Sule Paya

yangon city walk: city hall to the strand hotel

Thursday, February 26: After leaving Sule Paya, I head east where the sprawling bright white colonial City Hall, with its lavender and purple trim, covers an entire city block. It’s adorned with traditional Myanmar motifs such as peacocks, nagas (serpents), and three-tiered turrets.

Yangon's City Hall

Yangon’s City Hall

It’s quite an impressive building and is maintained perfectly, at least on the outside.

City Hall - Yangon

City Hall – Yangon

peacock adornment at Yangon's City Hall

peacock adornment at Yangon’s City Hall

a bus goes by Yangon's City Hall

a bus goes by Yangon’s City Hall

Yangon's City Hall

Yangon’s City Hall

Yangon's City Hall

Yangon’s City Hall

Yangon's City Hall

Yangon’s City Hall

Yangon's City Hall

Yangon’s City Hall

On the next corner further east is what is now Aya Bank, but was once Rowe & Co department store, known as “Harrods of the East,” according to Lonely Planet Myanmar (Burma).

Ava Bank

Aya Bank

Ava Bank

Aya Bank

I can see Sule Paya in the middle of the city’s main traffic circle, with cars and buses whizzing around it.

Sule Paya in the middle of the traffic circle

Sule Paya in the middle of the traffic circle

local bus

local bus

Across the street from Aya Bank is Immanuel Baptist Church, originally build in 1830, and updated in 1885.

Immanuel Baptist Church

Immanuel Baptist Church

inside Immanuel Baptist Church

inside Immanuel Baptist Church

I walk into the Mahabandoola Garden to check out the Independence Monument and enjoy the view of City Hall across the green grass.  The Independence Monument is a 165 ft white obelisk that looks vaguely like the Washington Monument.  It’s guarded by two circles of chinthe (a half-lion, half dragon deity).

Mahabandoola Garden has gone by several names since it was laid out by the British in 1868. First called Fytche Square after the chief commissioner at the time, it was later named Victoria Park, to commemorate the queen.  Her statue has now been replaced by Independence Monument.  After Independence, the park was renamed to honor a Burmese hero who died in action in the First Anglo-Burmese War in 1824.

Independence Monument at Mahabandoola Garden

Independence Monument at Mahabandoola Garden

view of City Hall from Mahabandoola Garden

view of City Hall from Mahabandoola Garden

view of City Hall from Mahabandoola Garden

a chinthe’s view of City Hall from Mahabandoola Garden

At the southern end of the garden is the Queen Anne-style High Court with its bell clock tower.

the High Court

the High Court

me in Mahabandoola Garden with City Hall behind

me in Mahabandoola Garden with City Hall behind

a monk in Mahabandoola Garden

a monk in Mahabandoola Garden

Sule Paya from Mahabandoola Garden

Sule Paya from Mahabandoola Garden

I continue my walk toward the Strand that runs along Yangon River.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yangon architecture

Yangon architecture

Myawaddy Bank

colonial architecture of Yangon

colonial architecture of Yangon

I can see the majestic but faded Yangon Region Court on the corner of Strand Rd. and Pansodan Street.  One of Yangon’s oldest masonry buildings, it dates from around 1900. Apparently bomb damage from WWII is still visible on the Bank St side of the building, but I don’t see that today.

Myawaddy Bank

Region Court

Crossing over a pedestrian bridge leading to the waterfront, I can see Yangon’s traffic swirling and buzzing beneath me.

view of Strand Road from a footbridge

view of Strand Road from a footbridge

traffic on Strand Road

traffic on Strand Road

Myawaddy Bank

Yangon’s Region Court

Myawaddy Bank

the Region Court

The Strand Hotel

The Strand Hotel

As it’s around noon and I’m hot, tired and hungry, I decide to stop for a light lunch at the Victorian-style Strand Hotel, listed on the Yangon City Heritage List.  This 1901 hotel hosted luminaries such as Rudyard Kipling, George Orwell and W. Somerset Maugham in its early years.  It was run by the famous Sarkies brothers, who owned Raffles in Singapore and the Eastern and Oriental in Penang.  The Australian Embassy is now housed in an annex.  During WWII, the Japanese took over the running of the Strand, renaming it the Yamato Hotel, and using it briefly to house Japanese troops. During a dark stretch of Burmese history, from 1962-1989, the Strand was owned and managed by the Burmese government.  After three years of renovations, the Strand reopened in luxurious glory in 1993. (Lonely Planet Myanmar (Burma))

As it’s very hot today in Yangon, I’m happy to sit inside for a while in air-conditioning.  It’s worth every penny of the $26 it costs me for a Camembert, walnut and toast salad, accompanied by a Perrier and fresh papaya juice.

Camambert, walnut and toast salad for lunch

Camambert, walnut and toast salad for lunch

inside the Strand Hotel

inside the Strand Hotel

Inside the Strand Hotel

Inside the Strand Hotel

Leaving the fabulous Strand, and feeling refreshed, I continue my walk up Pansodan Street towards 37th Street’s open air library.

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Categories: Asia, Aya Bank, Burma, City Hall, High Court, Immanuel Baptist Church, Independence Monument, Mahabandoola Garden, Myanmar, Myawaddy Bank, Strand Hotel, Strand Road, Sule Paya, Travel, Yangon | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

city walk: yangon’s colonial treasures {vendors aplenty & sule paya}

Thursday, February 26:  Today is Mike’s 61st birthday, so before I even get out of bed on this, my first day in Yangon, I text him back and forth several times to send him good wishes.

I go to breakfast on the 8th floor of Agga Youth Hotel.  First, I meet an older lady from South Carolina who is visiting Myanmar from Calcutta, where she lives with her pastor husband.  She has the day ahead of her without her spouse; he has meetings to attend all day.  She says she will stay in the hotel all day.  I can’t imagine being afraid to go out and explore a new city alone.  I used to be like that years ago, before I figured out that all you have to do is put one foot in front of another, and a whole world opens up before you!

I also talk at length with another couple from Toronto, Canada.  The girl is wearing the cutest tank top with a colorful elephant on it; she got it in Thailand, but I make a note to keep an eye out for something similar on my last couple of days here.  They are heading today to an elephant park that’s 2 hours away from Yangon.

After breakfast, I move to room 306-307, a triple room, because when I woke this morning I had no water at all, and when the water finally did come on, it was cold. This new room is more acceptable than the first room, but most rooms seem to be interior rooms with no windows that feel very claustrophobic.  After breakfast, I take a shower in my new room, but the water is still cold.  I’m afraid I’ll have to move rooms again, but I notice there’s a button to turn on the water heater.  I turn it on, hoping this will solve the problem tomorrow.

At 10 a.m., I begin a self-guided walking tour of Colonial Yangon.  I’m following the City Walk from Lonely Planet Myanmar (Burma).  From the hotel, my first planned stop is Sule Paya, but I walk down a lot of streets busy with commerce before I get there.  I’ve never seen streets with so many vendors packed onto the sidewalks.  They’re grouped together by products; in one area are all tools and machine parts, in another are old-fashioned sewing machines and sewing accoutrements.  Food vendors are of course interspersed among the other vendors.

Yangon gate

Yangon gate

signage in the city

signage in the city

One of the reasons I’m interested in downtown Yangon, formerly Rangoon, is for its colonial architecture.  Many of the buildings today, after years of neglect, are crumbling and dilapidated, but I can still see some of the city’s former glory.

dilapidated colonial architecture

dilapidated colonial architecture

I pass by a temple that looks similar to temples I’ve visited during my time in China.

Buddhist temple

Buddhist temple

dragon

dragon

I love the sewing machine street with the fancy old-fashioned sewing machines.

sewing machine heaven

sewing machine heaven

classics

classics

sewing machines of the past

sewing machines of the past

sewing machines for sale

sewing machines for sale

yarns

yarns

more yarns

more yarns

Food vendors abound on the streets of Yangon.

fruits and vegetables

fruits and vegetables

I love the colorful buildings, even in their disheveled state.

Yangon streets

Yangon streets

a local vendor

a local vendor

Yangon streets

Yangon streets

food cart

food cart

Finally, I arrive at Sule Paya.  This 2,000 year old golden temple sits in the middle of the city’s primary traffic circle.  I have to go into an underground tunnel to get to it.

Sule Paya

Sule Paya

inside Sule Paya

inside Sule Paya

characters of Sule Paya

characters of Sule Paya

another figure at Sule Paya

another figure at Sule Paya

I buy some prayer cards, written in Burmese, and then send them up in a small golden karaweik (royal barge in the shape of a mythical bird) to a shrine higher up  the stupa.  It’s like sending my prayers to heaven.

Fortunes at Sule Paya

Fortunes at Sule Paya

sending up my fortunes to the heavens

sending up my fortunes to the heavens

The central stupa, known as Kyaik Athok, is translated from the Mon language and means “the stupa where a Sacred Hair Relic is enshrined” (Lonely Planet Myanmar (Burma)).  This gilded zedi’s octagonal shape continues right up to the bell and inverted bowl.

Sule Paya

Sule Paya

Sule Paya

Sule Paya

Buddha at Sule Paya

Buddha at Sule Paya

Fancy shrine at Sule Paya

Fancy shrine at Sule Paya

faces

faces

teak ceiling

teak ceiling

Buddha at Sule Paya

Buddha at Sule Paya

Buddha at Sule Paya

Buddha at Sule Paya

After seeing all I can see at this stupa, I continue following my walking tour.  Next stop: City Hall.

Categories: Agga Youth Hotel, Asia, Myanmar, Sule Paya, Travel, Yangon | Tags: , , , , , | 12 Comments

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