Belmond Governor's Residence, Yangon, Myanmar
The Governor’s Residence is a colonial haven in the centre of Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon, Myanmar’s biggest and bustling city. The 1920’s teak white trellised mansion was once home to the British Crown Colony Governor of Burma’s Southern States and evokes a charm and character of nostalgia as much of this stunning city does. Located in the Dagon Township near all the embassies it is located within easy distance of the glittering Shwedagon Pagoda and other attractions.
Located in the heart of the Embassy District, it is a small oasis of calm and tranquillity. Peacocks meander around the garden and the large swimming pool gives the impression the house is hovering above the water. A beautiful open-air bar and upstairs restaurant serving a delectable Burmese curry buffet in the evenings now inhabits the main house. The curving pool cradles the exterior and provides a peaceful place to pass the hotter afternoons before exploring this exotic eco escape.
The beautiful rooms are located around a verdant courtyard and decorated in teak and famous Burmese silks and art give a warmth and elegant richness to these suites. Luxuriously furnished with large sumptuous beds, divan sofas and modern amenities, there is an understated elegance and timeless style. The adjoining bathrooms are dominated by large carved rock baths to soak away a day of exploration and adventure in this charming city. Traditional sophistication blended with contemporary touches is the style that carries you through this colonial gem.
The large garden is little oasis to enjoy a swim in the serene pool, read in a day bed or take tea under a paper parasol watching the peacocks meander through the greenery. In the evenings let the breeze blow through whilst enjoying a cocktail or glass of wine at the Kipling Bar, complete with teak bar in the tradition of all the great colonial hotels of the region. Named after Rudyard Kipling who wrote the most famous poem about Myanmar in English Literature ‘Road to Mandaly’. The ironic thing is he never went to Mandalay but did indeed come to Rangoon and said of this beguiling country ‘This is Burma and it is quite unlike any land you know about’. In this respect he was totally accurate to this day.
Balmy nights give way to experiencing the famous Burmese Curry Table set in the Mindon Lounge. Up on the second floor in the breeze of the trees, this teak decked dining and bar area is the perfect way to appreciate tropical colonial architecture and the aromas of the country. It is a culinary journey through the regions and array of ethnic groups that make up Myanmar. From sea bass with tamarind to mutton with mango curry there is something to simulate and delight the palate for every kind of tastes. The Shan noodle stand is must try for this very authentic and slightly spiced dish. The dinner takes you on a meandering journey through the myriad of tastes that make up Myanmar. From the Chinese influences of Mandalay to the more Indian overtones of Putao, this is an experience not to be missed.
Awaken to an equally impressive breakfast laid out by the pool of tropical fruits and every delight imaginable, including champagne and crème brulee, and plan your day to the glistening of the sun rising. The hotel can cater a number of day trips or excursions to explore the environs of the city or for gourmets, arrange a cooking lesson to recreate some of the incredible dishes from their famous dinners.
There are two complimentary bike tours that cover some of the main attractions of what Yangon has to offer through the quieter back roads and get an insight into the vibrant but traditional city. Yangon has the highest concentration of colonial buildings in any South East Asian city so take time to appreciate the echoes of a bygone era and a darker recent past. Emerging into the tourism market now, it is essential that these buildings are preserved and restoration of these beautiful residences is perfectly illustrated by the Governor’s Residence.
Pagodas glisten in the sun and the most famous of them all, Shwedagon Pagoda is a short ride away. Dominating the skyline this is a truly magical place. A short elevator ride to the top and you are transported to another world. Monks knelt in prayer, sitting in contemplation and novices engaging in play are bathed in the golden reflected light of the stupa. Burmese come here to pray and take in the atmosphere, be amongst the few foreigners strolling around, that is the most wonderful thing about visiting that this and many other sights have still not been overrun by outside tourism.
Locally known as Shwedagon Zedi Daw, it rises from the top of the hill at 99 metres high and can be seen from most of Yangon, it is also said to be 2600 years old. Although no documents exist to confirm this, it is officially the oldest pagoda in the world. Sunset is a truly spectacular time to visit when it is bathed in a golden light and the stupa covered in diamonds, rubies and topazes topped with a huge emerald glitters like a crown. It is said to contain eight of Buddha’s hairs and is a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists throughout the world.
After a exploring the city by bike then head back to the hotel for a relaxing indulgence in the Governor’s Oasis Spa. Housed in another small building at the back courtyard, it is the perfect place to unwind for a few hours. Based around organic ingredients and traditional methods, there is a choice of face and body treatments. The Ku Nye massage is based on Tibetan principals using oil and acupressure that can be tailored to your needs. The Ananda Face Treatment is based on Ayurveda principals combined with a traditional touch.
The Belmond Governor’s Residence is the perfect hideaway in Yangon. A glimpse into the former colonial years and carefully restored to a refined grandeur, it is the epitome of exotic laidback luxury. Comfortable and refined like the building itself, the impeccable service and warmth of the Burmese, combine to make it an essential eco escape on any trip to Myanmar.
Photos Courtesy of Belmond Governor's Residence Yangon
Words by Electra Gillies