Theme Week Myanmar – Yangon

Friday, 28 June 2019 - 12:00 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General

Karaweik Palace on Kandawgyi Lake © Ralf-André Lettau

Karaweik Palace on Kandawgyi Lake © Ralf-André Lettau

Rangoon, is the capital of the Yangon Region and commercial capital of Myanmar (Burma). Yangon served as the administrative capital of Myanmar until 2006, when the military government relocated the administrative functions to the purpose-built city of Naypyidaw in central Myanmar. With over 7 million people, Yangon is Myanmar’s largest city and its most important commercial centre.

Yangon boasts the largest number of colonial-era buildings in Southeast Asia, and has a unique colonial-era urban core that is remarkably intact. The colonial-era commercial core is centred around the Sule Pagoda, which is reputed to be over 2,000 years old. The city is also home to the gilded Shwedagon Pagoda – Myanmar’s most sacred Buddhist pagoda. The mausoleum of the last Mughal Emperor is located in Yangon, where he had been exiled following the Indian Mutiny of 1857. Yangon is the country’s main centre for trade, industry, real estate, media, entertainment and tourism. Yangon is located in Lower Burma (Myanmar) at the convergence of the Yangon and Bago Rivers about 30 km (19 mi) away from the Gulf of Martaban

Yangon’s property market is the most expensive in the country and beyond the reach of most Yangonites. Most rent outside the centre and few can afford to rent such apartments. (In 2008, rents for a typical 650-to-750-square-foot (60 to 70 m²) apartments in the centre and vicinity range between K70,000 and K150,000 and those for high end condos between K200,000 and K500,000.) Most men of all ages (and some women) spend their time at ubiquitous tea-shops, found in any corner or street of the city. Watching European football (mostly English Premier League with occasional La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga) matches while sipping tea is a popular pastime among many Yangonites. The average person stays close to his or her residential neighbourhood. The well-to-do tend to visit shopping malls and parks on weekends. Some leave the city on weekends for Chaungtha and Ngwesaung beach resorts in Ayeyarwady Division. Yangon is also home to many pagoda festivals (paya pwe), held during dry-season months (November – March). The most famous of all, the Shwedagon Pagoda Festival in March, attracts thousands of pilgrims from around the country. Yangon’s museums are the domain of tourists and rarely visited by the locals. Most of Yangon’s larger hotels offer some kind of nightlife entertainment, geared towards tourists and the well-to-do Burmese. Some hotels offer traditional Burmese performing arts shows complete with a traditional Burmese orchestra. The pub scene in larger hotels is more or less the same as elsewhere in Asia. Other options include karaoke bars and pub restaurants in Yangon Chinatown. Due to the problems of high inflation, the lack of high denomination notes, and the fact that many of the population do not have access to checks, or credit or debit cards, it is common to see citizens carrying a considerable amount of cash. (The highest denomination of Burmese currency kyat is 10 000 (~US$10.)) Credit cards are only rarely used in the city, chiefly in the more lavish hotels. Credit cards are also accepted in the major supermarket and convenience store chains.

Kandawgyi Lake near Downtown © Hintha Shwedagon Pagoda © Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/cc-by-sa-4.0 2nd Ward © panoramio.com - oikk/cc-by-3.0 4th Ward © panoramio.com - mohigan/cc-by-sa-3.0 8th Ward © panoramio.com - mohigan/cc-by-sa-3.0 Central Business District © Go-Myanmar/cc-by-sa-3.0 Central downtown at sunset © Go-Myanmar/cc-by-sa-3.0 Karaweik Palace on Kandawgyi Lake © Ralf-André Lettau
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Shwedagon Pagoda © Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/cc-by-sa-4.0
Until the mid-1990s, Yangon remained largely constrained to its traditional peninsula setting between the Bago, Yangon and Hlaing Rivers. People moved in, but little of the city moved out. Maps from 1944 show little development north of Inya Lake and areas that are now layered in cement and stacked with houses were then virtual backwaters. Since the late 1980s, however, the city began a rapid spread north to where Yangon International Airport now stands. But the result is a stretching tail on the city, with the downtown area well removed from its geographic centre. The city’s area has steadily increased from 72.52 square kilometres (28.00 sq mi) in 1901 to 86.2 square kilometres (33.3 sq mi) in 1940 to 208.51 square kilometres (80.51 sq mi) in 1974, to 346.13 square kilometres (133.64 sq mi) in 1985, and to 598.75 square kilometres (231.18 sq mi) in 2008. Yangon suffers from deeply inadequate infrastructure, especially compared to other major cities in Southeast Asia. Though many historic residential and commercial buildings have been renovated throughout central Yangon, most satellite towns that ring the city continue to be profoundly impoverished and lack basic infrastructure.

Downtown Yangon is known for its leafy avenues and fin-de-siècle architecture. The former British colonial capital has the highest number of colonial period buildings in south-east Asia. Downtown Yangon is still mainly made up of decaying colonial buildings. The former High Court, the former Secretariat buildings, the former St. Paul’s English High School and the Strand Hotel are excellent examples of the bygone era. Most downtown buildings from this era are four-story mix-use (residential and commercial) buildings with 14-foot (4.3 m) ceilings, allowing for the construction of mezzanines. Despite their less-than-perfect conditions, the buildings remain highly sought after and most expensive in the city’s property market. In 1996, the Yangon City Development Committee created a Yangon City Heritage List of old buildings and structures in the city that cannot be modified or torn down without approval. In 2012, the city of Yangon imposed a 50-year moratorium on demolition of buildings older than 50 years. The Yangon Heritage Trust, an NGO started by Thant Myint-U, aims to create heritage areas in Downtown, and attract investors to renovate buildings for commercial use. A latter day hallmark of Yangon is the eight-story apartment building. (In Yangon parlance, a building with no elevators (lifts) is called an apartment building and one with elevators is called a condominium. Condos which have to invest in a local power generator to ensure 24-hour electricity for the elevators are beyond the reach of most Yangonites.) Found throughout the city in various forms, eight-story apartment buildings provide relatively inexpensive housing for many Yangonites. The apartments are usually eight stories high (including the ground floor) mainly because city regulations, until February 2008, required that all buildings higher than 75 feet (23 m) or eight stories to install lifts. The current code calls for elevators in buildings higher than 62 feet (19 m) or six stories, likely ushering in the era of the six-story apartment building. Although most apartment buildings were built only within the last 20 years, they look much older and rundown due to shoddy construction and lack of proper maintenance. Unlike other major Asian cities, Yangon does not have any skyscrapers. Aside from a few high-rise hotels and office towers, most high-rise buildings (usually 10 stories and up) are “condos” scattered across prosperous neighbourhoods north of downtown such as Bahan, Dagon, Kamayut and Mayangon. The tallest building in Yangon, Pyay Gardens, is a 25-story condo in the city’s north. Older satellite towns such as Thaketa, North Okkalapa and South Okkalapa are lined mostly with one to two-story detached houses with access to the city’s electricity grid. Newer satellite towns such as North Dagon and South Dagon are still essentially slums in a grid layout. The satellite towns—old or new—receive little or no municipal services.

The largest and best maintained parks in Yangon are located around Shwedagon Pagoda. To the south-east of the gilded stupa is the most popular recreational area in the city – Kandawgyi Lake. The 150-acre (61-ha) lake is surrounded by the 110-acre (45-ha) Kandawgyi Nature Park, and the 69.25-acre (28-ha) Yangon Zoological Gardens, which consists of a zoo, an aquarium and an amusement park. West of the pagoda towards the former Hluttaw (Parliament) complex is the 130-acre (53-ha) People’s Square and Park, (the former parading ground on important national days when Yangon was the capital.) A few miles north of the pagoda lies the 37-acre (15-ha) Inya Lake Park – a favourite hangout place of Yangon University students, and a well-known place of romance in Burmese popular culture. Hlawga National Park and Allied War Memorial at the outskirts of the city are popular day-trip destinations with the well-to-do and tourists.

Here you can find the complete Overview of all Theme Weeks.

Read more on LonelyPlanet.com – Yangon, Wikitravel Yangon, Wikivoyage Yangon and Wikipedia Yangon. Learn more about the use of photos. To inform you about latest news most of the city, town or tourism websites offer a newsletter service and/or operate Facebook pages/Twitter accounts. In addition more and more destinations, tourist organizations and cultural institutions offer Apps for your Smart Phone or Tablet, to provide you with a mobile tourist guide (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State). If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.








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