Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Yangon Heritage Walking Tour:
See old Rangoon, before too much is lost

See the locations on Yangon Heritage Google Map


The Strand Hotel: The legendary hotel built in 1901 along the promenade of Yangon River by the Sarkies brothers, Armenian hoteliers, is a good starting point for whoever likes to discover the architectural und cultural heritage of Yangon. The hotel stayed open after being nationalized in the 1960’s during Burma’s socialist period. When Tony Wheeler, the founder of Lonely Planet guidebooks, stayed here in the 1970’s, the hotel was in bad condition. Wheeler wrote, “By 11 p.m. you are likely to be feeling pretty lonely in the lounge area [with] just the occasional Strand rat scampering across the floor to keep you company.” Then, in 1990, a joint venture between the Burmese government and Indonesian hotelier Adrian Zecha led to restoration of the hotel. In 1993 it reopened with 32 fully renovated rooms.

Picture by Kirk Siang

Picture by travfotos
The lobby

Picture by Hella Delicious
The bar

Picture by ronancrowley


From the Strand Hotel in less than an hour's stroll you can discover a mixture of structures and styles from the British colonial era: Victorian, Queen Anne, Neoclassical, Art Deco and British-Burmese. Many of the buildings are clustered along streets laid out in a chessboard pattern centered on the Sule Pagoda. The  density of surviving colonial-era structures in Yangon is unparalleled in Southeast Asia. It is possible to walk along the Strand Road and the lower block of Pansodan Street without encountering a single modern structure.

Let's start on Strand road:

Picture by Pigalle
Custom House


Small Causes Court, former Police Commissioners Building: Its planned to turn it into a hotel. The government has leased Yangon Region Small Causes Court to Flying Tiger Engineering and Jewellery Lucky Production. A fence now surrounds it. The plan is a US$50 million five-star hotel with more than 240 rooms. The working name is The State House Hotel. A network of lawyers is opposing these plans. The Rangoon-based Myanmar Lawyers’ Network according to irrawaddy.org threatens: "If the government fails to take action against those who sold the building, our group will sue." Sai Khan Hlaing, a director of the Flying Tiger Engineering, said MIC had leased the building for 50 years with the possibility of two 10-year extensions. "The terms and conditions do not allow the original structure and architectural features of the buildings to be changed." See picture by Marcus Allender.

Picture by Pigalle


Picture by Alan Cordova
From the left: Law Courts Building (1927), Customs House (1915) and Port Authority Building (1920).


Now we walk back on Strand Road and turn around into Pansodan road:

Accountant General's Office and Currency Department: Clerks in here once oversaw the collection of colonial government revenue that came from opium), salt, custom duties, railways, post offices, telegraphs and major irrigation works.

Picture by Pigalle

Picture by HeyltsWilliam
Inside an ornamented staircase winds its way up.


Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China: Today known as Standard Chartered. The building was completed by a Hong Kong-based architectural firm on the eve of the Japanese invasion of Rangoon in World War II. The pagoda-inspired entrance tower is made of cut stone.

Picture by Pigalle
Chartered Bank of India


Stroll up Pansodan Street and you’ll arrive at Sofaer’s Building at the corner of Merchant Road. Designed by Isaac Sofaer, a Jewish immigrant from Baghdad, the building was a mix of many influences. "Its opulent façade was accented with Italianate flourishes. The floor tiles — a mosaic pattern of green, gold, burnt sienna and lapis lazuli — were shipped from Manchester, England. If visitors weren’t brave enough to enter one of the city’s first electronic lifts, they could ascend sweeping staircases carved from premium teak felled in the jungles of Upper Burma", describes Travel and Leisure. During the building’s heyday around 1910 it was an emporium. Residents of Rangoon came here for Egyptian cigarettes and fine European liqueurs or to enjoy bakery and confectionary at The Vienna Café. And at the Reuters office telegrams brought news from around the world.


Picture by Mark Abel


Lokanat Gallery in a yellow colonial-style building at 62 Pansodan street has showcased the works of contemporary Burmese artists for four decades now. In an exhibition opened in December 2013 the member artists show 100 pictures. One of them, Pe Nyunt Way, painted Rangoon’s changing urban landscape. "Each painting shows a panorama view of the skyline in downtown Rangoon, with the city’s landmark Shwedagon Pagoda featured in the center. As the paintings progress through the years, high-rise buildings gradually encroach upon the religious monument", writes irrawaddy.org.


The crossing of Pansodan with Maha Bandulan road:

Picture by eyes on Myanmar

Picture by eyes on Myanmar


General Post Office: The large maroon building at the corner of Bo Aung Kyaw Street was the headquarters of Bulloch Brothers & Co. Two Scottish brothers from Glasgow established here a very successful rice-milling firm. Today the building is used as the Central Post Office. Read


Picture by Hella Delicious


Railways Headquarters: Constructed in 1896 of laterite stone and brick. "The need for such a grand headquarters came from the amalgamation in that year of the three competing railway companies in Burma at that time, the Irrawaddy Valley State Railway (1877), the Sittang Valley State Railway (1884) and the Mu Valley State Railway (1889)", knows James Weir.

Picture by marhas
Laterite stone and brick: The railways headquarter

Picture by HeyltsWilliam

Picture by HeyltsWilliam

In Mai 2013 it was announced that Hong Kong-based Peninsula Group wants to transform the old building into a 5-Star-Hotel. It will be surrounded by new scyscrapers planned by Yoma Strategic Holding. See pictures by staryangon and DiyDetour. In October 2013 it was announced, that Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation has teamed up with Yoma Strategic Holdings. The project includes four glass and steel high-rise towers in a large complex connected to the red-brick colonial building.

Picture by Yoma Strategic Holdings
Visualization of the project: Four high-rise towers beneath the old railways headquarter.


Ministers' Office, als called The Secretariat: Located on 300 Theinbyu Road. This Victorian building, which housed the parliament from 1948-1962, was the place, where Aung San, father of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, was assassinated in 1947. The building has been closed to the public behind razor wire for more than half a century and few have ever seen inside it. Then The Secretariat was offered to a local company that wanted to turn it into a vast hotel, prompting a passionate public outcry. So instead Anawmar Art Group was awarded the lease on the building in 2012. The Singapore educated Le Yee Soe and her husband Soe Thwin Tun are directors of what is potentially one of the largest historic restoration projects. Their plan is to turn the grand building into museums, galleries and a cultural centre. But the 400,000 square foot building is two-thirds the size of the exhibition halls of the Louvre in Paris, what shows that this project will need enormous sums of money not available right now to the group. Al Jazeera found that Soe Thwin Tun’s grandfather is a former general in the military government, U Tun Gyi, who was ousted in the Khin Nyunt purge of 1997. Another board member of the Anawma group is Myanmar artist Nay Myo Say who has a good reputation as a restaurant owner. Not much has happened since these announcements, as Amaury Lorin has discovered during a visit at The Secretariat.

Picture by mckaysavage

Picture by Franc Pallarès López

High Court Building: The highest seat of justice during the British colonial rule. A red and white brick extravaganza by the architect John Ransome (built in 1911), with a clock tower whose four faces are lighted at night. Myanmar Investment Commission plans to hire the High Court building to Tun Foundation Bank Ltd for K 240 million per year. The building will be converted into a museum and a national cultural theatre will be built in for Thabin (Theatrical art) and puppet art.

Picture by mikecogh

Rowe & Co Building: Rowe&Co was known as the Harrods of the East. The steamers brought European goods to be sold in Rangoon's No 1 emporium. Later the building with the central tower was the office for the Myanmar government's immigration department. In 2005 it was moved to Myanmar's new capital in Naypyidaw. Now jade mining and construction magnate Zaw Zaw plans its transformation into a luxury hotel.

Picture by travfotos


Maha Bandula Garden: A green oasis in the city of Rangoon. The park was named after General Maha Bandula who fought against the British. You find here the the Independence Monument (Burmese independence from the British in 1948). It is popular with Tai-Chi practitioners.

Picture by Alan Cordova




Yangon City Hall: Designed in syncretic Burmese style by Burmese architect U Tin, with traditional tiered roofs, completed in 1936. You discover details like the green peacock ornamentation above the central doorway and Burmese artistic elements on the pillars and the roof.

Picture by Mike Cogh


Fytche Square Building, later: Ministry of Hotels and Tourism Office: A three storey of brick and mortar buolding with teak floors and staircases. It was also known as the Sharraz Building. The building is three storey of brick and mortar with teak floors and staircases. In 1918 U Nyunt expanded his business (Myanmar A Swe Company/Burma Favourite Company - the first Burmese owned department store) to this building. He competed with foreign department stores – Rowe & Co., Whiteaway, Laidlaw, Watson and TE Jamal. Today the ground floor is used as a tourist information centre. Now the Myanmar Investment Commission has announced that the building will be put up for tender. Local and foreign companies have been invited to bid on the property and convert it into a hotel on long-term lease. See picture by DBHKer.

Sule Paya Pagoda:

Picture by mckaysavage

Picture by Travel Aficionado

Picture by Travel Aficionado

Picture by Alan Cordova
Hexagrams


Turn round into Sule Pagoda road:

Picture by mangostani
Sula Pagoda road with Bengali Sunni Jamai Mosque


Theingyi Market: All sorts of goods, such as food, clothes, cosmetics, perfumes, herbal medicines and toys.

Picture by gforbes
Street life in front of Theingyi Market


Sri Kali Temple: "Kali is praised as the greatest of all deities, the fundamental power, raw energy, the ultimate reality. She is the mysterious, powerful goddess of transformation, time and change, representing the wholeness of life, a spectrum of opposites—light and dark, life and death, beauty and ugliness, motherliness and destructiveness", writes irrawaddy.org. The Hindu Sri Kali Temple was built by Tamil migrants in 1871 and has been restored during 2011-12. Worth a visit every day, but specially during Diwali festival of lights on Nov. 3-7.

Picture by isriya

Picture by Jason Eppink


Bogyoke Aung San Market: Bogyoke Market was initially called Scott's Market. You find here a great variety of products: jewellery, antiques, handicrafts and clothing, but also medicine, garments and all kinds of food.

Picture by DerFussi

Picture by ronancrowley

Picture by marhas

Picture by marhas

Picture by marhas

Picture by marhas

Picture by Pigalle

Picture by mckaysavage
Art shop in the stairwell in Bogyoke Aung San Market

Picture by isriya


Yangon Railway Station: Rangoon Central Railway Station was initially built in 1877 but destroyed in World War II, and rebuilt from 1947-1954 in traditional Burmese style.

Picture by mikecogh


Theim Phyu Market: The market offers fruits, vegetables, medicinal plants, clothes and more.


Shwe Kyin Monastery: Shwe Kyin is a monastery in eastern Rangoon. Every day before sunset the monks line up for prayer. The monastery is popular for its old meditation caves.


Yangon’s architectural heritage of the 19th century has now been documented in a book by The Association of Myanmar Architects: 30 Heritage Buildings of Yangon.


In one of these buildings: Monsoon Restaurant&Bar.

Picture by travfotos


Moe Kya mosque on Shwebonthar Street:
 
Picture by mckaysavage


Kyi Myin Daing Night Market:

Picture by kozeyar

Picture by kozeyar

Botahtaung Pagoda:

Picture by Mat Maessen

Picture by Travel Aficionado
Bronze Buddha

Picture by Travel Aficionado


Pegu Club: Pegu Club, where British officers once sipped gin with lime (Pegu Cocktail), was the most famous men only club in British Burma and birthplace of the Pegu Cocktail. The Victorian-style teak building was constructed in 1882. Kipling spent an evening here in 1889 and was inspired to write the poem “Mandalay” after listening to accounts of British officers. These days it’s abandoned and in a broken down state. "You can wander through the two-storey club and adjoining former residences – generally no-one will stop you – though some parts of it are boarded up. Exercise caution, however: one of the staircases inside the club and parts of the verandah are verging on unsafe" notes yangonite.com. "The building is visibly derelict and crying out for renovation, but it has not been ignored completely", notes irrawaddy.org. See Pegu Club gallery by Andreas Sigurdsson, picture by Jacques Maudy and picture by Andrew Rowat and picture by CiSmith.

Picture by theburmasideoflife


Bogyoke Aung San Museum: The home of General Aung San between the end of World War II and his assassination two years later. The museum was closed between 1999 and 2007, and then opened only once a year, on July 19, the anniversary of his murder. But the government lifted the restriction in March 2012. The two storey wooden house dates from 1921 and has circular verandas and elaborate turrets. "Here was the dining room table where the general’s family gathered, upstairs the chamber with three cots where the toddler Aung San Suu Kyi and her two brothers slept", describes nytimes.com. A black 1946 Wolseley sedan is parked in the garage. Read Discover Burma's Hero.

Picture by Zaw Zaw Aung


See movie:
Restoring Rangoon: Unique Heritage is under threat


A great Photobook ayout Yangons Heritage has been published by Jacques maudy and Jimi Casaccia and can be ordered here: Yangon a City to Rescue.


Read more:
Shwedagon Pagoda Impressions
Yangon Hotel Picks
Yangon Restaurant Picks
Chinatown in Yangon: Temples and a Nightmarket full of flavours
Myanmars ex Spy Chief opens an Art Gallery
From Yangon a Sunset Cruise or by ferry to Twante
Yangon, Myanmar: A 'City That Captured Time'
Rangoon’s Tourism Boom Risks Heritage
Yangon City Heritage List Eastern Rangoon Walking Tour, Rangoon
Yangon, A City of Reticent Hope
Burma, by Paul Theroux, a visit in 1971

7 comments:

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  3. My great grandfather built the former Government Printing Press building located on Thein Phyu street near Saint Paul and Stock house,my father said.
    As that building is not contain in this site, I would like to request the photo of that printing press building to send to my mail if you have some spare time for me.
    Your kind response will be much appreciated.
    uzawlinmyint@gmail.com

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  5. Hi! Just dropping by to ask if I could use pictures from this post in my language class. Thanks in advance!

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  6. Most of the big building in the pictures looks quite old and still in a top notch condition, and the Buddhist temples, Pagoda, and I see most of them are in golden color. Very beautiful,

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