Judging by the number of large top-end business-style hotels cropping up all over the city, the hospitality industry in Yangon seems alive and well. Low occupancy rates, though, belie the wisdom of the hotel building boom and heavy rebates are to be had by the savvy traveller. The prices quoted here are published walk-in rates, but almost all midrange and top-end hotels offer discounts of up to 50%.
In general the hotels with the most character are either budget or top-end establishments; midrange hotels tend to be very dull Chinese-built high-rise blocks with only slightly more character than a wet rag.
Many of the midrange and top-end hotels provide airport pick-ups, internet access and full-service business centres. Only a few of the top-end hotels accept credit cards and some also add on an additional 10% service charge and 10% government tax. Almost all hotels, even the mostly lowly budget place, will store luggage while you're away upcountry.
The obvious appeal of the hotels just north of the city centre, in the Kandawgyi area, are the breathtaking views of the Shwedagon Paya, especially at night. The lake itself provides a peaceful backdrop for several hotels clustered around its shores. The city becomes more suburban and spread out the further north you go towards Inya Lake.
Prices quoted generally include a rudimentary eggs-and-toast breakfast. Payment is accepted in US dollars, and sometimes kyat. Street noise, especially in the early morning, is a nuisance at many of the options.
Golden Smiles : The cheaper rooms, without bathrooms, are noticeably cleaner than those with bathrooms and, strangely, are the better deal. It's one of the better bare-bones hotels and has a nice breakfast/hang-out balcony.Take a pinch of backpacker Bohemia, a dollop of professional service, a massive portion ot cleanliness, mix well with a generous helping of travel advice and services and leave to marinate with enviously attired and proportioned rooms and, voila, it's the Motherland Inn 2 (the original Motherland has long since closed), the king of Yangon backpacker hotels. There are of course downsides, namely that it's a long walk or a short taxi ride from the centre.
Otherwise this is a budget traveller's dream and the rooms give those of some of the mid-range hotels a real hard time. The internet access here might well be Yangon's best, the breakfast outstanding for this category and the restaurant a great place to hook into the traveller's grapevine. Pricier rooms have private bathrooms.
Tokyo Guest House : Squeeze through the doorway between the knick-knack stall and up the betel-stained stairs and you'll come to this little and welcoming guesthouse. Highlights are the sunny terrace with views and the room cleanliness, towlights are the fact that said rooms are windowless and very cramped. And the communal bathrooms and toilets are located right inside the open-plan kitchen - nice!
May Fair Inn :This family run inn has freshly painted rooms that are a little spartan but ever reliable. It's more equipped to deal with the traveller looking for tranquillity rather than a party and it has a loyal clientele of returnees for a good reason. The complimentary breakfast is served in the small communal area.
Ocean Pearl Inn : In the same neighbourhood as the Haven and Three Seasons, the Ocean Pearl is another high-value option. While the rooms don't have as much charm as the other two, the snap-to- attention stall and rooms that are washed and polished by a team of cleaning addicts make this a sure-fire bet. There is satellite TV and plenty of solid travel advice.
YMCA ; As the sign says: 'Staying at the YMCA helps the needy.' This is a very valid reason for giving them your money but if comfort and value for money are more important to you than saving the planet then you'd better look elsewhere because the rooms are overpriced and tatty.
The following are bare-bones and only last resorts:
Mahabandoola Guest House : The end. Daddy's Home , A drab tower-block hotel with the largest bathrooms in the budget category. The cleaners could do with purchasing a broom, but otherwise it's friendly and adequate.
Garden Guest House ;The sign on the stairway reads: 'Effort exerted bears fruit of success.' It's not a proverb the hotel staff have taken to heart. It does have stunning, but noisy, views of the Sule Paya.
Haven Inn : There's no more homy and inviting place to retire to after a busy day of sightseeing in Yangon than this matchbox-sized gem, which was built back in the days when houses came with class. The Haven Inn, announced only by a small neon sign, is located on a relatively quiet street east of the city centre and has just five rooms. The old-fashioned wood panelled interior is a real blast from the past and makes you feel like a hibernating squirrel tucked up inside a hole in a tree. Each room has an array of wooden furniture and bathrooms with hot water. Dr Htun, the friendly owner, is an excellent source of information. Staying in his guesthouse is a good way of experiencing Myanmar family life, while also allowing you to meet fellow travellers.
Three Seasons Hotel : Run by the stars who created the Haven Inn, this, the sister hotel, is equally endearing. Though not as cosy it's just as full of wood-created charm. The outdoor terrace, with tree shade, is a nice place to sit and watch the world cruise on by, whilst the cool and dark interior invites a siesta. Once again the nine rooms are large and well-endowed with everything that would make your granny smile. It's very friendly and helpful and comes with a superb part-Western, part-Burmese breakfast. This is an especially quiet block at night so you should be able to sleep undisturbed.
Okinawa Guest House ; Halfway up a mucky street of alternate high rises and tumbledowns is the red pitched roof of this charming bou-gainvillea-fronted guesthouse. The interior is a bizarre hotchpotch of decorations and building styles that mix wood, bamboo and red brick perfectly. The handful of rooms are small but very clean, but it's the bathrooms that are the real prize - neat, tidy and with a toilet separated behind a wall from the shower and sink. There's also a cosy dorm upstairs for penny-pinchers and a number of communal areas with old wooden chairs and tables. The Sule Paya is just 109yd away. Breakfast and friendly vibes included in the price.
Yoma Hotel : Not as nice as its Yoma 2 counterpart , the Yoma gets by on its central location. Run by a friendly bunch who give you all the time you need, the low-ceilingecl rooms are decent enough but, like many such poor man's business hotels, they lack any real sparkle. There are five floors and no lift, so if you're on the top floor you can eat that extra cake without guilt. Monthly rates are available on request.
Sunflower Hotel : Located in the heart of the busy Indian quarter and appropriately colourful. The rooms are bright and adequate but could do with a wash more often. Ask for room 401 -it'll make you feel like a prostitute! Not used to foreigners.
Mayshan Guest House : It's hard to top the Mayshan's location, half a block north of Sule Paya. The vibe is less family and intimate than others; nevertheless the small, tiled modern rooms are well kept and have satellite TV. To be honest you pay for the location and, like most of the hotels around the Sule Paya, it's not very good value. Even so it remains the pick of the bunch around the exotic pagoda. Quite a few hustlers congregate outside.
Queen's Park Hotel :Unusually for a hotel in this category, the rooms are more appealing than the dowdy reception area - though only by a little. The staff are sweet, and slow days means easy discounts. The superior double offers the best value by far. There's a generator to cover frequent power outages and free airport transfer for groups of six or more.
Friendship Hotel : It's out on a bit of a limb and you'll be one of the first Western guests but that's no bad thing. The freshly painted rooms have very little character but the manager, who is as friendly as the hotel name indicates, soon makes up for that. It's down a little side alley so should ensure a quiet night's kip and is very handy for the excitement of Chinatown.
New Aye Yar Hotel :This good-value high-rise has avoided the tropical rot that has struck down so many ol its cousins and has vast rooms with starched sheets and equally vast city views. The cheapest rooms are carpeted and more musty than the enjoyable wooden-floored rooms (single/ double J20/25). You might need binoculars in order to make out the river from the famous 'river view' rooms.
Panorama Hotel : Within walking distance of the train station and the Bogyoke Market, the aptly named 10-storey Panorama offers some of the best value in this price range. Its wide marble atrium lobby seems slightly dated but the rooms themselves serve their purpose well and provide excellent levels of comfort and cleanliness at a memorable price. Some have vague views over the distant Shwedagon Paya. Professional and attentive service.
Central Hotel :'Bond, lames Bond.' With its whispered conversations and surreptitious glances there is no place you are more likely to hear these words uttered than in the lobby of this long-standing, good-value midrange hotel. Day and night locals and tourists alike dash in and out tor secret rende/.vous, and intrigue hangs in the air. Away from 007 fantasies the plain and sterile upstairs rooms contain no surprises - though some may find the old-fashioned decor a little kitsch - don't worn1 it'll grow on you! The enduring popularity of this hotel means that there is money to spare for repairs and cleanliness. The lifts feature gov-ernment-sponsored posters, which ask tourists to respect human rights. The hotel has a good Chinese restaurant and why not slop by the very popular bar/cafe, the Diamond While Bar, which is a good place to change money and have a martini - shaken, not stirred.
Strand Hotel :Royalty (the Hollywood kind and the traditional) make the Strand their home away from home. Mick lagger, Oliver Stone, the King of Tonga and George Orwell all slept here. Like the most stylish of creations this Grande Dame wears her dress in the most subtle ot manners and the mode is 100% colonial. In reward for her class she was voted one of Asia's top hotels by Travel + Leisure magazine in 2007. Though well beyond the accommodation budget of many visitors, the Strand is well worth a visit for a drink in the bar, high tea in the lobby lounge or a splurge lunch at the cafe.
Shwedagon & Kandawgyi Area
This area of the city is generally quieter than central Yangon. It's also conven-ient for walking to Shwedagon Paya and Kandawgyi Lake. It's not a place to seek out budget accommodation.
Comfort Inn :A quiet family-run guesthouse on a side street close to the Bangladeshi embassy and within walking distance of the Shwedagon Paya. The wood-panelled rooms are decent enough, but do little to set the imagination alight. On the positive side the bathrooms are a solid plus and for this area it's cheap as chips. The gardens have a mini Niagara Falls and a crazy aquarium/pond,
Winner Inn : Something of a 'posh backpackers', the Winner is a real find. This low-slung building is in a quiet, leafy suburb and has spotless rooms with desks, and pictures on the walls. The communal areas have plenty of well-positioned chairs waiting for you to collapse into with a book. The service is excellent and it has a good restaurant but remember if you use the internet service 'not to look at political sites', as the sign requests.
Summer Palace Hotel : There's nothing wrong with this small, busi-ness hotel, but nothing ever so right about it either. The biggest selling point, if you're that way inclined, is the popular karaoke bar, where already terrible love songs get a regular beating. The large rooms are at least clean and the staff friendly, if a little confused about what to do with a Western tourist.
Guest Care Hotel :A11 guests at the Guest Care have access to the top-floor viewing area with spectacular un-obstructed views of the nearby Shwedagon Paya. There are several classes of room (with little noticeable difference between them) and it's worth taking a look at a few before com-mitting, as some are in much better nick than others. For character you'll find a few bits of beautifully carved wooden furniture tossed about the place.
Panda Hotel : One of the more appealing hotels in this price range is this 13-storey high-rise west of the city centre. It has bright and enticing rooms with excellent bathrooms. It's in a peaceful residential area but is close enough to downtown to be worthwhile. Popular with tour groups.
Summit Parkview : Normally there would be little to capture the imagination in a business-class hotel like this, but this one, owned hy the Singapore govern-ment, is different. How many hotels do you know of with breathtaking views over one of the wonders of the universe? If a bargain-rated, orderly and civilised room overlooking the jewel-encrusted Shwedagon Paya isn't for you then feel free to take the same type of room overlooking the pool (open to non-guests for $5 per day). For the price you'd have to rate this as one of the best deals in town. Has a plethora of gyms, travel agencies, shops and restaurants, which, though pricey, do make passable Basque starters.
Savoy Hotel : Everything inside the Savoy is done so perfectly that it's easy to forgive the fact that it's situated right on a busy street corner with heavy traffic. Hallways, rooms and even the lavish bathrooms are stocked with photographs, antiques, handicrafts and sculptures and it takes little imagination to feel as if you are some Raj-like king. Basically what you get at this Myanmar-German joint venture is Strand Hotel standards without the price tag.
Kandawgyi Palace Hotel : Almost monstrous in its over-the-top design, yet somehow the dragon- and shrine-filled gardens, courtyards and communal areas work to produce one of Yangon's more memorable places to stay. The smart rooms are simple and classy and some have little private wooden balconies jutting out towards the lily-coated lake. There's a beautiful multilevel swimming pool, which merges into jungle gardens where even the odd dinosaur can be found lurking! There are also a handful of insanely decadent bungalows which have private pools, Jacuzzis and a personal butler service. Huge discounts off the above rack rates are normal if you book through a travel agency in Yangon. The Thai-owned hotel has several fine restaurants including the oh-so-chic La Maison du Lac.
Governor's Residence If you'd like to live like a sovereign, this UK-owned teak mansion of period elegance and modern luxury in the leafy embassy district is for you. In the '20s the Governor's Residence was a guesthouse for important nationals of the Kayah ethnic group but now, after a masterful restoratien, it's a tourist's ideal of colonial luxury. A waiter with a crystal cocktail is a ways on hand and the pool merges gently int the lawns and sparkles in reflected beauty. Th glorious rooms have ever-so-lightly perfume air, teak floors, cloudy soft beds and ston baths with rose-petal water. This really is th Shwedagon of hotels. The excellent restauran Mandalay, serves expensive but superb I:rene and Asian cuisine in a pond-side setting ani a stylish bar. The pool is open to nonguests i they eat at the restaurant.
North Yangon & Inya Lake Area
The remainder of the hotels are well north o the city centre.
YomaHotel :A share customer-service oriented hotel tucked up ; lane of flowering trees. The cathedral-sizec deluxe rooms are a good deal but the cheapei rooms' showers have windows that let all thi world see you in your birthday suit.
Liberty Hotel :The staff wil get in a right tizz-wiz when they see a for eigner approaching but after the initial shod they'll cope admirably, which is good becaust the clean, high-ceilinged rooms on offer in this colonial-era mansion offer great value for money. The manager is a huge goldfish fan and has some of the biggest you'll evei see, in the reception-area aquarium. There's a nice garden out the back.
Sedona Hotel : You know exactly what you'll be getting at the Singapore-owned Sedona: peace, quiet and very professional service. What you won't be getting is any kind of indication that you are in Myanmar but, as you sink into one of the comfortable beds, you probably won't be that bothered. The Atlantic-sized swimming pool (nonguests $5) is a real plus as is the downstairs Mediterranean-tasting Orzo restaurant (though you'd better like pasta).
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