YANGON, 22 February 2019: There are a few hotels around Asia you call “Grand Dame” and one of them, The Strand Yangon, was awarded a plaque to prove its lineage, an illustrious one dating back to 1901.
Close to 119 years after the first coast of paint dried on its tall sturdy walls, the famous harbour side address has been awarded the Yangon Heritage Trust Blue Plaque, the first given to any hotel in the city and a clear emblem of its historical pedigree.
When it opened, the hostelry served the first international tourists, traders and wayfarers who disembarked from steamships in the Yangon River.
Today, the 32-suite hotel serves business travellers and holidaymakers, who don’t need to think twice about paying then hefty nightly rates starting at THB7,788 to stay within its sturdy stonewalls.
Sturdy and reliable describes the 24-hour butler service that makes the stay in any of the 32 suites memorable. It’s a place where you treat yourself to a wander down the halls of time to an era when travel was truly special.
So to some the fact that George Orwell, Noël Coward and Rudyard Kipling stayed here and reportedly sipped afternoon tea on silver service in the Le Grand Café, or downed a gin and tonic in the Sarkies Bar, named after the brothers who built property encourages the story telling, the more enduring tales are those of the butlers who made a lifelong career of being part of the Strand fabric.
You could make it a holiday theme to travel Asia staying the Grand Dames some of them built by the two brothers. There are those who have made that their pleasure to embark on that journey and a few chronicled their trips and clicked their experiences into books, many of them, colourful pictorial presentations of a romantic era of travel.
On display under the portico at the entrance to the hotel, the blue plaque states that The Strand Yangon was established in 1901 by the Sarkies brothers and is the oldest hotel in the city, often referred to affectionately as Yangon’s ‘Grand Dame’.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the installation of the blue plaque was held at The Strand Yangon, earlier this month attended by Yangon’s chief minister, U Phyo Min Thein, and the Yangon Heritage Trust’s vice chairman and director, Daw Moe Moe Lwin, amongst other tourism ministers and members of the Yangon City Development Committee.
GCP Hospitality vice president operations, Myanmar, Suki Singh commented on behalf of the owners, “The entire Strand team considers itself fortunate to be the guardian of this beautiful building and thereby to over a century of Yangon heritage.
“If the walls of the hotel could talk, they would tell tales of adventurers, explorers, writers and raconteurs who have passed through its doors, as well as the highs and lows of the city we live in.”
But the same walls would also note that ordinary folk tiptoed its squeaky teakwood floors to sit in its fine dining room content to savour a moment of recognition.
Ironically that is what travel is all about; the time you pause and cease to travel to learn or simply appreciate hospitality because you deserved it.
The Strand Yangon is the 27th building or historical site in Yangon to be commemorated by a blue plaque.