Myanmar’s hotel industry is young! I remember my first trip there forty years ago, when there were seven hotels in Yangon that were open to foreigners. Rats and cockroaches said good night to each other and it was a good idea to bring your own mosquito net and insect spray.
In Mandalay things looked rather worse, the same in Bagan, where there were numerous homestays in addition to three (!) hotels, for which even the required three dollars seemed excessive.
At Inle Lake there were no hotels at all, whose visitors had to stay overnight in Taunggyi.
Rooms with air conditioning were the exception – which doesn’t mean that it worked – and those without bathrooms were the rule; even in the Strand Hotel Yangon there were shared bathrooms!
All other destinations – with the exception of Bago near Yangon – were closed to foreigners! This was no big deal, because the stay in the country was limited to eight days, so that the offered destinations were more than sufficient. And this condition changed only little until the mid 90s!
But a lot has happened since then! Today there are hundreds of hotels in the country, from absolute luxury hostels to the simplest hippie houses – although you can hardly get accommodation for three dollars today.
We have divided the hotels that we have tested and (at least) classified as acceptable into three (self-established!) categories: Luxus*****, 3-Stars*** and Budget**.
Although many hotels in this country adorn themselves with stars, in our experience there is no generally valid classification. The category – like the name of the establishment – is obviously often chosen by monks… Luxury hotels in Myanmar do not necessarily offer what you would expect from a luxury hotel in Bangkok – let alone Switzerland.
What can you expect in the individual categories?
Luxushotels*****-**** are those that are characterized by very special characteristics. For example, the Strand Hotel in Yangon only offers suites, some even with a butler. This is luxury, even if there is not even a swimming pool or a gym there at the moment. The Governor’s Residence in Yangon also belongs to this category – at least as far as the price level is concerned. Likewise the big hotels in Yangon like Shangri-La, Sedona and Melia fall into this category, just to name a few.
There are also some hotels that offer luxury rooms, but their standard is not the same as that of a luxury hotel. In Bagan, Aureum and Thirpyitsaya fall into the luxury category. The Popa Moutain Resort not far from Bagan would be classified there as well. In Mandalay we would include the Rupa Mandalar, the Sedona (with some exceptions) and the Mandalay Hill Resort. At Inle Lake there are many of them, such as Inle Princess or Villa Inle. Myanmar currently has two beach resorts on the Bay of Bengal. The old-established Ngapali and the newly developed Ngwesaung. There are several luxurious resorts here. And so it is almost the same with luxury hotels in Myanmar, except for those in remote destinations such as Putao (Malikha Lodge).
3-star Hotels*** offer a decent standard, but usually do not have a pool, especially in the big cities. Elsewhere (e.g. in Bagan) many hotels have a pool. Also a restaurant is not to be assumed necessarily.
Budget Hotel** is simple, even if your websites like to present a different picture. A big problem, even in good hotels, is care and maintenance. What looked quite passable two years ago may have been totally run down today.
That has both practical and philosophical reasons. On the one hand, Burmese don’t perceive dirt in our way: what’s wrong with a few cobwebs? Or who is bothered by mice and cockroaches in the house? Or garbage dumps in romantic places like Inle Lake? Burmese certainly not, as you can see everywhere. This is all the more astonishing as the inhabitants of this beautiful country attach great importance to cleanliness. Just look at the egg peeled girls in their traditional costumes!
The second (‘philosophical’) reason lies in the Buddha’s teaching: ‘Everything that becomes must pass away’ teaches the enlightened one and it is one of the pillars of his teaching! This also applies to hotels and sometimes you can’t help feeling that the people in charge don’t want to violate this ‘law of nature’…Hotel