Anticipating the brighter future while embracing its memories: CITY OF YANGON
May Nyein Thawdar Hlaing
January , 2015

The last door to be opened in the re- gion, Myanmar’s most populated and strategic business center: the city of Yangon is apparently at its crossroads. In recent years, along with the country’s controversial political changes and reform processes, the city has been in its busiest state in decades. Social events and business fairs are every where, over here and there. One of the evidences of the sudden influx in foreign investment lies in increasing num- ber of international brands which come in various sectors, diverse from F&B to luxury. Yangon has become the target of foreign in- vestments as it’s the habitat of about 10% of the country’s population. Another evidence is seen in the high demands in property and real estate sector. Construction sites are in- vading both outskirt and central areas, try- ing to decorate the city with skyscrapers it never used to have.
However, it seems like its lack of enough in- frastructure remains as a challenge and it’s hard to catch up with the increasing popula- tion and market demands. Insufficient pub- lic transportation and road systems lead to probably the worst traffic in the city’s histo- ry as there is also the sudden overflow of pri- vate cars in the city. But recently, two newly launched tram services along the Strand Road give a glimpse of hope to some local and foreign visitors. Another downside of this city is that it does not have enough pub- lic recreation venues and the only increase lies in number of restaurants and shopping malls. The city is yet to be explored for more destinations that might catch the eyes of global tourists.
Background History
In digging out this city’s history, it can be seen that it has come a long way since ear- ly 11th century with the name of Dagon. The founder of Kone Baung Dynasty, King Alaungpaya renamed it “Yangon” which means “enemies run out” in 1755.
When British Empire invaded and occupied the whole Burma in 1886, it became the captal under the name of “Rangoon”. During the World War II, it was once under Japa- nese occupation from 1942 to 1945 then it was taken again by Allies in May 1945. It is undeniable truth that former Rangoon played an important role in history through out its days from World War II era to before and aftermath of country’s independence.
The remains from British Colonial period scattered over downtown have lately be- come an appeal to foreign visitors and lo- cal people’s interest in historical buildings increases significantly. The uniqueness lies in the heart of Yangon, a number of diverse and various religious monuments of pago- das, churches and cathedrals, mosques and Hindu temples sharing the downtown area together with hundred-year old British Co- lonial influenced buildings.
The Secretariat
The Secretariat also known as the Ministers’ Office which served as the parliament from 1948-1962 carries the legend of the assassi- nation of country’s independence leaders on 19th July of 1947.
Independence Monument, City Hall, High Court Building, Emmanuel Baptist Church and Sule Pagoda This heart of the city of Yangon would be the perfect example of the ideal display of downtown Yangon with the national Inde- pendence Monument in the centre of Maha Bandula Park surrounded by Yangon City Hall (1936), High Court Building (1911), historical Sule Pagoda and 129 year-old Em- manuel Baptist Church (1885).
Strand Road
This southernmost main road crosses the city in an east-west direction along the bank of Yangon River. Quite a number of British Colonial and Victorian influenced buildings situated on the Strand Road which has an inseparable historical background with the city of Yangon. Myanmar Port Authority building, the Strand Hotel, Customs House and General Post Office are some of Yan- gon’s tourist attractions on the Strand Road.
There are still some other places left to be described namely Bogyoke Market, former- ly known as Scott Market which opened in 1926 and is still crowed with both local and foreign visitors because of its offers in Myanmar’s jewelry and traditional handi- craft. Next to the Bogyoke Market is another colonial building of Railways Headquarters. Another remarkable destination would be the Yangon University, which has witnessed numerous events, was initially established in 1878 and is the most respected university in the country.
Yangon Heritage Trust (YHT)
The organization was founded in March 2012 by Historian Dr. Thant Myint-U and his team of architects, historians and others aimed to preserving Yangon’s historical and unique architectural buildings. Currently, YHT has been working on a project of in- stalling blue plaques at city’s oldest and re- markably significant buildings. Authorities seem to be supportive of renovating and pri- vatizing venerable buildings with historical importance.
Yangon’s population is steadily rising to reach the point of becoming another meg- acity in the region. As its advantage, the city is already rich culturally with a unique com- munity and people tend to be aware of the invaluable legacy they have inherited. With the right pace of developing infrastructure, the city of Yangon will be at the right place to be foreseen as a strategic regional centre.

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