On the Road to Mandalay
Mad dogs and Englishmen spring to mind, the famous song by Nöel Coward, however instead of the mid-day sun we were greeted on the first of our twelve-day journey with a tropical downpour with such velocity that it sent everyone scurrying for cover and their umbrellas.
Today it was Yangon.
The rain was over in a flash and thankfully Eastern and Oriental hotels had arrange to meet us at the airport and we were already safely ensconced inside our luxurious and very new and very shiny black minivan with deep upholstered arm chairs.
We were on a journey to Asia’s ‘hot ticket’ destination – Myanmar. Our trip would take us north to Bagan and Mandalay.
We British still call Myanmar ‘Burma’ but this is politically incorrect. A former British outpost, the name Burma was made famous in the UK by the uncle of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and the second cousin once removed to HRH Queen Elizabeth. The uncle was Lord Mountbatten of Burma. Born Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten and affectionately called ‘Dickie’ by his family.
After the second world war, Mountbatten served as the last viceroy (governor of a country who rules as the representative of his monarch) of India from March through August of 1947. He oversaw the creation of India and Pakistan.
During this time the title Lord Mountbatten of Burma was created; he also served as Governor-General of India for a year, from 1947-1948.
The 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma (1900-1979) was one of the last of Britain’s great war heroes, assassinated by the IRA in 1979.
We arrived at the Governor’s Residence after a 30 minute drive. A beautiful 5 star all teak colonial-era hotel. It is located in the Embassy Quarter near the Shwedagon Pagoda in Dagon Township,Yangon (formerly Rangoon – the ruling military junta changed its name from Rangoon to Yangon and Burma to Myanmar in 1989).
The elegant teak mansion was built in 1920. The two-story building, as its official name denotes, served as the official home of the governors of the British Crown Colony of Burma.
The rooms are spacious and very well equipped. The floors are beautifully polished (squeaky clean) teak and the room and bathrooms exquisite.
We started our evening with cocktails in the hotel’s aptly named Kipling bar before heading off for a short trip to meet Mr Sonny Aung Khin owner of the famous Padonmar Restaurant (means Lotus Flower). Billed as ‘Fine Dining Myanmar & Thai Cuisine’ it was a real treat. An outstanding kitchen and service to match (a team of 130) Sonny’s restaurant is set in a beautiful house with extensive gardens and private rooms. A popular choice, the restaurant was busy even at this wet/green time of year.
The meal was delicious, possibly the best Asian food I have had all year. We tried the local red wine. A deep ruby, soft wine with Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot characteristics, quite excellent.