Downtown Yangon, Myanmar

Renovating The Excelsior, on Sun Pat Street, was a process of discovery. The original steel works throughout the building had been covered up by many layers during various renovations over the years. By the time our contractors arrived on site for the creation of the Yangon Excelsior, parts of the old renovations had already started to fall away, and throughout construction, we were uncovering old structures we didn’t even know existed. In celebration of times and trades past, we did not remove any of these structures – instead, we let them shine.  I will never forget my first visit to site in 2014. I was blown away by the beauty of natural light casting shadows on the old crumbling parquetry flooring from the original lift shaft shooting through the centre of the property, and the layering of so many renovations past peeling away to reveal a glimpse of old Yangon. With every corner turned, was insight into another persons life long ago in Burma.

“Just before I left Bangkok in 2016, I was spending a lot of time in Yangon, Myanmar, saving a property that might otherwise have become rubble. The Yangon Excelsior colonial building situated on a downtown site dating back to the 1870s, one of many between built between 1824-1948 when Burma was under British rule, it.  During Colonial times, it was owned by the British Steel Brothers. Over 4 inspiring years, I led the design team in reviving the old Post Office building, and creating The Yangon Excelsior – a 70 key boutique hotel inspired by its poetic past.”

The streets of Downtown Yangon are lined by 100’s of colourful colonial-era , these grand, crumbling buildings with ornately fenestrated, moss-dabbed, pastel façades are either empty and in despair or brimming with life, with locals enjoying their leafy balcony views and looking down at the street below lined  vendors in ankle-brushing skirts selling brass statues beneath their ground floor arches, and the older gentlemen dragging heavy typewriters to the street from their dark corridors, tapping away on wobbly tables before rain blasts send them hurriedly back inside, life is different here, good different time moves at its own pace and if it wasn’t for the  tuk tuks and cars you could be fooled into thinking you’d stepped back into the Burma of 1824.

Since the ribbon cutting of the Yangon Excelsior in 2018, we have been nominated for several prestigious awards. For me, the most satisfying is being listed by Conde Naste Traveller Peoples choice awards as one of the top 20 best hotels in Asia. Hospitality design is centred around the people who return to the property time and time again. To be nominated by the people is the biggest honour there is. Last Friday we were awarded the Myanmar National Real Estate Award for Best Restoration Heritage Building, and two weeks ago, a Blue Plaque from the Yangon Heritage Trust. We have been shortlisted by Property Guru for the Best Interior Hotel Design 2019 and Philippe and the incredible operations team have also been nominated for the Myanmar Responsible Tourism Award.