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Category: Strand Road

Custom House



Visitors arriving from the sea would soon experience the two underlying reasons for the existence of Yangon. As the ship approached the city along the Yangon river they would spot Shwedagon Pagoda, resplendent in gold and overlooking the city. Soon after they would reach the bustling docks, where each day ships unloaded goods, tourists and new workers. Shwedagon may have been the town’s original claim to significance, but ultimately it was its port and year-round access to the sea that allowed the town to grow into the city we see today.


The Strand Hotel



“At my hotel two people had been poisoned by tinned food a few weeks earlier, but whatever the table lacked in quality it made up in pretentiousness…Canapes aux anchois. Potage la Livonienne. Barfurtasauce Ravigotte. Filets mignons la Parisienne.” [Author continues for some time]– George Bird, Wanderings in Burma, 1897

Of the two main buildings visible here our focus is on the rightmost: the Strand hotel, most famous of Yangon’s colonial period hotels. It was built in 1901 and bought soon after by the Sarkies, four Armenian brothers responsible for some of the most famous hotels in Southeast Asia, including the Raffles Hotel in Singapore.

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The Old Town and Chinese Quarter



“Here many thousands of people literally swarm by day, and sleep twenty in a single room at night. This portion of the city is called ‘The Town.’ It is almost always very dirty, except when washed by heavy rains.”
– Julius Smith, 10 years in Burma, 1902

Though the exact location of the older photograph here is not recorded, the density of the housing and the presence of Shwedagon just visible in the distance does suggest that it was taken from what is now downtown Yangon. Regardless, it provides a glimpse into what Rangoon looked like around the time modern city was beginning to take shape, versus its appearance today.


The New Law Courts



Recently freed from the scaffolding that hid it for much of the last few years, the New Law Courts building we see today was first completed in 1931. The building housed the city’s district and local courts – part of the rapidly expanding colonial bureaucratic and legal systems, and the Police Commissioners office. Part of a second wave of British construction in the city, it replaced the original court in the older photograph.


Strand Road, west



As with many major cities of the world, access to a river was the engine of Yangon’s economic development. Strand Road, running alongside that river, has been host to various important buildings during that development – though many have also been lost to earthquakes and damage from World War II. We’ll look at three such buildings here: the Imperial Bank of India, which survives to this day, the old Post Office building, and Trinity Church, both of which have disappeared in the last century.

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