By Kristen McKenzie
Over recent years, the enigmatic South East Asian nation of Myanmar (also known as Burma) has become one of the most desirable travel destinations across the globe. Thanks to a series of recent democratic reforms, the once military-ruled country is now attracting visitors to its golden pagodas, scenic countryside and sleepy beachside towns.
From peaceful lakeside villas to hip urban hot spots, we look at the best luxury hotels that offer a unique cultural experience throughout this fascinating region:
Centrally located within the capital city’s bustling business, cultural and shopping districts, this recently refurbished five-star hotel is the epitome of old-school Asian style and charm. Decked in dark wood panelling and glittering chandeliers, the high-end property features stunning views of the Yangon River and of the metropolis’ ancient temples. The hotel has also become a popular haunt for local expats and travelling executives alike thanks to its sleek, iconic Gallery Bar.
For a truly serene and culturally-enlightening Yangon experience, the acclaimed Governor’s Residence is the place to go. Set within a colonial-style mansion (which was once the abode of the regional governor), this Orient Express-operated retreat is located within the historic Dagon Township and is surrounded by lush tropical gardens. The hotel has its own tour desk which offers a slew of activities including guided pagoda excursions, traditional cooking classes and market outings ““ a complimentary half-day bicycle expedition is even included with any stay.
Located along the shores of the Kandawgyi Lake, this heritage hotel once served as Yangon’s rowing club when it opened in 1934. Today, the property operates as an exclusive city retreat that boasts all the comforts guests could possibly desire including a jogging track, valet and butler services and an extensive waterfront walkway. The real highlight here though is the hotel’s extensive gardens, which are laden with shrines, memorial courtyards and communal meeting spaces. Kandawgyi Palace is also only a hop, skip and a jump away from the famed Shwedagan Pagoda and the floating Karaweik Restaurant.
North of Yangon sits Bagan, an ancient city peppered with more than 2,200 temples to explore. The ideal place for travelers to base themselves whilst discovering this fascinating place is most certainly the Aureum Palace, which is set within the Bagan Archaeological Preservation Zone. Fittingly, the resort features an art gallery full of local artifacts and artwork. It also offers nightly cultural entertainment, 27 acres of tropical landscaped gardens to wander through and private plunge pools for villa guests.
The former capital city of the Myanmar Kingdom, Mandalay is a must-visit for history buffs. And thanks to its gold-tinged Burmese décor, intricate temple-inspired pavilion and vibrant garden theatre spectacles, the lavish Mandalay Hill Resort is one of the more memorable accommodation options on offer throughout the city. For those with deep pockets, the Mandalar Spa Villa here is definitely worth the splurge ““ it comes with a steam room, twin massage beds (for enjoying one of the property’s signature spa treatments) and a private garden.
Another top attraction in Myanmar is the tranquil Lake Inle, located in the southern mountain region at 1,000 metres above sea level. The Villa Inle Resort and Spa has become the new go-to retreat in the region with its secluded lakeside villas, dramatic canopied beds and unforgettable balcony views ““ guests can watch local fishermen glide around the lake and bird-watch for endangered species. Best of all, this property engages in environmentally-friendly practices, reaps its produce from an onsite chemical-free vegetable garden and works closely with local communities on reforestation programs.
Located in the state of Rakhine in western Myanmar, the town of Thendwe (previously known as Sandoway under British rule) is an important regional hub with a buzzing market set in a former colonial jail ““ here, herbal medicines, textiles and produce are bartered and sold at a dizzying pace. The Sandoway Resort is the best place to enjoy all that this seaside area has to offer and has the fortune of being located along six acres of pristine beach overlooking the Bengal Bay. Take a local sailboating outing, enjoy a sunset dinner on the patio overlooking water lit by fishing vessels or take an early morning walk to watch as Burmese fishermen set their nets for the day.
This post comes courtesy of Kristen McKenzie from HotelsCombined.com. Kristen heads up HotelsCombined’s team of hotel experts and specializes in hospitality industry trends. The hotel search site compares prices and availability from hundreds of travel sites with a database of 400,000 hotels.
Photos courtesy of HotelsCombined