During our three weeks in Myanmar we had the privilege of staying at Sule Shangri-la hotel, a gem in the heart of Yangon. This bustling city, famous among food-lovers is probably where most visitors start or end their journey in Myanmar, a country that until recently was off limits to most travelers.
Twilight in Yangon – Swhedagon Pagoda
We weren’t expecting to find any 5-star hotels in the city, but while wandering around the Sule pagoda, one of the city’s landmarks, it was inevitable to witness the graceful Shangri-la hotel towering over the rest. Formerly known as a Trader’s hotel, it underwent extensive refurbishment and was rebranded to become part of the Shangri-la family.
What we noticed from the very start when we first entered the hotel was the unbelievable hospitality that received us; literally everyone greeted us with a welcoming smile and a warm “mingalaba”, a blessing in Burmese with a multiple meaning (hello/goodbye/good day).
After a swift check in and a delicious welcoming drink, we were escorted to our room while all the hotel’s main facilities were explained along the way. Our room had a nice view over the pool area and the iconic Sule Pagoda. From a distance, on the other side of Yangon River, you can see the lush green woodlands surrounding the city.
Our spacious Deluxe Room (34 m2) was equipped with the state-of-the-art tea and coffee facilities, mini-bar, a beautifully framed flat screen TV, executive desk area and a fit-for-a-king bed decorated with a charming artwork of painted pagodas. Unlike most other Myanmar hotels we visited, the wi-fi access was without a doubt the fastest and most reliable we experienced, and works perfectly inside the rooms.
After a reviving sleep, we headed down for the breakfast buffet on the first floor. Hands down, this is one of the best breakfast selections we have come across during our travels in Asia. The ingredients are world class; the finest fruits from the local market, omelets cooked to your liking, crispy and tender bacon slices, sushi, fresh pasta and the list goes on… We especially loved the variety of fruit yogurts delicately served in minimalistic jars; the peach Greek yogurt was exceptionally tasteful. After the “healthy” stuff, there’s always room for some dessert! It can be difficult to choose, so take your time. To go with your coffee we recommend the cooked-on-the-spot Belgian waffles with some home made kaya coconut jam, maple syrup and a scoop of vanilla gelato…a combo out of this world!
We loved taking it easy by the breakfast table, eating slowly, observing the daily life in Yangon throughout the window. The breakfast staff was exceptional, always ready with more fresh coffee when needed and the team of international chefs cooked almost anything per your request. If you’re not staying at the hotel we still recommend a visit to their breakfast buffet, for 22$ you can eat as much as you like!
After a rich breakfast meal we decided to relax at the pool area and try to catch some of the sunrays that were breaking through the clouds. At this time it’s rainy season in Myanmar, so were lucky to get a couple of good hours! The outdoor area on the 5th floor consists of two separate pools; one decent sized, perfect for swimming, and another smaller, shallower, more child-friendly… or should I say tan-friendly. If you get thirsty you can order cocktails or beer on draught from the pool bar. We especially liked how the outer walls were lined with palm trees, giving you this tropical feeling, which makes you forget that you’re in the center of a big bustling city.
If you want to go for a run or pump some iron then hit the gym! Located on the 5th floor with wall-sized windows it ensures a lot of natural light and a nice view over the pool area. Although the gym isn’t massive, it is equipped with the latest fitness facilities and if you need any advice for exercises or lifting weights don’t hesitate to ask the hotel’s private trainer.
If you’re more up for some pampering than try one of the facial treatments or massages at the Beauty Center and enjoy their complimentary ginger lemon tea. The private treatment rooms are decorated in earthly colors with warm lightning and the air is filled with a woody aromatic fragrance; it’s the perfect setting to unwind and de-stress. You can also request for an in-room massage if you prefer.
The Gallery Bar & Restaurant is the perfect place to relax with a drink after a hot and tiring day. This elegant bar serves classy cocktails and a tapas-style menu until 1 am in a sophisticated environment. It has this artdeco look with antique style furniture and vintage photos on the wall. They also have a pool table to keep you entertained. We recommend the frozen margarita, it was so refreshing! Also, don’t miss out on Happy Hour from 5 to 7:30 pm, you get 2 for 1 on drinks!
One of our favorite places of the hotel was definitely the luxurious Peacock Lounge. This was our haven during the day when we just wanted to relax or answer a few emails. The ceiling is enormous and the walls are beautifully decorated with peacock art and paintings giving the lounge this royal atmosphere. At this heart of the hotel you can order a wide range of a la carte items until 11 pm. We really enjoyed hanging out there in one of the comfy sofas with a cup of maplechino, one of their coffee specialities. A few steps from the lounge area is the Gourmet Shop where you can gaze upon a variety of mouthwatering pastries and cakes that can be served to your seat in the Peacock Lounge.
One of the best things about this hotel is its location; it’s right smack in the middle of town! The Sule pagoda is a couple of steps away and the famous Bogyoke Market is just around the corner, where you can buy amazing artworks or stock up on some traditional longyis (a tube like fabric worn by both genders).
If you’re looking for some traditional Burmese food then head over to the nearby Rangoon Teahouse on Pansodan street and try the Phat Toke (fermented tea leaf salad) or Pao Si (steamed pork belly bun).
As long term travelers on a budget we usually stay at guesthouses and hostels, but the contrast of checking into a 5 star hotel from time to time is an addictive pleasure. Staying at Sule Shangri-la, with its unmatched service and attention to detail left us completely refreshed and ready for our onward travels. We truly recommend staying at this amazing hotel if you ever plan on visiting Myanmar.
To visit Sule Shangri-la’s offical website click here!