ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “Maha Bandula

DAY 1: A FESTIVE NIGHT, Yangon, Myanmar

After Shwedagon Pagoda, we took a taxi back to Downtown Yangon.  Despite the taxi driver got lost on the way, we did eventually find our way on foot to LinkAge, a social development restaurant and art gallery that offers delicious food to customers and cooking training to local street kids.

DSC_3354Established by NGO Forever Humanitarian and Development Projects, LinkAge is situated on the upper level of an old apartment block on Mahabandoola Garden Street.

DSC_3349The time was a bit late but there were still several tables of customers in the restaurant.

DSC_3346The ambience was causal and relaxing, a perfect venue to have a local beer and chill out after a long day of sightseeing in Yangon.

DSC_3352We ordered lentil soup and curry shrimps.  The food was decent and reasonably priced.

DSC_3356After the meal, we wandered around Downtown Yangon where streets and shops were still quite busy.

DSC_3358We walked past some of the street vendors who had spent the entire day on the streets.

DSC_3360We also passed by some of the city’s spectacular colonial architecture.  Standing beside the High Court since 1917, the Myanma Post and Telecommunications (Central Telegraph Office) is another piece of fine architectural gem.  Today, the former communication hub still offers counters for sending telegrams and emails.

DSC_3362Soon, we arrived at the Ayeyarwady Bank building (former Rowe & Co. Department Store) again.  The former Rowe & Co. Department Store was covered with splendid Christmas lights.

DSC_3364Across the street from Ayeyarwady Bank, the street market along the east side of Maha Bandula Park was still running.

DSC_3374The north side of Maha Bandula Park across the street from Sule Pagada and City Hall was much more crowded than the morning.

DSC_3380A large crowd gathered for the live music performances on the stage where we passed by in the morning.

DSC_3390When we arrived, the performer was playing the guitar and singing in Burmese.  For some reason, the Burmese songs did sound a little like Japanese to us.

DSC_3402Where there were people gathering in Yangon we would always find street food vendors.

DSC_3403Many cars just stopped by the roadside to absorb the atmosphere of the performances, even public buses.

DSC_3412A little further from the main stage, other vendors were selling festive stuff like illuminated wands.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOf course there were also helium balloons for the festival crowds.

DSC_3418Just a stone throw away from the crowds at Maha Bandula Park, Sule Pagoda continued to bathe in its peaceful spirituality.

DSC_3426On our way back to Loft Hotel, we climbed onto the pedestrian overpass north of Sule Pagoda.  The overpass was originally constructed by the junta government where soldiers could shoot at an out-of-control political demonstration in front of the Sule Pagoda, an iconic and popular venue for massive protests.

DSC_3443The Christmas tree in front of Sakura Tower reminded us that Christmas 2017 was just around the corner.



After the Second Anglo-Burmese War in 1852, the East India Company’s annexation of Pegu province put Yangon into British hands.  In 1885, the Third Anglo-Burmese War resulted in Britain’s complete annexation of Burma, and Rangoon (now Yangon) was named as the capital of Burma (now Yangon).  From 1852 until Burma gaining independence in 1948, Rangoon saw major urban transformation under the British, with splendid colonial structures constructed all over the downtown.  After independence, political and military turmoil among ethnic groups threatened the survival of the new nation, and then in 1962, a coup d’etat brought the nation into a 48-year military dictatorship until the first civilian elected president came to power in 2010.  During the period of political turmoil and authoritarian rule, Yangon, together with much of Myanmar, was largely isolated from the outside world.  Many colonial buildings from the British era were neglected and left for natural decay.  Ironically, Yangon’s decades of lack of development led to the successful preservation of Southeast Asia’s largest concentration of colonial architecture.  Recently, international investment began to pour in as the country gradually opened up.  Some historical buildings had since then became redevelopment targets for foreign developers.   Before heading north to visit Shwedagon Pagoda, we spent a brief time wandering around the lower downtown of Yangon to admire its awesome but fading colonial architecture.

DSC_2652Yangon City Hall, one the most prominent colonial building in the city, stands across the street from Sule Pagoda.  Designed by Burmese architect U Tin and completed in 1940, the City Hall is a fine example of Burmese colonial architecture where local influence (in this case the multi-tiered pyatthat roof) has been incorporated into the otherwise largely Western design.  The City Hall building exemplifies nationalist Burmese architecture at the twilight stage of colonial rule.

DSC_2754Across the street from the City Hall, the Ayeyarwady Bank occupies the former Rowe & Co. Department Store building.  Completed in 1910, the Rowe & Co. Department Store was the most splendid shopping venue in Rangoon.  This century-old building featured a innovative steel structural frame, electric lifts and ceiling fans over a century ago.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAcross the street from the City Hall, the Mahandoola Garden (Maha Bandula Park) has long been a public park at the heart of Yangon since 1868.  While we were there, audience seating and a stage were set up for an upcoming event.

DSC_2773Also designed by Burmese architect U Tin, the Independent Monument at Mahandoola Garden (Maha Bandula Park) was erected at the centre of the park in 1948 to commemorate the nation’s independence, replacing the former statue of Queen Victoria at the same location.

DSC_2775Flanking the east side of Mahandoola Garden (Maha Bandula Park), the former High Court is one of the most iconic buildings in Yangon.  It was also one of the first in Yangon to have toilet and plumbing facilities as well as electricity.  During the military rule, the Supreme Court was replaced by the socialist Council of People’s Justices controlled by the General.  Today, Myanmar’s Supreme Court has been relocated to the new capital Naypyidaw.

DSC_2776Further south from Mahandoola Garden, at the intersection of Sule Pagoda Road and Strand Road stands the baby blue and white Myanmar Economic Bank building (formerly Bank of Bengal and then Imperial Bank of India).  The Imperial Bank of India was the most prominent bank in colonial Burma, serving like the central bank for the nation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe former Accountant-General’s Office and Currency Department were housed in a magnificent building with three octagonal towers.  These former colonial departments oversaw taxes and trade customs for British Burma, which was belonged to the Government of British India.

DSC_2792Today, the building is in poor condition, especially for the wings along Bank Street and Mahabandoola Garden Street.  Overgrown weeds took over parts of the building facade.

DSC_2796The building hasn’t changed much since the Japanese bombing in 1942.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis former Accountant-General’s Office and Currency Department building was partially occupied by Yangon Divisional Court and Department of Pensions nowadays.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEach of the octagonal towers houses a ornate spiral staircase.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe red-brick Customs House is one of the few historical buildings still serving its original functions today.

DSC_2804Since 1916, the two-faced clock has been the iconic feature of the Custom House.

DSC_2810Further down Strand Road, we arrived at Myanmar Port Authority (former Port Trust Office).  The corner tower is an iconic landmark for the city, both for today and back in 1920s, when the new building was erected to reflect Rangoon as one of the busiest port in the British Empire.

DSC_2815Myanmar National Airlines occupies the 1920s building of the former Bombay-Burmah Trading Corporation, whose diverse business included exporting teak wood.  Right next door stood the splendid Strand Hotel, the 1901 glamorous hotel for affluent visitors in the early 20th century.  In 1993, the hotel was fully renovated with a budget of USD 10 million.

DSC_2819The former National Bank of India building (now Myanma Agricultural Development Bank) was built in 1930.  Designed by Thomas Oliphant Foster and Basil Ward, the same architects who had done the Myanmar Port Authority building, the beautiful entrance canopy and the golden entrance door remain as special features of Pansodan Road.

DSC_2829Written with “A Scott & Co” and “erected 1902” on the triangular pediment of today’s YCDC (Yangon City Development Committee) building, this colonial architecture had witnessed the era when Rangoon had a strong trading connections with Scotland.

DSC_2846Wandering in Downtown Yangon offered us a chance to see a number of the city’s finest colonial buildings in just a short walk.  Throughout the walk, we passed by many anonymous buildings from the British era.

DSC_2864We planned to visit Secretariat (Ministers’ Building), the former administrative centre of British Burma and Yangon’s most important colonial building.  On our way, we passed by several more interesting historical buildings.  Unfortunately the Secretariat complex was not open to the public.  We could barely see it from outside the fence, and decided to move on to Shwedagon Pagoda.