In November 2019, I checked into the Governor’s Room at Belmond Governor’s Residence, a luxury heritage hotel in Yangon. Situated in the secluded Embassy Quarter neighbourhood within the grounds of an almost century-old colonial-style mansion, the 49-room property is about forty minutes away from Yangon International Airport by taxi and a short drive from attractions such as People’s Park, the National Museum, the famous Shwedagon Pagoda as well as the city’s colonial old town with its breathtaking heritage architecture.
The property is one of the city’s iconic heritage hotels, alongside The Strand Yangon (founded by the Sarkies brothers behind Raffles Hotel Singapore), the Savoy Hotel, the Yangon Excelsior as well as Rosewood Yangon.
The UTW (“Under Ten Words”): Colonial-style mansion offering garden oasis tranquility in Yangon.
The must-dos (if any): Recharge in your guest room, take a dip in the pool, chase the resident geese and peacocks, enjoy sparkling wine with your pool-side a la carte breakfast at Mandalay Restaurant.
BELMOND GOVERNOR’S RESIDENCE YANGON
Built by Armenian brothers Samuel and Carapiet Balthazar in the 1920s, the mansion served as the official residence of the governor of Kaya State in 1952 before being repurposed as a luxury hotel in the ‘90s and finally joining the Belmond family in 2006. Set deep within verdant greenery and soundtracked by all-day avian calls, the peaceful resort-esque property offers a surprisingly tranquil and relaxing experience within the bustling Myanmar city.
Upon arrival, a team member rings a welcome gong to commemorate your visit. The remarkably idyllic nature of your lodgings becomes apparent the moment you take your first steps down the teak walkway towards the main mansion area and take in the sights and smells of the lush croquet lawn, flower-filled gardens as well as the lotus pool and emerald-green swimming pool which flank Mandalay Restaurant’s water-side, whirring ceiling fanned terrace. (The night-time dinner experience does play it all atmospheric Indonesian beach resort with its earthy warmth and reflective aquatic gloss.) While the original mansion houses the dining concepts, a boutique as well as second-storey event space Mindon Lounge (which served as an art exhibition space during my stay), the guest rooms are located in newer buildings located within the lush garden-style space behind the mansion.
You will likely have your day brightened by one of the property’s resident animals at some point. The headlining peacock family – led by power couple Charlie and Darlie – tours the premises with the assured familiarity of a Vegas residency act, while elsewhere a lazy and fat orange tabby cat dominates the entrance driveway and vocally enthusiastic geese frolic in a pond next to the croquet lawn.
In terms of wellness, the Governor’s Oasis Spa uses botanical organic products across their various Burmese and classic facial, hand, feet and body treatments (including some specially created for men), with single and couple treatment rooms available. While the property does not have a gym, guests can rejuvenate in the swimming pool next to the main mansion. Sun-loungers shaded by Pathein parasols and topped with coolie hats as well as private cabanas nestled within lush greenery provide opportunities for both aquatic and romantic moments.
With a window overlooking the emerald-green swimming pool, the 39sqm second-storey Governor’s Room combines antique teak wood furnishings with hardwood floorings and decorative wood carvings in a charmingly old-fashioned colonial setting. A four-poster bed dressed with a billowing mosquito net provides a dash of romance to the proceedings, while a comfortable window-side daybed and living room couch offer ample lounging space. The window-side writing table in the corner of the room is equipped with a multi-socket power point (without USB ports), while elsewhere the television set truly does throwback to a bygone era.
The mini-bar is stocked with drinking water, soft drinks and canned beer along with a bottle of rosé, with Boncafe coffee and English Tea Story tea-making facilities available. Your room key is (as is usual for heritage properties) expectedly hefty, while the do not disturb sign is an ornately-carved wooden board.
The bathroom boasts double vanities with hairdryer access, his-and-hers bathrobes and a walk-in rainfall shower with surprisingly confident water pressure. Lemongrass and mandarin-scented Panpuri bathroom amenities are provided in large dispensers.
Breakfast is served at Mandalay Restaurant, the hotel’s all-day dining venue which offers outdoor terrace seating with views of the swimming pool, garden and croquet lawn. The breakfast selection comprises a semi-buffet of pastries, cold cuts, juices and fruits (I hit the pomelos hard) along with an a la carte menu offering Western classics such as Brioche French Toast and Eggs as well as Myanmar classics which include the comforting Nga Myin Mohinga (butterfish noodle soup with crispy bean, chill and coriander), umami-laden Khauk Swe Thoke (egg noodle salad with chilli chicken, boiled egg, roasted chickpea powder, turmeric oil), texturally pleasing Bain Mont (coconut & rice pancake with sesame seeds, roasted peanut, desiccated coconut, jaggery sauce) and fusion-style Breakfast Bruschetta (tea leaf foccacia, avocado mash, Shan tomato chutney). Free-flow Francois Montand Brut sparkling wine keeps the waterside morning experience luxurious and lively.
The restaurant offers casual regional and Western fare in the daytime and a Western fine dining experience during dinner service. For lunch, we went for the scrumptious Burmese-style Fried Rice (mixed vegetables, spicy pickled-bean paste, well-endowed prawns, squid) as well as the Traditional Burmese Tiffin Lunch which came with one serving of Kyasan Hingar Soup (slices of chicken, wood ear mushroom, tofu skin, quail egg and glass noodle), your choice of two Burmese Salads (we went for the satay-nutty Banana Blossom Salad and refreshingly tart Pennywort Salad), your choice of two Traditional Curries (we got the sweet, Eurasian-esque Prawn Curry as well as the aromatic Chicken with Tealeaf) and capped the meal with an Apple Semolina Cake as our Myanmar dessert.
Elsewhere, the modestly-furnished and cosy Kipling Bar boasts leather seating and a dark wooden bar counter, offering a range of signature cocktails such as the Picturesque Paddy (Smirnoff Red Vodka, Benedictine, rice, pandan syrup, coconut syrup, lime) and Mandalay Sour (Mandalay rum, lime, Myanmar organic honey, bitters) which incorporate local ingredients and spirits.
While not as famous as The Strand Yangon or as ultra-luxurious as Rosewood Yangon, the property’s unique brand of colonial-style and almost resort-esque charm provides a memorable temporal and spatial escapist fantasy experience which will transport you to a timeless and romantic setting far removed from its Myanmar city realities. Highly recommended.
Belmond Governor’s Residence
5 Taw Win Road