Escaping upwards at Pan Pacific

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Pan Pacific's lavish lobby. (Supplied)

Rising above its surroundings, Pan Pacific Yangon offers an impressive level of luxury in the city, as Duncan Hines found on a recent stay. Photos supplied by Pan Pacific.

Limbs draped over a lounger, a languid wave of contentment swept over my newly kneaded body. Filling the air was Van Morrison’s Warm Love and filling the skyline was the 19th Century Holy Trinity Cathedral and, shrunk in the distance, Shwedagon Pagoda. I began marveling at these structures, like I was seeing them for the first time, despite living in Yangon for nearly a year. Perhaps the infinity pool helped.

The setting was Pan Pacific Yangon, a five-star hotel opened in November and widely expected to set a new standard of luxury in Myanmar’s commercial hub. In its shadow are Junction City Shopping Centre and the throbbing downtown streets, but guests will feel far removed from that clamor when sipping cocktails in the hotel’s bar or lounging by the pool. Handily, though, a new bridge links the shopping mall to the historic Bogyoke Aung San Market for those who wish to tackle the crowds and buy some Myanmar gifts.

Unlike, say, Singapore, Yangon is relatively low on outstanding hotels with first-class amenities. On the other hand, the city boasts an enviable trove of colonial-era buildings and a stunning heritage. Pan Pacific ticks the first-class box and capitalizes on the heritage by fitting an abundance of floor-to-ceiling windows offering sweeping views of the city.

A Cantonese Feast 

We began a recent ‘staycation’ at Pan Pacific with a coffee at Pacific Marketplace on the ground floor before heading to the lobby lounge, an airy, beige space with clay sculptures inspired by traditional earthenware found in Myanmar.

National artists and craftsmen created 60 percent of the art here, including some wonderful murals. Greeted with wet towels and glowing green juice, we headed to our deluxe king room. The sun had already set, but in the morning the motorized shades would rise to reveal a view of the historic Yangon General Hospital.

Fumbling through the ritual of flicking light switches, a wide desk was illuminated, along with its useful tray of sticker notes, pencils, scissors and other stationery.

A deluxe room.

The large sit-down shower was separated from the toilet with frosted glass, and it was possible to see the huge TV from the bath—this scores highly on staycation points. Before dinner was a good opportunity to sample the fancy creams of spirulina and Irish moss among other ingredients.

On the sixth floor and overlooking the Yangon River is Cantonese restaurant Hai Tien Lo, where we enjoyed a feast of dumplings, honeyed-chicken, and a delicious chilled mango cream with pomelo and sago. Also served were wok fried shelled prawn curry and signature rice with egg yolk and crispy anchovies. Dumplings were about US$6 and the larger dishes ranged from $15-25.

Shelves in the restaurant are filled with tokens of Chinese culture, such as scholarly works, birdcages and hand fans. A fun addition is the choice of tea leaves marked out to help determine your choice of tipple.

Happily satiated, we strode past a pair of regal Myanmar-style carved chairs and sat on the balcony of The Teak Bar, where from a rather regally priced menu we chose some digestifs and enjoyed the cool night breeze.

Myanmar Massage

Saan Buffet. (Supplied)

The buffet breakfast at Saan Restaurant is everything you would expect from such an esteemed chain, with Western, Myanmar and regional choices available. Plus it comes included with the staycation package. The fresh juice in little vases and jars of yoghurt were particularly good, although the fridge shelf designated to cheese had a forlorn vibe, the choices being either Babybel or packaged cubes of Gouda.

The next refreshments came an hour later in the form of apple water at St Gregory spa and wellness center, moments before we had an hour-long Myanmar massage. Gazing giddily at a bowl of stones and white frangipani flowers, an elbow dug meticulously into the knots in my back. Myanmar massage involves more palm and thumb work than Thai massage, which has more ‘cracking.’ Pressure was applied circularly to the whole of my body, the stress melted away, and I was left feeling pleasantly sleepy. This, perhaps, was the highlight of the stay.

Staff were always keen to help. This was proved quite dramatically when my partner mistook the emergency red button in the Finnish sauna for an activation press. Within seconds, my partner recalled, a female staff member was there, ready to save the day. Instead she turned on the sauna for the sheepish bather.

There’s also a sauna in the men’s, as well as a steam room and Jacuzzi in each changing room. Gold-colored taps and sinks line the rooms, which also include private showers with small benches to place your kit.

The infinity pool at Pan Pacific. (Supplied)

I slightly regretted not visiting the pool in the evening, underneath the stars, but the setting, with loungers in the shallows and a vertical garden wall, was impressive in the morning sun. Secluded on the other part of the floor is an outdoor garden that catches most of the sunshine. And in the vicinity is a gym with state-of-the-art equipment, pads and a punch bag.

Putting some vertical distance between myself and the city streets was a welcome break. From above things look, and usually are, better, and so Pan Pacific offers the perfect nearby escape.

From 6pm to 10:30pm on February 14-18, couples will be able to enjoy the “Champagne Valentine” package at the infinity poolside pavilion bar for $100 net. It will be inclusive of one bottle of champagne, Valentines Canapés, and door gift and flowers for the lady.

A weekend staycation in a deluxe room cost$129 net inclusive of breakfast for two persons. Also, from 6-10:30pm on February 14-18, couples will be able to enjoy the “Champagne Valentine” package at the infinity poolside pavilion bar for $100 net. It will be inclusive of one bottle of champagne, Valentine’s canapés, and a door gift and flowers for the lady.

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