Hello and good morning. I hope you are ready for our today’s ‘British Colonial Rangoon Sight Seeing’.
All of the colonial buildings we will visit are located in downtown Yangon, in other words, former British Colonial Rangoon proper, and are positioned relatively close to one another. The simple grit pattern of the city’s layout makes it easy to find ones way around. That’s why the best way to explore Colonial Rangoon is by foot. Another reason for walking instead of using a car is that the permanent traffic jams and a chronic lack of parking space in this area makes the car being more curse than blessing. We cannot and need not to see all colonial buildings for this would be much too much for one day and this article. The tour I have planned for today includes 30 major buildings that bear testimony to Rangoon’s present days Yangon’s glorious colonial past. All of them belong to the most precious jewels of British Colonial Rangoon’s treasure trove. And, please, if you want to do yourself a favour make plenty of photos of them because it will definitely be the last time that you have the chance to see the buildings as they are. In the not so far future there will a yet unknown number of them be completely disappeared, totally run down or ‘restored’ in a way that leaves nothing of their partly still existing, leave alone former, colonial charm. We will of course see a lot of other partly still beautiful old colonial buildings that have interesting stories to tell but have to keep focussed on those I have selected for our tour; we will otherwise be too much distracted and not get ready today. Please stay close together, mind your steps and do not stray from the group. OK, the starting point of our walk through British Colonial Rangoon will be the former Rangoon General Hospital. From there we continue to the Holy Trinity Cathedral, located in direct neighbourhood of the Scott Market, then to the former Burmah Railways Headquarters, the former Rangoon Railway Station, and so on. When we arrive at the buildings I will give you some related basic information. There is of course an awful lot more to say about the buildings and their history but this article does not provide enough space for all these details. Further very important information related to this you will find at the end of this article.
So, ladies and gentlemen, now we have arrived at the Yangon, formerly (Rangoon) General Hospital where our today’s ‘Colonial Yangon Sight Seeing Tour’ begins. We are here on Bogyoke Aung San Road, the former Commissioner’s Road. In front of us you can see on the other side of the road the Hospital, built from 1899 to 1905 and opened on 07 May the same year. It is here were Aung San – who was hospitalised to be treated for the injuries he sustained in 1942 during the Burma Campaign – meets his later wife Daw Khin Kyi who serves here as senior nurse. Later their third child will be a daughter, which they will give the name Aung San Su Kyi. The Yangon General hospital also is the site were Burmese soldiers commit a massacre during the uprising in 1988 by indiscriminately killing a large number of hospital patience, because they believe that said patience have sustained their wounds during the demonstrations. Please make now your photos and let us then continue eastwards on Aung San Road (former Commissioner’s Road) to the Holy Trinity Cathedral at the corner of Aung San Road (former Montgomery Road) and Shwedagon Pagoda Road, the former Pagoda Road. Now you are confused about the street names? Well, this side of Aung San Road is the former Commissioner’s Road and from the cross-roads at the cathedral on it is the former Montgomery Road.
Cathedral Of The Holy Trinity
Right in front of us we have now the primary Anglican cathedral in Burma; the Holy Trinity Cathedral on No. 446 Bogyoke Aung San Road. It is one of Rangoon’s earliest colonial buildings. The Holy Trinity Cathedral is on the Yangon Heritage List. Now it is time to move on to the former Scott Market, now Bogyoke Aung San Market. Its main entrance is about 500 feet/155 metres down Aung San Road from here in eastern direction. We will be there in a few minutes.
Now we have reached the main entrance to the long centre hall of the Scott Market at Bogyoke Aung San Road (former Montgomery Road), since 1948 called Bogyoke Market (by locals Bogyoke Zay (zay meaning market), after the Burmese national hero Bogyoke (General) Aung San. Not widely known is that his real name (birth name) was Htein Lin; Aung San is the name he has taken on at the time he was student leader. The market is built on the premises of a former tram terminus, was opened in 1926 and named after Mr. Garvin Scott, who was from 1917 to 1930 (17 years) Chief Executive Officer of the Rangoon Corporation and during his tenure twice president of the Rangoon Municipality.
The Bogyoke Aung San Market is on the Yangon Heritage List. OK, let’s continue our tour. When we get out of the market we turn left on the Aung San Road, and pass the FMT building and the Zawgyi Restaurant. Then we will see the Grand May Yaa Hta Executive Residence building and our actual point of interest, the former Burma Railways Headquarters at the corner of Aung San Road and Sule Pagoda Road.
Former Burma Railways Headquarters
Here it is, the former Burma Railways Headquarters building complex at the corner of former Montgomery Road, now Aung San Road and Sule Pagoda Road. In 1896 three railway companies merged into one railway company under contract with the Secretary of State for India; the state-owned ‘Burmah Railways Company’ has come into being and moves into this new headquarters.
Central Railway Station
Now we are on Sule Pagoda Road and over there on the right side you can already see the railway tracks and the backside of the railway station. In front of us on the other side of the bridge on which we are now walking you see the Methodist Church (Scots Kirk) and over there on the right hand side the Aung San Sports Grounds & Stadium. Let us now turn right into Kun Chan Road and look at the railway station from its front side. We continue to Phayre Street now Pansodan Street; the stairs there in front of us lead up to the fly-over. On Pansodan Street we turn right, cross the bridge, continue to Bogyoke Aung San Road, turn left, and follow the Aung San Road till Bo Aung Kyaw Road, former Sparks Road. There at the corner of Bo Aung Kyaw Road and Aung San Road is the St. Mary’s Cathedral located, which is our next British colonial point of interest.
St. Mary’s Cathedral/Cathedral Of Our Lady Of Immaculate Conception
Well, my friends, this was quite a little walk but we have made it. Here you see Myanmar’s largest cathedral, the Saint Mary’s Cathedral at No. 372, Bo Aung Kyaw Street. We will now cross the Archbishop’s Residence compound located behind the cathedral’s compound. They have a very nice garden and the Archbishop’s Residence is a beautiful building. It is normally not allowed to take this way in order to get to Thein Byu Road, the former Judah Ezekiel Road, but I know some people here and we can for once use this shortcut. So, we have crossed the Archbishop’s Residence compound and are standing in front of it on Thein Byu Road. We turn right and a few steps further down the street you can see one of the sports grounds of the former St. Paul’s English High School. At the corner we turn right again onto the former Frazer/Bigandet Street, now Anawrahta Road from which we will see the school’s main entrance and main building.
St. Paul’s English High School/B.E.H.S. 6 Botataung
We are in front of the former St. Pauls English High School. The former St. Paul’s English High School is on the Yangon Heritage List. Let’s continue to the former Secretariat Building opposite of the main entrance to the former St. Paul’s High School. Just cross the former Dalhousie Street, now Maha Bandoola Road and make some photos from the school. Then we walk the few yards back to the cross roads, turn right and walk down Thein Byu Road, the former Judah Ezekiel Road, alongside the Secretariat Building till we reach its main entrance.
So we are now at the corner Maha Bandoola Road and Thein Byu Road. The building over there on the other side of Thein Byu Road is the former British Government Press Building on No. 228 Thein Byu Road.. Well, here we are now; on former Judah Ezekiel Road, now at No. 300 Thein Byu Road in front of the main entrance to the Secretariat Building. It is without doubt former Rangoon’s largest and most spectacular and impressive British colonial building filling the space of an entire block. The Secretariat is bordered here in the east by the former Judah Ezekiel Road, now Thein Byu Road, left from us, in the south, by the former Dalhousie Street, now Maha Bandoola Road, right from us, in the north, by the former Bigandet Street, now Anawrahta Road and on the side opposite from us, the west, by the former Sparks Street, now Bo Aung Kyaw Street. The construction begins in 1889 and the first phase is completed in 1902; the second is completed in 1905 and ‘The Secretariat’ is officially opened the same year. After independence on 4 January 1948 the building houses offices of ministers of the Burmese government for which reason it is from 1948 to 1972 by locals called Government Secretariat and from1972 on till now Ministers’ Office. But it is not only the fact that ‘The Secretariat’ is the place from which all of British Burma was governed and all administrative power is executed that makes it such an immensely important part of Burmese history; it also is the place were on 19 July 1947 at 10:30 am the de facto prime minister Aung San was assassinated in the ground floor room at the north-east corner of the building together with 6 ministers of his cabinet. The room in which Aung San and the members of his cabinet were assassinated has been turned into a memorial place. The Secretariat is on the Yangon Heritage List. Island Private Party in Cartagena Colombia