As the customary way of commuting in Myanmar, upon our arrival at the bus terminal we then boarded a Japanese pick-up truck they called as “lain-ka” (line car) – that will deliver us to our respective hotels / hostels. Already finding my seat at the spacious 12-seater back of the truck along with four other Western travelers, the driver who is pointing a finger at me recited aloud “You will be the first”. I reckoned Hotel by the Red Canal – my accommodation in Mandalay, will be the first destination along the route. I nodded my head as I look forward to taking a short rest before meeting in person, a Filipina expat I met through Tinder.
|Hotel by the Red Canal's Spice Garden dishes a stellar feast|
As we rolled down the dusty and busy streets of Mandalay I stretched my feet and relishes the space provided by the truck as opposed to the compressed mini bus I took for 6 hours from Bagan. A few turns later our truck made a complete halt and the driver’s companion got out and told me “This is your place, Red Canal”. I hear the two couples made a sound of “oohs and ahhh”. The elderly man said to me “That look impressive mate. I wish we are staying there”. I smiled at the four of them and waved goodbye.
|My spacious room; the Rakhine|
I felt weird appearing to them as this solo Asian traveler who can afford such a fancy place. Well I could not. However, the kind management of Red Canal was generous enough to gift me with a complimentary three-night stay. One of those travel-blogger perks I enjoy once in a while.
Upon entering I was instantly greeted by the jovial hospitality of the Burmese people to which I am starting to get used to. Smiles abound as the doorman asked if he could carry my backpack. “It’s okay” I told him. Stepping inside the small courtyard and the garden I quickly saw the pool on my left and the impressive three-story colonial mansion to my right.
After checking-in and showing me to my room, Hotel by the Red Canal’s Front Office Manager May Thu Win toured me around the property which sits literally across a narrow canal that leads to a moat that surrounds the Mandalay Palace. She narrated the hotel's history and I learned that prior to its inception as a hotel, the property used to function as the Chinese Consulate, before it was acquired by an Indian businessman who made a small series of renovations before turning it into a hotel.
Hotel by the Red Canal boasts of 25 customized rooms divided into four categories; the Chin, Shan, Kachin and the Rakhine room that was assigned for myself. Each room comes with special features such as the outdoor shower area for Kachin, the wide balcony of Chin, the garden view of Shan and the wide brass bed of Rakhine.
|View from the Canopy Bar|
The intimate setting of Hotel by the Red Canal didn’t escaped me as I felt like being a resident of an enormous household where fellow guests and the hotel’s staff appears as part of a collective family.
|Book your flights at the E-Hub|
Wooden-based furniture and antique aesthetics dominate the interior giving it a more throwback vibe fit for a place like Mandalay, which is known as an ancient city by virtue of being Myanmar’s ‘last royal city’.
|I had my me-muscle time here|
On the second floor situates the veranda for the afternoon tea where the hotel provides free snack and unlimited coffee and tea. Further down the hallway is a small gym where I worked out for a couple of hours during my entire stay at Red Canal.
At the third floor is where the business E-hub is located. Here, guests can use the laptop to make online bookings and research travel plans or just read a book. Outdoors, just below the swimming pool a door leads to the underground Prana Spa which was made of materials used in typical Myanmar villages.
|A beautiful staff greets me at the door of Prana Spa|
Beside the pool is where the in-house restaurant Spice Garden situates. Included in many ‘Where-to-Eat-in-Mandalay’ listicles, Spice Garden serves authentic Northern and Southern Indian dishes as well as a sumptuous fusion of Indian-Burmese cuisines. For three mornings, the delicious breakfast buffet served as my much needed fuel in exploring the sights all over Mandalay.
|A well deserved Ayurvedic treatment after a whole day of biking|
Every evening when the clock strikes 6:00 pm, a poolside cocktail social is set up complete with a cultural musical show and candlelit walkways. Here, guests can enjoy free drinks and snacks but more importantly, a chance to get to know each other. On my 2nd night here I met a few other guests and talked about our collective Myanmar experience and exchanged a few travel tips – with me offering some Philippines travel information.
|The hotel's staff were always nice and friendly|
Over-all I really enjoyed staying at Hotel by the Red Canal not just because they sponsored me. But for the reason that everyone was so accommodating and as I observed them, I noticed how they exhibited the same demeanor to other guests. Up to the last minute they made sure I get into the bus heading back to Bagan and as I stepped out of the property I waved at the staff huddled at the front gate and bid them goodbye. Their smiles made a fitting send-off for my satisfied wandering soul back to Bagan and unfortunately, towards the tail-end of my return trip to Myanmar.
Special thanks to the following:
General Manager Name : Mr.Ashwin Kumar
Operation Manager Name :Ms.Marya
Front Office Manager Name :Ms.May Thu Win
F & B Manager : Mr.Thein Htun