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Published: December 22nd 2009
It looks like Father Christmas threw up in the lobby of the ParkRoyal Hotel.
The lobby is decorated in a garish red/green/gold theme. Several huge Christmas trees, covered in long loops of sparkling lights and glittering ornaments, are located just inside the entry. Christmas carols are blaring on the hotel's speaker system.
The Christmas decorations don't stop at the lobby....the exterior of the hotel is also exploding with colored lights and decorations. Large signs plastered with images of Mickey, Minny, Goofy and friends in festive attire invite guests to enjoy a "Very Disney Christmas". Doubtful that Disney execs in Orlando/Los Angeles know about these signs. In a predominantly Buddhist country, and an extremely poor country, these tacky displays are just wrong.
Even more surreal - our hotel is ground zero for an international conference of Jehovah's Witnesses. The 200+ attendees, many of them Americans, have more or less taken over the ParkRoyal. We take this as a sign that it is time to leave the country.
A little more about the ParkRoyal. The hotel is in a great location and the rooms and facilities are more modern than most hotels in Yangon. The hotel also claims to have the most hip and fashionable (karaoke) bar in town....we gave it a miss. Our room was modern and clean but our last night in Burma was surprisingly bad. When we booked the room we were worried about noise from the karaoke bar but luckily that was not an issue on the 7th floor. Instead we had to endure noise associated with hotel renovations - the 7th floor was in the process of being painted. The sound of hotel staff moving heavy items back and forth down the hall at 10 p.m. was annoying but nothing compared to the noise emanating from the room directly opposite our room at 3am. We're not certain but we think we heard a circular saw being operated!
This morning we walked down to the FMI Centre to settle up with William. He is a lovely person and we chatted with him about our trip and possible itineraries for a future trip. If you are considering a trip to Burma, you should definitely send him an email.
We explored Yangon a bit more and bought some postcards and stamps (what a bargain! $0.05 to send a postcard to the U.S.). Around 11am, we headed to the airport. We booked our flight to Singapore on JetStar but discovered that our flight was a codeshare and that we were flying on an airline called "Myanmar International Airlines". For a moment we were worried that we'd booked an expensive flight on a government-owned airline but it turns out that "Myanmar International Airlines" is a joint venture between Malaysian Airlines and JetStar. Phew.
The international terminal is quite nice. While we waited for our plane we checked email and sipped lattes. Bad weather in Singapore today - high winds, heavy rains and flooding - but luckily our departure was only delayed by 30 minutes and the 2.5 hour flight itself was fine. After almost two months of travel it was a bit weird to be on a flight where announcements were made in English first and our captain was Australian.
We arrived in Singapore around 6pm. The Singapore airport is one of the nicest, cleanest, most efficient airports in the world. We zipped through immigration and customs, got our bags and took a taxi to our hotel, the St. Regis.
And now we must pause (again) to say thank you to our wonderful friend Alison, who got us a discount at this truly five star hotel. We'll describe the hotel in our next blog entry but let's just say we are very comfortable.
Time to sign off - our butler Wilmore is at the door!
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