Strand Hotel

Historic Building in Yangon

Image by AMzPhoto Shutterstock

Opened in 1901, and run by the famed Sarkies brothers (they also owned the Raffles in Singapore and the Eastern and Oriental in Penang), this historic hotel in its early years hosted the likes of Rudyard Kipling, George Orwell and W Somerset Maugham.

The hotel was built by Turkish-Armenian contractor Tigran Nierces Joseph Catchatoor, who is buried around the corner in the cemetery next to the Armenian Church of St John the Baptist.

In 1913 an annexe was built next door; this now houses the Australian embassy. During WWII, the Japanese took over the running of the Strand, which they renamed the Yamato Hotel.

Burmese nationals were allegedly not allowed to stay in the hotel until 1945. From 1962 to 1989, in what was quite possibly its darkest period, the Strand was owned and managed by the Burmese government. In 1979, when Lonely Planet co-founder Tony Wheeler reviewed the Strand for the 1st edition of Southeast Asia on a Shoestring, he found a 'tatty and dilapidated' colonial relic where you were more likely to encounter rats than a soft bed and a hot shower.

In 1993, the Strand was brought back to something of its former glory under the supervision of Adrian Zecha, founder of Aman Resorts. In 2016 it closed again for several months for a head-to-toe refurbishment that will eventually see an entirely new section added to the hotel's rear.