Ask a roomful of people three years ago where they wanted to go an on exotic luxury holiday, and odds would have been very high that not one of them would have said Myanmar. Today, since the country has opened up and people have become more aware of the fantastic things on offer, now a growing handful in the roomful will say “Myanmar”, or “Burma”. It’s rising high on people’s “Bucket Lists”.
Oh and by the way, Myanmar and Burma are actually different forms of the same word. Myanmar was the original name of the country going back at least a thousand years, and the more formal. When the British colonized Myanmar in 1885, they chose the less formal, Barma, or Burma. In 1989 the name was changed back to the original Myanmar. Older people in the country still tend to use Burma, while younger generations prefer Myanmar.
Where were we? Ah yes, luxury travel in Myanmar. Surprisingly amazing. Let’s start with the main gateway and the nations largest city (5 million) of Yangon. In addition to being Asia’s friendliest and most welcoming city, it is the home of some wonderfully exotic luxury hotels.
The Strand is a boutique colonial mansion by the Yangon River, built in 1901 by the Sarkies brothers of Raffles Singapore fame. Kandawgyi Palace Hotel on Kandawgyi Lake, is classic Burmese style 5-star luxury with stunning views of the 325 foot Shwedagon Pagoda, the spiritual epicenter of Burma. Other luxury favorites are the Governor’s Residence in the wooded embassy area, and Traders downtown with its great location. The 2,000 shops of Scott Market just across the street, sell everything available in Myanmar! It’s a great place to check out prices when you arrive, so you can compare them at the source when you travel.
Glorious fine dining and probably the best Indochine cuisine in Southeast Asia can be found at beautiful old colonial mansion which houses Le Planteur. They will even pick you up at your hotel gratis, in one of three classic limousines from the late ’40’s and early ’50’s. L’ Alchimiste is another very fine French dining option. L’Opera is the place for fine Italian, and Sunday Champagne Brunch at Trader’s is an out of this feast!
Moving up country to the 4,000 temples of Bagan, the 5-star Aureum Palace is not only luxurious, but loaded with Burmese charm. It’s situated right within the temples themselves, and you can even arrange for dinner to be served at the foot of one. Get the Island villa if you can, it’s your own island that comes complete with butler and private swimming pool.
Hopping over to magical Inle Lake, boutique luxury options that top the list are the Inle Princess (ask about dinner in the Intha wine cave), Inle Treasure and the Viewpoint Lodge. Most of these hotels are isolated on the lake, but the food is very good to outstanding, depending what chef is in residence.
The last of the Big 4 iconic Myanmar destinations, can be found at the end of the road to Mandalay. The city may look like a dusty trade hub from the outside, but what’s inside and surrounding it is nigh next to unbelievable in terms of rich history, ruins, temples and monasteries. For boutique luxury hotels, look no further than Red Canal, or Rupar Mandalar. For larger hotels try the suites at Sedona, and for a very large hotel with a view, the Mandalay Hill Resort. Cartagena Villa Rentals