SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English
Khin Maung Htwe ”From Physicist to Hotel Proprietor”
Everybody has a dream. Some people can make their dreams come true and some have to walk away from their dreams. A lot of children dream of becoming doctors, engineers, artists, businessmen, and so on, devoting themselves to improve their skills to become famous in the world in their own fields.
In my childhood, I dreamt of becoming an airplane pilot. However, now I am the proprietor of “Hotel AKIMOMI” which I established in Pyin Oo Lwin in Myanmar, a highland sightseeing resort similar to Karuizawa in Japan.
I studied abroad in Japan in October, 1988. I grew up in a family of optometrists, but had no interest in medical science and wanted to become a pilot. However, my parents opposed this. As a result, I majored in physical science at Mandalay Technological University and, after graduation, studied abroad in Japan. I visited many places in Japan as a tourist and for conferences, and boarded together with seminar students. In Japan, I could experience and enjoy various sceneries and cultures and also enjoyed various Japanese food cultures.
When I travelled across Myanmar in my childhood during in the 1970s, there were no hotels nor ‘min-shuku’ (private guesthouse) and I had to stay at the houses or cottages of our relatives. I could stay at national guesthouses sometimes because my father had some connections. At that time, hotels in Myanmar were almost only occupied by foreign tourists. When I visited Kalaw, a highland tourist spot, I stayed at the Kalaw Hotel which was built in the British era. It was my first opportunity to stay at a hotel. Kalaw is a town where many summer resort houses were built during the English colonial era and is known as “pine hill”. There are a lot of foreign visitors, especially from Europe and America, and even now it is very famous for trekking on Trip Advisor.
Everything about the experience became an unforgettable memory, much like the first encounter with a lover, the feeling of staying at a hotel for the first time, the preparation of the rooms, the taste of breakfast, the comfortable air and atmosphere of the English colonial style. I visited Kalaw many times after that and thought about staying at this hotel. However, even so I never imagined that I would run my own hotel.
In 1997, I obtained a doctor’s degree from the Faculty of Engineering at Waseda University. I returned to Myanmar after serving as an assistant for the School of Applied Physics. There were no positions for “physicists” in Myanmar and I devoted myself to working towards the development of Myanmar through using my experiences in Japan as a proprietor. As I was a researcher while studying abroad, after returning to Myanmar I tried my hand at being “a shrimper with a PhD in engineering”, “a scientific farmer” and “a hotel proprietor who thinks about different cultures and environmental conservation.”
It is the image of old Japan, rather than new Japan, that remains in my mind. For example, I am interested most in buildings which make full use of traditional Japanese wood craftsmanship. When I was building “Hotel AKIMOMI”, I asked a Japanese architect in his 70s who had profound knowledge of traditional Japanese wooden houses to help me realize my dream image of Japan. It took about two years to complete. I could reproduce the image of Japan through a restaurant for Japanese food, a large public bath and food stands made using materials available in Myanmar. I aimed to achieve the best service and the best engineering which I had experienced in Japan in Myanmar.
As a result of this, many hotel guests appraised my hotel as “a little Japanese village”.
With regard to international appraisal of hotels, we received 4～4.5 out of 5 on “Trip-advisor”. On “Booking.com”, we got 8.3～8.7 out of 10 and 8.0 out of 10 on “Agoda”.
In January, 2018, we received the “ASEAN Green Hotel Standard Award”. For this Award, five hotels out of all the hotels in Myanmar were selected, and “Hotel AKIMOMI” was ranked the top.
The confidence to try new things, persevering until one succeeds, caring about the responses of guests, and looking into issues pertaining to work. Shifting from “physicist to hotel proprietor” is my proudest achievement in life.
(Khim Maung Htwe /Proprietor of Hotel AKIMOMI)
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Sonja Dale