The streets of Yangon hide thousands of stories and faces of a people who are trying to open themselves to globalization without betraying their origins. Exploring the city means not only admiring a past made of splendor and decadence, but also a present of peace and chaos. Yangon, in fact, offers strange corners, where time seems to have stopped, but also neighborhoods where modernity has come too fast.
1) KANDAWGYI LAKE
This artificial lake, also known as “Royal Lake”, is located not far from Shwedagon Pagoda. The water reservoir is surrounded by a large park where the locals find themselves strolling through wooden walkways across the lake, doing sports, or visiting the zoo or other tourist attractions including the Karaweik Palace, reproduction of a real Burmese boat that houses a restaurant where every evening is offered traditional dance performances.
2) SULE PAYA AND The Modern District
In the economic district of the city, I discovered a reality very different from the one that I’ve seen in the early hours in Myanmar. A reality made of skyscrapers, luxurious hotels, fashionable shops frequented by tourists, businessmen and wealthy, but also multiethnic areas and single children, sitting at the corners of the streets with a hand tending to beg for alms. In the midst of this varied humanity stands the Sule Paya, an ancient temple of 2,000 years old, and a starting point for the itinerary to discover the colonial history of the city.
3) ITINERARY BETWEEN THE COLONIAL BUILDINGS
What remains of British colonialism in Yangon are marvelously crumbling architectures. The splendor of the past remains in the noble lines of buildings, but the present is made of broken windows, rats, stray dogs sleeping in front of the doors of the Liberty-style palaces.
From the buildings come out branches of trees, which, with arrogance, look for light and makes holes on the roofs and windows of those houses that once was inhabited by ambassadors, merchants, consuls, and entrepreneurs. To the east of Sule Pagoda stands the City Hall, today the town hall with traditional decorations such as statues and designs of peacocks and snakes. Next to this, there is the former Immigration Department once home to a department store called the “Harrods of the East”, while in front of this there is a large square where stands out, for its red brick and bell tower, the one that was the Hight Court. From the square go down to the south, towards the river, towards Strand Road. Along your way you will encounter numerous buildings once home to the British authorities and nowadays in the state of abandonment.The heart of colonial life was Pansodan Street, where banks and river companies were established. Take it from the south and north, return to Sule Pagoda and end this trip back in time.
4) INYA LAKE
Knowing the history of Burma is to know the life of its current leaders as well as Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi. The house where she was locked up for many years by the military regime, is located near Inya Lake, the University of Yangon and embassies, along University Ave Road. The neighborhood is very rich and consists of Hollywood-style villas contrasting with the poverty of other areas of the metropolis. Each home is protected by high gates and guards, so it wasn’t easy to understand what Aung San Suu Kyi’s home was. Amid the villas, however, there are corners of peace like the Inya Kan Pyar Monastery. A Buddhist monastery overlooking the lake, nestled in the silence of a nature surrounded by the cement of the expanding city. A place to take time to reflect on how Myanmar is evolving, between tradition and innovation.A place to breathe peace thanks to the monks’ smiles. A place that resists modernity thanks to millennial rituals intense and magical.
5) PEOPLE’S PARK
There is a place in Yangon where all the lovers go to exchange kisses: it’s People’s Park.
This park is famous not only for the fun park but especially for its “Love Walk”, a walk in which loving people can find corners where they stand in peace. The love walk, in fact, has many benches divided by one another from the bunch of cardboard shapes. In addition, to have greater privacy, all lovers carry large umbrellas that open and place on the benches to defend their love from indiscreet looks.