In Focus

Floating Hotel Mandalay Reopens in Royal Style

By Stuart Alan Becker , Photos By Si Thu Lwin

With a number of rooms converted into an onboard aromatherapy spa. this month’s opening of the Floating Hotel Mandalay also marks the addition of a coffee shop and beer pub on the jetty. Operations Director Thant Zaw Oo, known by his nickname Sam, of the Unique Mentor Hospitality Consultancy said the hotel operated for the previous three years taking trips across the river to Mingun. About 150 meters long and built five years ago about 200 miles upriver in Bamaw in Kachin State, the Floating Hotel Mandalay was often cruising when guests would arrive, leaving them to wait on the bank. Under the new owners with the coffee shop and beer pub on the jetty bank, the plan is to keep the big 3-deck riverboat moored on the bank or the Irrawaddy, with occasional departures on special occasions — like weddings and evening cruises — as Myanmar moves into the high season.

“The concept has changed 100 percent,” said Thant Zaw Oo. “Previously the Floating Hotel was cruising every Saturday and Sunday to Mingun— and when customers arrived, they were left standing on the jetty. They got a lot of complaints,” he said.
Thus, the new concept is staying right at the jetty and hosting special groups and weddings.The new owner is managing director of the Alliance Synergy Group, which also has a trading company.“We will have cruises on special occasions like on New Years,” Thant Zaw Oo said.

On the top deck, there’s a multi-purpose dining hall, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner — and ready to host weddings and other party groups.“We also moved the reception desk to the jetty,” Thant Zaw Oo said, “making it easier for arriving guests to check in.”On the top deck party area, Thant Zaw Oo says the best sunset views in Mandalay are available, casting the colors over the wide Irrawaddy and into the mountain range in the distance.  “You can see the water, the land and mountain, the three beauties of nature from here.”According to the records of the previous three years of operation, most of the guests were European with about ten percent Chinese visitors, other Asians and local Burmese people. His effort for the coming season is to try to get some of the old customers back.There’s a new chef on board, specializing in Chinese cuisine, brought in from a restaurant near the Chinese border. “We are going to focus on Asian dishes,” he said. The Floating Hotel Mandalay is the biggest hotel vessel on the Irrawaddy with 30 rooms and a dining room capacity of 250 people. There are 70 employees including ship’s crew and three kinds of rooms:  Suites for $80, Deluxe for $65 and Superior for $50. The rooms have a choice of twin beds or double beds, all with hot and cold showers, TV, fridge, IDD calling capability and mini bar. “Most of the guests here stay four or five days and October to March is the busiest time for us,” he said. “We are the only place where you can get this experience.” The most prominent features of the Floating Hotel Mandalay are the twin golden bird heads at the front and tails aft called Karaweik with the special name Hinthar. In Myanmar’s history, the great kings and royal families would travel on the Irrawaddy in similar boats adorned with Karaweik. “We would like our customers feel like those past Burmese kings — and provide royal service,” Thant Zaw Oo said.

The official opening date this year 2017 is mid-September.

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Longtime Asia journalist Stuart Alan Becker, wrote for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, The Phnom Penh Post in Cambodia, and served as Mandalay Bureau Chief for Myanmar Times. At My Magical Myanmar, Mr. Becker serves as Editorial Consultant and is in charge of our upcoming What’s New 2017 Directory coming out this September."


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