“Beauty is meaningless unless it is shared,” wrote George Orwell in his novel “Burmese Days”. Entering the lobby of the Strand Hotel in Yangon, Orwell’s words come to mind. The harmony and welcoming atmosphere of the newly renovated colonial interior makes it the kind of place where friends gather and strangers become friends. Orwell might have had the same feeling.
Located in the heart of Yangon’s downtown and diplomatic district next to the Yangon River, the Strand Hotel is surrounded by a treasure trove of 19th-century colonial buildings and renowned Buddhist sites. If you’ve spent any time on London’s Strand, Yangon’s Strand will feel familiar. The British had a habit of replicating parts of their beloved London in the places they occupied. That’s why you can find Strand Roads sprinkled about the cities of the former Commonwealth, from Bombay to Hong Kong to Sydney to Singapore.
Iranian-born Armenian brothers, the Sarkies, ran successful trading companies in South America. With the opening of the Suez Canal the trade routes they depended on dried up, so the brothers packed up and headed east to try their luck elsewhere. They first founded the famous Singapore hotel, Raffles, and then opened The Strand Hotel in Yangon, in 1901. It has been a destination for dignitaries and celebrities ever since, including notables from the literary set, such as George Orwell, Somerset Maugham, Rudyard Kipling and Sir Noel Coward.