The Myanmar Mystique
From ship to shore, The Strand experience best showcases this magical country.
By Steve Leland
It’s been said that stepping outside your travel comfort zone makes for an exhilarating experience, and I will concur that there is nothing more exhilarating than a journey to Myanmar.
Decades of self-inflicted isolation had previously kept travel to the country improbable, if not impossible. But today, with new democratic reforms and the government actively embracing tourism, the country is preparing to emerge from its off-the-grid shadows into the spotlight of international tourism.
Evolving out of a time warp of five decades, the isolation has only served to propagate intrigue and mystique, creating hope for a new Golden Age of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). What I soon discovered was that to best experience this new era was through The Strand experience, both on land and, most recently, on the water.
The Strand Experience
Although the country’s tourism development is still in its infancy, pre- and post-cruise guests will find no lack of luxury at the historic 5-star Strand Hotel in Yangon. The legendary property exudes imagery reminiscent of its bygone British colonial past, while simultaneously providing every modern day luxury and amenity.
Entering the three-story lobby, you can easily envision why the hotel has played host to international celebrities, socialites, and famed writers the likes of Maugham, Kipling, and Orwell.
Black and white floor tiles intertwined with teak wood, characteristic ceiling fans, and classic rattan furnishings create a perfect setting for a trip into the hotel’s colorful past. Tastefully decorated suites complemented with new furnishings retain the colonial era vibe. Two different restaurants offer a choice between formal dining or lighter fare with both serving delicious regional and international cuisine.
As impressive as the hotel is, it is the flawless service of the staff that eclipses its iconic period design. Ever-present welcoming smiles and 24-hour butler service indicate not only exceptional training, but demonstrate a natural pride in service standards. It is easy to see why the property has been appropriately featured as one of “The Most Famous Hotels In The World.”
Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon) contains a plethora of sights for visitors, none more impressive than the Shwedagon Pagoda. Construction on this impressive structure began over 2,500 years ago, culminating in a 99-meter (325 feet) high gold dome. The intricate design augments the disparity between the simplicity of everyday Burmese life and these sacred shrines.
Every step through the former…
Photo: Marcaux/Getty Images