History Needs Help

The Bangkok Post

Settled between massive green warehouses of Yangon’s Jetty Wharf, Burma Railways’ historic colonial-era Keighley Street Goods Office is in disrepair.

Much has changed however. Today, the signage for the massive depot stands faded, while the red-brick façade in many areas has fallen apart, and the windows are almost completely punched out. Down below on the a cement platform leading to its entrance, a gaggle of ducks are drinking water from a large moldy puddle being created from a sewage spill pouring from a hole in the floor above.

Despite its poor upkeep, the structure is still nevertheless used to this very day to transit raw materials though low-wage coolies have little to do and troll the largely empty train platforms adjacent to the building.

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The struggle to save Yangon’s architectural heritage


Here, on Bogolay Zay Street amid the moss-covered, weather-stained, early-20th Century facades in the historic center of the city, the history of the colonial buildings that make up old Rangoon, once the capital of Burma, begins to come into focus.

DSC_4408To the right, the former residence of famed Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda; to the left, one can still see the signage for the Young Women’s Christian Association, circa 1902.

Other heritage buildings in the city have not been as fortunate. Developers and landowners made money building larger and newer structures, while most of the city’s infrastructure went into disrepair when the military government took power in 1962.

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Yangon’s New Look

The Bangkok Post

Some call it romantic, others rustic – the way mildew covers the façade of hundreds of fading historic buildings of Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon.

Many of the structures — originally built as depositories, libraries, malls and hospitals – still stand as they did when they were built about a hundred years ago and to most passers by, not much has seemed to changed a few high-end new projects aside.

With swathes of new small and medium foreign business owners however looking to make a home in Myanmar, the pickings for a suitable home are slim and for many, their only choice is to get creative with the existing space by transforming the old and unsavory buildings into something modern.

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Creative Spaces, Unsavory Places

Deutsche Presse Agentur

Yangon’s streets have an air of cinematic unreality, with rain clouds hanging low and mildew lacing the facades of hundreds of fading colonial-era buildings as great crowds swarm the streets.

New retail businesses are moving in to Myanmar’s largest city as prosperity spreads and tourist numbers swell, creating both a threat and an opportunity to the old buildings, many a century old.

Many of the structures – originally built as depositories, libraries, malls and hospitals – no longer seem to be used for what they were intended, instead serving as makeshift shops, or as homes for dozens of families.

Others remain completely abandoned. Cracks are evident in walls, window glass is broken and the old elegance is only dimly visible.

In an effort to protect Yangon’s historic central business district, the city has deemed nearly 200 such buildings protected. The heritage status of hundreds of others has yet to be determined.

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Strangled by traffic in Yangon

Al Jazeera

Three years ago, tens of thousands of vehicles flooded into Myanmar’s largest city after international economic sanctions on the country were eased.

Now, Yangon’s asphalt arteries are gridlocked. What was once a 15-minute commute from the downtown area to Yangon International Airport – just 16 kilometres away – can now take as long as 90 minutes during peak traffic. In 2007, there were about 180,000 vehicles on the city’s streets, but that number has now nearly doubled, according to the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC).

On the five main roads running east to west in downtown Yangon, pedestrians often move faster than motor vehicles. A city-wide ban on bicycles and motorbikes is forcing many to walk through congested roads – weaving between cars in makeshift parking spaces that are replacing Yangon’s once wide and plentiful sidewalks.

As a result, the region saw 506 traffic-related fatalities in nearly 3,000 vehicle collisions last year, police officials told local media organisation Mizzima. This was a 6.5 percent increase in fatalities since 2012, which saw 475 road deaths from around 2,100 collisions.

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