so it was not easy to stand upright and take a shower. But the water was warm and the pressure was decent. There were a decent stash of amenities but the refill bottles with shampoo and shower gel did not work very well but the products inside them were decent. There was even a stick with thanaka and a sandstone to make your own thanaka paste. There is also a small wardrobe section in the bathroom with space for a suite case, there were space to hang a few shirts and there was a small safe. The free wifi had sufficient speed but in our room the reception was not that great and it would drop out from time to time.
The pool was pretty good in size but the water was so warm that it didn’t make for a refreshing dip after a day of browsing around the temples of Bagan. There was also some sort of happy hour with 50 % discount on cocktails from 2 pm to 5.30 pm. But sometimes there would not be staff by the pool and hence we had to walk over to the reception in swim wear and order the drinks from the bar there – not a very good solution. Talking about cocktails – I think they made the worst mojito I have ever tasted and it was tiny as well. But luckily they could also offer Myanmar beer.
The hotel has bikes that you can use for free – but the bikes are not of the modern kind that is for sure. We were able to bike over to the restaurant street in Nyaung U but the bikes had bad breaks, were heavy and looked like they were models made 50 years ago. It would have been great of the hotel had upgraded these bikes to modern style bikes. The hotel is helpful when it comes to organizing e-bikes (electrical bikes) and guides. But the e-bikes that we got the first day when we ordered through the hotel were not very good. The seats were bad, bad breaks etc. Later on we hired e-bikes in the restaurant street of Nyaung U that was much better. There is an ATM at the entrance of the hotel.Breakfast at the hotel is served on a covered patio outside the hotel. There was an egg station but also selection of bread, cereal, fruit etc. So breakfast was decent.
The hotel is located near the airport Nyaung U. I guess it is about 5 km to the temple zone and about 2 km to the restaurant street. This means that it takes about 20 minutes to walk and at night it was pretty dark. So make sure to bring a torch if you plan to walk back to the hotel at night. There are some taxis but some wanted 5000 Kyat for the short drive which seemed a bit much at least after we got used to the price level in Yangon.
So all in all…the hotel is pretty decent with an impressive entrance, staff that is helpful and room that is decent. We also enjoyed having a pool after sweating around the temples all day. But the bed ruined the experience for me – it was so hard that I couldn’t sleep properly. But this depends on what kind of bed you like of course. The location of the hotel is good enough as long as you have an e-bike to get around. If I go there again I will probably look for a different hotel as I really had issues with the bed – but it is absolutely an alternative if you are looking for a resort hotel in Bagan.
Bagan King, Mandalay
We stayed at Bagan King in Mandalay for 2 nights in July 2015 and we booked it using Booking.com. The airport is located a bit out of town so the drive in took about 45 minutes and cost 12.000 Kyats. The building stands out a bit on the corner as it seems to be a pretty new building and with 6 floors it is higher than buildings around it.
Check in was fast and we got room 402. The small elevator worked just fine but it was also possible to take the staircase. The room had dark wooden floor, light walls and dark furniture. The bed was a bit on the hard side but decent enough and I was pleased to see that there was decent reading light for use in the bed. There was an open wardrobe with a few hangers and a small safe, a small table with two chairs, some complimentary water and also a kettle for making tea or coffee. There was a small fridge that had Coke, beer etc and 1 Coke was 1.5 USD and can of beer was 2 USD.
The decoration in the room was a bit “tacky” – the phone was made in an old school style and the lighting above the bed was shaped like the watchtower in the palace – a bit much in my opinion. To get internet access we got a code on a small piece of paper that could only be used on one device. It worked fine on my iPhone but when I went to get a code for my iPad it didn’t work. After a lot of running back and forth (or up and down I should say), they said that there were some problems with iPads so the receptionist had to put my iPad ID into the server and that gave me access directly. It should have been easier to get access.
The bathroom was a bit of a disaster to be honest. There were a few amenities which were great – I think there was even shaving kit and tooth brush. The shampoo and shower gel was also good but came in bottle with a narrow opening so it took forever to poor some liquid out of the bottle. The golden round basin was a mounted on a dark furniture. The shower was the problem with the bathroom – it had a nice rainforest showerhead but no doors or curtains – so when taking a shower there would be water everywhere (including the toilet that was right next to the shower. This was annoying as it was difficult to use the bathroom for a while after taking a shower. An improvement would be to get some fold in shower doors mounted.
The breakfast is served in the restaurant on the 6th floor and it has a good view of the city – there was even a telescope pointing right at Mandalay Hill. The breakfast was not epic in any way – a bit of bread, a bit of cereal and eggs made according to your order. The staff was helpful when we asked them to organize a guide for us for the day.
The hotel location is in the middle of town – the moat of Mandalay palace is only a couple of hundred meters down the street. But keep in mind that you can only enter the palace through the entrance on the east side these days. There are some restaurants within walking distance of the hotel and there is also a small convenience store called g & g a short walk from the hotel. Conclusion: a room that was fine but a bathroom that is not working very well as water splashes everywhere when you take a shower. The wifi setup was not very good and the breakfast was not impressive. If I go to Mandalay I will probably look at other hotel alternatives.