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The verdant foliage that creeps up the side of the hotel is typical of the town and the perfectly manicured grounds of Kalaw Heritage Hotel ensure that one does not forget that they are staying in an old British Hill Station.
FLASH POINT: ‘Heritage Walks’ can be made from the hotel to colonial treasures such as the houses of ‘Mr Whiting’ and ‘Mrs Childers’, the Kalaw Club, St. Agnes Convent and the supposedly haunted house just off the Circle Road (East). Ask the hotel for a map or directions.
This hotel is the oldest hotel in Kalaw, and the second oldest in Myanmar. The Kalaw Heritage Hotel history begins with the Sisson family who built the northern `Acorn` building in 1903. Today`s central `Pines` was added in 1906. During the second world war the town was occupied by the Japanese and used as both officers mess and hospital. In the 1950s it was owned by Meiktila construction mogul Mr Shofi and hosted high society weddings. Mr Shofi was arrested by General Ne Win in 1959 and the property was nationalised, becoming the Kalaw Hotel. An early advertisement for the hotel boasted of the ‘first-class tennis court, electric lights, modern sanitation and hot and cold running water … Hotel Kalaw is the tourists` haven.’
Our favourite is the Heritage Suite at the eastern corner of the Pines building, with broad views over the grounds and the hazy Shan hills in the distance. The Heritage Suites are spacious and incorporate writing desks and seating areas, heritage furniture and expansive maps of the old world over the headboard. There are also Deluxe rooms on this floor with views of garden or mountains. On the first floor of Pines is the Heritage Bar, so guests sleeping here are closest to the action. The Superior rooms are located in the oldest, quieter section of the hotel, the Acorn building, and there are Classic rooms in the 1997 Tudor building, each with a small balcony.
It`s worth dropping in for the food even if you are staying at another Kalaw hotel. The Sisson`s Restaurant offers dishes from both east and west: bread baked on site, veggies plucked from their own garden, coffee sourced in nearby Pinlaung. Last time Sampan visited we sat out upon the terrace looking over the lawn with hotel GM Olé (more on him here) and feasted on beef salad (with a spicy kick), Mandalay chicken kebab (tasty and tender) and mutton and potato samosas (double-wrapped for extra crunch!) In busier times, the Heritage Bar has served cider and Myanmar craft ale alongside the regular selection of lager and classic cocktails – the Pegu Club is a favourite. Here is also probably the best wine selection in the town.
As was the case when the Sissons were here, Kalaw attracts Yagonites desperate to escape the heat and noise of the big city. The finely clipped hedgerow, Tudor beams and elegant archways of Kalaw Heritage Hotel are a honeypot to these escapees. Here you will find them: reclining against the trunks of trees, massaging the souls of their feet on the soft lawn, swinging a few lackadaisical rounds on the tennis court before retreating to the bar. Women in flowing summer dresses pose for photos and frolic down stone steps; corporates in unbuttoned linen quaff beer from the terrace; younger domestic travellers in sunglasses and snap-back caps watch over the scene from the balconies of the newer rooms in the western wing.
Heritage Hotel is one of the most sustainable of any Kalaw hotel, committed to a responsible future through its green vision. Water is conserved from towel and linen re-use programmes and grey water is harvested to use in the hotel`s gardens; energy efficient equipment is utilised and organic waste from the kitchen is composted and – when the hotel is at maximum capacity – left-over food is sent to the local pig farms. Perhaps the most significant achievement of Kalaw Heritage is its management`s role in founding the Kalaw Tourism Organization, bringing together the formerly disparate players of Kalaw tourism into one collective; striving in unison for a greener town, a brighter future and more exceptional experiences for future visitors.
Five Britons who lived in Burma, with stories more interesting than that of Rudyard Kipling.