27th Blue Plague Unveiled at the iconic Strand Hotel

08 February 2019

The Strand Hotel near Yangon’s waterfront received a commemorative blue plaque on 07.Feb.2019. The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the installation of the blue plaque was attended by the Chief Minister of Yangon Region, U Phyo Min Thein, ministers and invited guests. The Strand Hotel has had a chequered past, often described as one of the riches to rags to struggle and back to riches, but it has always remembered and remained and integral part of Yangon.

The Strand Hotel was founded by Aviet and Tigran Sarkies, two famed Armenian hoteliers. The brothers had already opened Eastern & Orient in Penang and Raffles Hotel in Singapore. After lengthy negotiation and renovation of a 12-room wooden boarding house with Views of the Yangon River, the Strand Hotel was opened for business in 1901. The new 60-room Strand Hotel stood tall at three stories, with each floor surrounded by a lofty verandah to keep the interior guest rooms cool. The Strand Hotel soon gained a reputation as “the finest hostelry East of Suez”, and played host to international royalty, ambassadors and notables of the era. In 1905, the Sarkies brothers built an iron canopy over the main entrance, offering guest’s shelter from rain and sun.

The hotel was passed on to the new owners, led by restaurateur Peter Bugalar Aratoon in 1925. Two years later, the hotel was renovated and a concrete drive-way with a portico and a new kitchen added. During World War II, the Imperial Hotel Tokyo took over management of the Strand Hotel. From 1942 to 1945, the hotel was renamed the Yamato Hotel. It quickly fell into disrepair as the Japanese officers used the ground floor as a stable for their horses. After the war, the land the hotel stood on was sold to Steel Brothers & Co., for 10.5 million rupees and the buildings were again renovated.

Like many other private businesses, the Strand Hotel was nationalized at the start of the Social era. As the arrival of tourists declined significantly, the hotel deteriorated. It was not until 1990, after decades of neglect, the Strand found a new lease of life when a joint venture between Myanmar government and Indonesian hotelier, Adrian Zecha, resulted in a three year-long renovation of the premises. The successful restoration was followed by the reopening of the Strand Hotel as an icon of luxury in Yangon. The hotel is now managed by Myanmar Hotels International (MHI), a joint venture between the government and Strand Hotel International. In 2016, the Strand Hotel underwent a six-month long restoration that saw the heritage hotel ushered into the 2lst century when it reopened in November, In November 2017, The Strand completed its transformation into an urban resort with the addition of a new outdoor swimming pool, dining terrace, therapy rooms, gym and private garden.

Yangon Heritage Trust’s Founder and Chairman, Dr. Thant Myint-U said, ““These Blue Plaques are meant both to celebrate sites of historical importance and to protect them going forward. Receiving a Blue Plaque means a place is no longer any ordinary property; there will be special responsibilities and a need for ongoing public attention.”

“We are honoured that The Strand Yangon is the first hotel to be the recipient of a blue plaque from the Yangon Heritage Trust and that the Strand’s history is being commemorated with this internationally recognized symbol of cultural significance,” commented Suki Singh, Vice President Operations, and Myanmar for GCP Hospitality. “The entire Strand team considers itself fortunate to be the guardian of this beautiful building and thereby to over a century of Yangon heritage. If the walls of the hotel could talk, they would tell tales of the adventurers, royalty, writers and raconteurs who have passed through its doors, as well as the highs and lows of the city we live in. We look forward to preserving this piece of Yangon heritage for generations to come.”

Blue Plaques are permanent signs installed at heritage buildings and places to commemorate a link between those buildings and places and, a famous person, event or landmark-serving as a historical marker. The objective for installing Blue Plaques is for people to value the already known heritage sites and for them to recognize the lesser known places. The Blue Plaque Project is supported by Yangon City Development Committee and supporting partners, and implemented by Yangon Heritage Trust (YHT). YHT believes that Blue Plaques are one of the most effective and visible means to celebrate Yangon’s rich history. With their direct appeal to the public, they will make Yangon’s history accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds.

Dave