For our second stay in Yangon on my most recent trip to Myanmar, we selected the Best Western Chinatown on the edge of Yangon’s downtown area. It received good reviews online and photos promised modern rooms in a central enough location, but we ended up disappointed after our stay – read on to find out why!
Location: The Best Western Chinatown is located on the edge of Yangon’s busy downtown area. While that looks good on a map, it’s not really close to any of the places you’d want to be as a visitor. It’s a 20 minute walk to the downtown area around Sule Pagoda and more than 40 minutes to the Shwedagon Pagoda or Kandwagyi Lake, making a 10 minute taxi ride much more appealing. The area around the hotel is fairly run-down and not nearly as nice as the areas around Kandawgyi or Inya Lake. There a plenty of street side shops and food stalls nearby and bars & restaurants in walking distance. The ride to the airport is 40-60 minutes, similar to other places in the city.
Service/Rewards: On arrival, the small lobby was busy and there was a wait to check-in. Staff was professional and quick to process the check-in, although not as friendly as at other hotels we stayed at in Myanmar. English was more limited, resulting in some issues with other guests.
Despite being a Best Western Diamond Elite member, there were none of the promised benefits offered – no amenities or a hoped for upgrade. Due to the English limitations and my lack of local language skills, I didn’t attempt to ask for the benefits. The points for our stay posted without issues a few days after departure.
Housekeeping made up our room quickly and thoroughly, leaving it properly prepared each day. The restaurant staff seemed to be overwhelmed by the busy breakfast crowd and was not up to the task. They were the most unfriendly staff we met on our whole trip and certainly could use a charm class or three.
Room: We received the Executive Room I had booked and it’s very modern. While the room looks like the online photos, the experience is very different and a bit overwhelming: It’s an extravaganza in Gold, with gold wall paper, gold in the carpet and bed throw and a shiny, golden headboard behind the bed. While that is somewhat understandable in Chinatown, it’s a bit much for my taste and looks more tacky than upscale to me.
The room has a comfortable queen-size bed, a small desk and chair as well as separate seating area. You also get a closet with enough storage, a mini-fridge, coffee/tea facilities, a large, wall-mounted TV and a safe – all in good condition and fully functioning.
The bathroom was the main reason I booked the upgraded room – it has a glass wall to the bedroom for more light and a curtain for privacy. It also features a separate glass-enclosed shower and deep soaking tub under the bedroom window, comfortably shaped with arm rests! The sink sits on a countertop with plenty of space for your toiletries. The towels were thick and soft, yet the toiletries were pretty basic and offensive smelling – the gold bottles didn’t make up for that.
Our room had a nice view over town and towards the Shwedagon Pagoda, but that’s a mixed blessing, as the room is facing the busy street below and has insufficient noise insulation, making it very loud and difficult to get sleep. With the hotel’s corner location, it’s difficult to recommend another, quieter room. There is free WiFi internet in the rooms that worked reasonably well.
Restaurant/Amenities: The hotel doesn’t offer a pool or fitness center, which is surprising in this hotel category. Another potential issue for anybody with limited mobility is the fact that the elevator does not go to the ground floor, but is reached via a small staircase.
The restaurant itself looks modern and consists of several smaller rooms, with seating in the front, the buffet and kitchen around a corner and more seating in the back. It was pretty busy during our visit, but not unpleasant. Our rate included a buffet breakfast and it offered a small selection of pastries, fruit and hot local dishes and some breakfast meats as well as a make-to-order egg station. English was limited, so unless you speak Burmese, your make-to-order success is equally limited. The taste and quality of the breakfast items was not as good as the similarly priced Esperado Hotel, but good enough to get you started into the day!
Bottomline: At a price of $101/night including breakfast, I’d consider the Best Western Chinatown overpriced and a poor value. The hotel is on the edge of downtown, in a run-down neighborhood which is fine for the many budget hotels, but clashes with the hotel category. Service and breakfast are below average and the hotel lacks amenities I’d expect in this price category, leaving little reason to recommend it. While the rooms are large and modern, the decor is a bit much and the noise issue can’t be fixed without a major renovation. There are no benefits from the Best Western brand, even for elite members in their program. If you can afford this category of hotel, you are better off staying at the Esperado Hotel or the Chatrium near Kandwagyi Lake. If you need to be in downtown, I’d recommend staying closer to Sule Pagoda.