Since its gala opening in 1901, the Strand has served as the city’s most prestigious hotel – frequently mentioned in the same breath as the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai, Raffles of Singapore, and the Eastern & Oriental in Penang – although one with a checkered history. It was originally the creation of the famed Sarkies brothers, Armenian entrepreneurs who were the first to recognize the need for luxury accommoda- tions in Rangoon after the opening of the Suez Canal. During its colonial heyday, the Strand was visited by and immortalized in the writings of Somerset Maugham, Rudyard Kipling, and George Orwell. The hotel went into sharp decline fol lowing Burmese independ- ence in 1948, and was only restored in the mid-1990s.
Elegant teak and marble floors, mahogany and rattan furniture, paddle fans, and the absence of a swimming pool or a modern wing preserve the Raj-era ambience and charm. It is worth sampling the hotel’s timeless atmos phere over high tea in the famous Strand Café, accom panied by the soothing strains of the saung gauk (the tradi tional Burmese harp) and the xylophone.