A grand hotel in the heart of Yangon, formerly Rangoon in Myanmar (Burma)
There’s no denying that tourism in Myanmar is on the up, the numbers for the past few years have been steadily improving. With elections and reforms on the way Yangon is the heart of Myanmar for both international tourists and business. The improved international airport and an influx of new investment from overseas means hotels in the city are primed for great things. Some hotels in Yangon were born long before this increase in tourism and have established themselves real 5 star city resorts. The Chatrium Hotel Royal Lake Yangon is one such hotel and we had the privilege of reviewing their accommodation on a recent visit.
Chatrium Hotel location and pickup service
Arriving at Yangon’s International airport, a smiling and smartly dressed man was holding a sign extending a “warmly welcome” and our names printed in large letters. He escorted us through the crowd of eager taxi drivers to the Chatrium’s own airport pickup van. A very comfortable and air conditioned vehicle, a contrast to the taxis in Yangon, some of which barely have windows. A scenic drive through the suburbs of Yangon as the sun set a beautiful purple and orange glow. Passing two lakes and navigating our way through Yangon’s rush-hour traffic we arrived at the Chatrium Hotel through a large arch and driveway up to the grand lobby. The Royal Lake is widely considered the heart of Yangon with a number of tourist and religious sights within easy walking distance.
Hotel features and rooms
The lobby is a bustling area filled with attentive staff, all smiling sincerely, a cafe, chairs to relax in and all manner of service rooms stretching off in different directions. From our taxi to our room we had at least 6 members of staff helping us with bags, opening doors, helping us check in and generally just welcoming us with what was indeed a “warmly welcome”. A phrase we saw throughout Myanmar.
There are 303 rooms at the Chatrium Royal Lake Hotel Yangon, styled with dark woods and classic hotel decor. Room sizes range from a cosy 40 square metres up to an impressive 300 square metres. With 37 suites and 2 executive floors there’s a good range in prices and amenities for everything from tourists to business investors. On a tour of the rooms it was good to see the quality of styling was visible throughout the hotel from the cheapest room to the most expensive “Royal Lake Suite”.
Other notable areas of the hotel are it’s 3 restaurants, the Emporia serving a buffet breakfast and food to order throughout the day. The Kohaku Japanese restaurant which was a particular favourite of mine. Tiger Hill is their signature Chinese restaurant and there’s also outside dining both at the Emporia and the sunset cafe near the lobby. There’s also a lounge bar on the ground floor that was a little hard to find and for the most part quiet on my visit. The Lilawadee Spa is also worth a mention, rather than a purpose built area the spa occupies 15 bedrooms on one floor, each individually styled and used for various types of massage therapies and treatments. I actually prefer this setup to the bespoke spas you often find in hotels as this was more relaxing and cosy.
The L shaped “Ngapali” swimming pool at the Chatrium Hotel is without doubt their centrepiece with some impressive landscaping surrounding it. A garden oasis with ample sun beds and a highly styled pool which was surprisingly cold when first venturing in. Fairly shallow throughout it was a relaxing place to cool off and and enjoy the surroundings. The staff were always on hand with menus and if something wasn’t on the menu they could soon create it for you. You should always judge a luxury hotel by it’s ability to be flexible and happy to meet your requirements, even if it is just me being a picky eater.
Concierge and staff
One thing you soon notice about Myanmar and the people you meet in Yangon, they enjoy smiling. It seems almost a national past time and I had some great conversations with local people. I also enjoyed the interactions with the staff who dealt with our requests usually promptly and with a friendly attitude. Everything from delivering meals and ironing equipment to my room, to serving in the Chatrium hotel restaurants and front desk. My only improvement would be the concierge, while they spoke great english and were always attentive, my requests to them only received some pointers in the right direction, rather than the usual concierge service of being able to sort things for you. It’s a small gripe and possibly only specific to the requests I made but I was hoping for a little more help. Never-the-less the information they gave was accurate and forthcoming.
Rooms, executive floor
The two top floors of this luxury hotel in Yangon is reserved for executive rooms and includes the Chatrium Club Lounge which is a small area outside the elevators. With executive level check-in and free refreshments, it’s what you’d expect from an executive floor and was a quiet place away from the busy lobby to relax and have a business meeting. The executive floor suites are well equipped and most have balconies with fantastic views of the Royal Lake or the famous Shwedagon Pagoda which is a stunning sight during sunset. Executive floors also have access to complimentary wifi access which, considering the reports we’d had of internet speeds in Myanmar, was blisteringly fast, especially for a shared hotel connection. Like so many other 5 star hotels, wifi is still charged for standard room customers, something you can get for free in many other budget and mid-level hotels. Access charges were quite expensive with $10 for what was described as “1 day access”, in fact $10 gets you unlimited access, something I only discovered after purchasing my second $10 of access.
Payment and quality
I discovered during an interview with the hotel’s marketing manager that the Chatrium has an average occupancy of 94%, a level I’ve never experienced before. There’s a real atmosphere of a busy but well functioning hotel. Considering the occupancy levels the service quality remained high throughout my stay and I felt at home very quickly.
While Myanmar does have it’s own currency, the Kyat (pronounced chat), a lot of the tourism industry, most notably hotels, prefer to use American dollars. In fact those that accept dollars only want pristine and crease free notes so be sure to check every note before accepting it from a money changer in your country. There are no ATMs in Myanmar at the moment either so you’ll need to make sure you have enough cash with you. The Chatrium does accept credit cards (with a 7% additional fee) and we were offered the choice of paying by cash or credit card when we checked in. Unfortunately we weren’t informed why we were being given this choice and opted for cash. When we checked out and had spent more than we wished to pay for by cash we were informed we couldn’t change our minds at this point as they needed advanced notice. Credit card transactions involve calling the bank and authorising the card before the payment is made so we had no option but to pay with our shiny new US dollars. This US / Kyat / lack of ATM issue is something that needs improving for future waves of tourism to enter Myanmar. Tourists are happy to spend the money, given the chance.
A warmly welcome to Myanmar
The Chatrium Royal Lake Hotel in Yangon was the perfect way to start my travels around Myanmar, the “warmly welcome” was definitely felt and it’s location and amenities made me feel all the more welcome and comfortable. The mixture of business and pleasure in the hotel’s atmosphere matched the city life beyond it’s premises. Tourism is undoubtably increasing in Myanmar and I expect Chatrium is likely to be primed and ready for this in the years ahead.
- Visit the Chatrium website at www.chatrium.com
- Call Chatrium Royal Lake Hotel in Yangon at +95 (1) 544 500
- Check out the Chatrium Yangon Facebook page
A big thank you to Treza and May Myat Mon Win at Chatrium Royal Lake Yangon for making this review possible and their hospitality during our stay.