On my return trip to Bagan, I wanted to stay again in Old Bagan, close to the river and the many amazing temples – it had made my first trip very special and I was hoping for the same. Based on online review, I booked the Aye Yar River View for this special occasion and it did not disappoint!
Location: The Aye Yar River View Hotel has a prime spot on the river in the heart of Old Bagan, with the old temples all around and a small one on the hotel grounds. The airport in Nyaung U is a 20 minute taxi ride away, the towns of New Bagan and Nyaung U about 15 minutes and most of the temples inside the triangle created by the three towns. You can reach some of the temples on foot (a long walk) and the majority of them more easily by electric scooter or car. On my first visit the main transportation to see the temples were donkey carts or bicycles, but now, with cars and electric scooters as standard transport, the central location is less critical. But Old Bagan is still the quieter and nicer place, making it my favorite spot to stay for visiting Bagan!
Service: The check-in at the Aye Yar River View hotel was friendly and quick, the cold towel and welcome drink much appreciated. The resort is spread out over the beautiful grounds we were brought to our room.
The staff was very helpful in making recommendations, organizing transport and tours, renting out the hotel scooters or making dinner arrangements. They speak English very well and were attentive and friendly throughout. Restaurant staff was equally attentive and housekeeping made up our room quickly and thoroughly each day, restocking supplies as appropriate.
While service is generally warm and friendly in the region, at the Aye Yar River View it was also knowledgeable and professional, not necessarily a given.
Room: We had booked a Deluxe Room, which is located in an older building near the pool and with a tree shaded courtyard in front. Our room was large, with dark wood floors, white walls and dark wood furniture. Colorful bed throws, local paintings and artwork as well as the lamps provided a local feel. Glass doors open to a small balcony with two chairs and a table, overlooking the garden and pool. The king-size bed has a very firm mattress, typical for the region.
A small desk with chair, a luggage bench and TV table were held in the same dark wood. You’ll also find a small fridge, coffee/tea facilities and a small (tube!) TV – I haven’t seen one of those in a while, but we didn’t come for the TV program and didn’t turn it on during our trip. The room certainly shows its age and while everything is in working condition, it just felt old and in need of a renovation.
The bathroom is very big as well and offers a separate bathtub with shower head and curtain as well as a shower cubicle with rainfall shower head. The vessel style sink sits on a wooden closet with plenty of space for your toiletries. The toilet has its own little cubicle, but no door. The bathroom is held in grey marble floor tiles and white wall tiles. Similar to the bedroom, everything was working and clean, but was clearly old and also would benefit from a renovation.
Because I was slightly disappointed by the old rooms, I asked for a tour of the other room categories and found them to be significantly better.
Grand Deluxe Rooms: These rooms are in a separate building between the pool and the river, overlooking the gardens and upper-level rooms may have a partial river view. They are significantly larger than the Deluxe Rooms with a separate seating area and larger desk as well as bigger balcony. The floors and wood furniture is newer and overall nicer.
The same applies to the bathroom, which is held in beige/brown tones with a large bathtub and nicer sink and toilet.
Premier Room: These rooms are located on the river front and have balconies looking out over the river and towards the sunset. The towns river port is right in front, so there could be some noise during busy times. The rooms are the smallest of the three, but have very nice floors and furniture for a much more upscale look.
I especially liked the bathroom with its nice stone tiles, separate shower, sink & vanity table and a bathtub by the window.
While in many chain hotels, different room categories are often hard to distinguish, each category at the Aye Yar River is a significant step up, justifying the higher price.
Amenities/Restaurant: One feature that sets the Aye Yar River Hotel apart are the beautiful grounds that are carefully landscaped and well maintained. They have built the hotel around a small temple, added water features and built a garden on the rooftop of the riverfront building with chairs, loungers and a small sunset bar. All of these gardens and greenery make the resort feel much more quiet and peaceful than you’d expect from a hotel of this size.
The pool area is equally well landscaped and surrounded by trees. It’s well kept and a great place to relax after a day of touring the temples.
Beyond the pool area is the small spa that benefits from the peaceful setting. The treatment room I looked at was older, but well kept and had a private deep soaking tub.
The gym is small and old with a bike and crosstrainer for a basic cardio workout.
The hotel has a bar as well as an all-day restaurant. Both are open-air and overlook the garden and pool.
The breakfast is served buffet style and offers a selection of fruit, yogurt, cereal, pastries, juice, tea and coffee, as well as hot meats and local dishes and a made-to-order eggs. The selection and quality was good, but not as good as you’ll find at other upscale hotels in the region.
Dinner offered a choice of a la carte dinner as well as a combination of buffet for salad, soup and dessert and a choice of main course from the menu. The menu offered a mix of local and international dishes somewhat weighted towards the mostly Western visitors at the hotel. We had dinner at the hotel twice and the food was good, but not spectacular. The buffet choices for salad and soup were limited,, but fresh. We tried various chicken and fish dishes and they were all tasty.
On certain days, they set up a bar at the riverfront, which was our favorite place for sunset. They offer a selection of happy hour cocktails, beer and wine, as well as a small buffet of hors d’oeuvres. The sunset views are stunning and I couldn’t picture a more perfect place to relax after a day of sightseeing. This alone is worth staying at the Aye Yar River View!
Bottomline: The great location in Old Bagan, beautiful sunset views over the river, lush grounds and nice pool are the highlights of the Aye Yar River Hotel. Prices in Myanmar have shot up since the opening of the country and with no new hotels in Old Bagan, the location comes at a premium. At $147/night the old Deluxe Rooms offer just ok value – they need a renovation. I’d happily stay at the Aye Yar River View again and for a special occasion would choose the Premium Rooms for a truly upscale experience. If you are looking for better value, a newer hotel in New Bagan or Nyaung U might be an alternative for you!