Pan Pacific’s staycation:
All you need is here, some 220 meters above the ground.
THE concept of staycation is tried and tested. Spending time in one’s home country or city rather than abroad is both ecological and in vogue. But the idea of having a relaxing time while staying in downtown Yangon seemed far-fetched.
Could one really take a break from the city without even crossing the River or Inya Lake? This is what Pan Pacific, one of the swankiest hotel in town, promises with its staycation package. Weekend was invited to test the idea.
Just like a vacation abroad, our adventure started by a great deal of time spent in a taxi – we were not going to the airport, but crossing downtown from east to west on a Saturday afternoon. Shaking off the chaos of the city will take more than a nice room and a welcome cocktail, we thought.
Upon arrival, we were immediately taken to St Gregory’s spa on the wellness floor of the hotel. Our staycation started with a fresh towell, a cup of jasmine tea and a simple question: “what sort of massage do you want?”. The noise and the smell of petrol started to wear off gently.
As our bags went up to our room, we landed on a massage table overlooking Yangon – or rather, face down, looking at a bowl of freshly cut flowers placed under the table.
I opted for a traditional Burmese massage, my staycation partner for a balinese one. One is usually asked to undress for a massage, but a Burmese massage entails putting more and more layers of cloth. I was offered a cotton shirt from Shan state (if you are taller than 1m70 you will inevitably look like an oversized kid in a pijame), and my masseuse started putting towels after towels on my back.
Burmese massage are a series of pressures applied all over one’s body with thumbs and elbows. It is both muscular and relaxing. The manager of the spa told us that, traditionally, lay people would give massages to the monks, hence the absence of skin contact.
After 60 minutes, I could not claim to have attained any sort of enlightenment but I was totally relaxed and my sense of self gone out of the window.
Into a corner After having been massaged into the weekend, we checked in and were taken to our room. We were “put in a corner” we were told. That sounded harsh. It wasn’t. The corner in question was a room situated on one angle of the hotel’s tower, overlooking both the Shwedagon pagoda to the right and the Yangon River to the left. The view was breathtaking.
The glowing spire of the pagoda reminded us that the sun was about to set. We grabbed our swimsuits and went to the pool.
In the elevator we met a family in bathrobe and slippers who gave us the impression of having extended their staycation, indefinitely. We almost felt embarrassed to be dressed.
The pool held all its promises. The tip of the Holy Trinity cathedral gave the impression of floating over the water. The noise of the cars could only be heard from a distance.
As the sun came down, a gentle folly started to seize the guests. On our left, a group of girls started to waterboard each other with champagne. Iphones were out, flashing instagram pictures left, right and centre. A dozen of people started to pose around the pool. Everybody stood still, having fun taking pictures of them having fun (imagine Madame Tussaud turned into a disco). But Pan Pacific poolside is definitely one of the best place to snap a picture and have your Facebook friends die of jealousy, we were told.
After sunset Right after dark, we went back to our room to freshen up before dinner. What was to be a quick fix turned into a real ceremony. For our room had…. a bath. I could not remember the last time I took a real bath, in a proper bath tub. Non-self started to become an even more tangible concept as the staycation went on.
All dressed up we joined the hotel management for a chat. The bar, the elegant guess, the vodka martini gave the terraces of Pan Pacific an air of James Bond movie.
We were explained that the idea of a staycation package was born during the Thingyan festival when some Yangonites who wanted to escape the noise and the splashing took refuge in the hotel for a few days.
That makes sense. Pan Pacific is located right on top of Junction City, one of downtown’s biggest city mall. While parents go to the gym or the spa, kids can easily pop downstairs and enjoy games while teens have one of the biggest cinema at disposal. “Everything you need is here,” is the staycation package’s credo.
After having slurped our drinks, we
proceeded to the dining. This reviewer had already reviewed Saan in the past and gave it a couple of stars. After a few month running, we can add another. The diversity of the buffet has improved and the quality of the service has significantly gone up. Your glass is never left empty and dirty plates are being cleaned up the minute you go for a refill.
It would be too long to list here all the delicacies one can enjoy at Saan, but sufficed to say that the buffet is “all you can eat” but also “all you can dream of” (from a satay buffet, Polish sausages, to noodle, sushis, roast beef and Burmese curries).
The day ended with a full belly, under crispy fresh bed sheets, streaming movies. Pan Pacific beats the most luxurious Nay Pyi Taw hotels in that sector.
During sunrise In the morning, as the electric blinds let the sunshine uncover Yangon, I stood by the window and looked as the long queues of cars some 200 meters down. Never had the image of Yangon’s traffic looked so remote and appeasing.
The scene was so gripping that I decided to go off-piste, ditch the breakfast buffet and ordered oranges, coffee and croissant via the room service. I stayed there for a good hour, looking at the waltz of cars on Bogyoke street.
After a quick read by the pool, we headed towards our final staycation activity: the Chinese buffet.
This was the highlight of the trip. Pan Pacific offers a very high-end sort of Chinese cuisine (cantonese, to be precise). The atmosphere is a tad more sophisticated than at Saan. Tables are elegantly laid with porcelain bowls. Tea, of course, is served the second you sit down.
Most of the rolls are made under your eyes on a little station. Steamed dumplings are both generous and delicate. Our very favorite was the poached shrimp dumpling in Szechuan sauce.
The roasted duck was juicy and tender. The stir fried squid with XO sauce was exquisite – I had forgotten squid needs not to be chewy and rubbery. Having ordered another round of pretty much everything we had liked, we were left with no space for dessert.
Pan Pacific staycation package is a combination of luxury treats, executed with style by a well-trained staff and a management with an eye for details. The interior of the hotel has been designed with taste – hotels are usually impersonal, Pan Pacific is not.
But the most striking thing is that wherever you lay your eyes, you’re constantly reminded that your up, way up. There, in your glass bubble, the chaos of the city is almost a show to be enjoyed.
The weekend ended and we returned to ground zero. True to the principle of staycation, we had not flown anymore. Still, the landing was brutal.
The Staycation Escapes packages are available on weekends (from Friday to Sunday and on public holidays.the packages are only offered to local residents. The first package includes one room with breakfast and all-you-can-eat Chinese lunch at our Hai Tien Lo Chinese Restaurant, for USD132 (one person) or USD160 (two). The second package includes a room with breakfast and dinner at the SAAN Restaurant for USD 140 (single) or USD 175 (double). A third package is in preparation and will include a room with breakfast, Afternoon Tea at Teak Bar and 60 minute spa treatment at St. Gregory Spa. Pan Pacific is located on the corner of Bogyoke Aung San Road and Shwedagon Pagoda Road, Pabedan township, Yangon. Telephone: +95 1 925 3810 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A vacation in a high-castle.
Expert hands for broken backs.
An all you can eat, all you can dream buffet.