Formerly:   Kayah State Governor's Residence
Address:     152 Bo Myat Tun Road
Year built:   1920
Architect:    Unknown

By the Pegu Club, in the city’s leafy embassy quarters, the Governor’s Residence Hotel offers a stunning example of beautifully preserved teak architecture. Built in 1920, this was the home of the head (or sawbwa) of Kayah State. (Kayah State lies east of Yangon and was never under full British rule. It retained a semi-autonomous status until independence, after which it joined the Union of Burma.) Following independence, the building housed the state’s parliament members. French artist and furniture designer Patrick Robert took over the building in the early 1990s. He enlisted the partnership of the Pansea Hotels Group. Together they turned the building into a luxury hotel, which opened in 1997.

Main building and pool of the Governor’s Residence Hotel

The restoration was painstaking: the edifice was taken apart completely and put back together, with each piece being numbered and then re-assembled. A large amount of concrete now reinforces the walls—enough, apparently, to withstand a major earthquake. A swimming pool was added to the compound with tiles imported from Spain. In 2006, the Residence’s owners sold it to Orient-Express Hotels (today’s Belmond Ltd.). The London-based company runs the hotel to this day. The venue and its surrounding gardens are a sanctuary of quiet and luxury. All 48 rooms use local teak furniture. The place conjures up images of the colonial days, from the fan-cooled terrace to the Kipling Bar, where well-heeled sightseers retreat for a quiet cocktail after a long day in the heaving city. But must stunning conservation efforts always transform Yangon’s heritage into enclaves for the rich?

The hotel terrace extends into the outside pool