Holy Trinity Cathedral.
This is the main Anglican church in Yangon which was completed in 1894 and is now one of the important buildings listed in the Yangon City Heritage List. It is located in the heart of the city on Bogyoke Aung Sun Road which is also near to the Phaya Lan train station.
And just a few meters away (literally next to it) is the famous local hangout:
Bogyoke Aung San market.
As you can see the fence is up so the market isn't open yet so we would revisit this place again later, but first we had to go to one of the main attractions in Yangon first. In fact, it could be considered in the top three attractions in Yangon.
Situated in a very strategic location, this structure can be found just two blocks away from the Aung San market along the busy Sule Road. It is constructed right in the roundabout as if it is the main highlight of the city.
This pagoda is a very old structure because it has been there for more than 2000 years. It is also listed in the Yangon City Heritage List and no one knows exactly how old this pagoda has been built. It seems like a mismatch to the rest of the buildings around the area, but an important place to the hearts of the locals because it is a place where they will pass by day and night and pray for a smooth day or be grateful for the good things that happened for the day.
Inside the pagoda.
There is something unique about this pagoda because the central stupa, known as the Kyaik Athok zedi, is different from other stupas. You might notice that stupas are usually smooth and they are curved, but this unique stupa is actually octagonal. It follows the octagonal shape of the main structure 151 feet right up to the tip.
Maybe this photo is more obvious...
It is also quite interesting that there are shops surrounding the pagoda, and many people would expect those to be shops like selling offerings but you can find Internet cafes, bookshops and guitar shops. The Sule Pagoda has been so important to people here it is a landmark of the city as well as a common meeting place.
There are a few places around the Sule Pagoda which are worth checking out, and they are all within 50 meters in different directions of the pagoda. Something to note about roads in Yangon: it can be very easy to navigate in downtown Yangon because only the big main roads have proper names like Sule Road, Merchant Road. The smaller roads are called streets denoted by numbers. So for example, the next sight we saw is located on 30th Street:
The Bengali Sunni Jameh Mosque.
Well I didn't expect there to be a Muslim community in Yangon since it is predominantly Buddhist. Looking at the name of the mosque, it seems like this is a Sunni mosque and the Muslims come from Bangladesh, hence the Bengali Sunni.
Also another building next to the Sule Pagoda:
The Yangon City Hall.
This is the seat of the city's administrative body and this building is said to be a classic example of Burmese architecture. Maybe it could be the tiny details but frankly speaking I couldn't see anything that looks uniquely Burmese.
From here, we decided to follow the guide book which has a walking tour map that would eventually lead us to a pit-stop for some rest and food. So we started walking along Maha Bandula Road.
Here there is an area of greenery which is known as the Maha Bandula Park. You can see the name of the park and the street are the same because they are named after General Maha Bandula, a commander-in-chief of the Royal Burmese Armed Forces who fought in the Anglo-Burmese War against the British. And here we can find the Independence Monument.
I think there is an admission fee to enter the park, but the 46 meters tall obelisk can be clearly seen along Maha Bandula Road. The guide says there are five smaller pillars surrounding the obelisk and there's history inscribed on the base of the obelisk, so if you are a history buff or would like to get to know more, you probably have to get into the park. The only information I have regarding the independence is that this park used to be called the Fytch Square Park before the war, and it was only in 1948 when the monument was erected and then renamed to Maha Bandula Park.
Adjacent to the park is this building which was undergoing restoration work:
I don't know what to call it now... Maybe a to-be bank?
It used to be the Immigration Department, but it was undergoing restoration works to be converted into the Ayeyarwady Bank head office in Yangon. By the time you are reading this, the building should be ready and the bank up and running in downtown Yangon.
Also surrounding the park, this baptist church could be seen in Yangon:
Immanuel Baptist Church.
It was originally built in 1830, making it one of the oldest churches in Yangon. Several parts of the building were damaged during the World War II and rebuilt, so there is a mix of old and new elements in this church.
We continued walking under the hot and humid weather and while walking along Maha Bandula Park Street, we noticed locals setting up stalls along the street.
An alfresco bookstore.
The books were just laid out in the open for a good 10-15 meters, and the owner was nice enough to let the locals just stop and pick a book and read while squatting. I was hoping that the weather will be good enough else he would be having difficulty keeping the books when it rains. Might have to throw away the books if they are soaked and end up making losses.
Yum yum street food!
I was so excited when I saw this and I told my friend I wanted to try, but he discouraged me from eating as he was worried it might not be hygienic enough and didn't want me to fall sick on the first day of the trip. I suppose I have quite a strong stomach since I have been to so many places, and I was also feeling a little hungry and wanted to try the local food, but he was telling me we would be arriving the pit-stop in a very short while with nicer food to eat. Oh well.
Grand building painted brick red and yellow.
Felt a bit like a fun combination of colours because the moment I saw it reminded me of the beach umbrella or the circus ball, little did I know it is actually the High Court Building of Yangon! I thought government buildings should be more pure and elegant painted in white but this is definitely an exception. It is a very grand and majestic building which almost spans the entire street and it is obvious it had British architecture, and as you can imagine, a clock tower at the middle of the entire building.
We crossed over to the next block to Phansodan Street and before reaching the end of the street there is another pretty grand building in white:
Myanma Port Authority.
I wondered why was Myanmar spelt this way, there wasn't anyone for me to ask. As you reach this building, you know you are almost hitting the southern most part of Yangon where the Yangon River is. From the end of Phansodan street make a turn left past 37th and 38th Streets you will see another iconic building:
The Strand Yangon.
This is Yangon's five star hotel and probably the most expensive one. It was owned by the Sarkies Brothers which was opened in 1901 and it has played host to a lot of famous personalities, George Orwell included. This hotel was then converted to a Japanese troops quarters during the World War II. After the war it suffered a period of darkness till the end 1980s when it was sold and reopened in 1993.
The hotel lobby.
No joke but a night's stay in the hotel can range anywhere between 300-1100 USD, so be prepared to bring loads of cash since they don't accept credit card! And so many people say, if you can't afford to stay for a night then at least visit for a drink or high tea in the cafe. And this was our pit-stop where we decided to rest in the air-conditioned cafe and enjoy good food.
The Strand Bar and Cafe.
Ordered some food and drinks.
Stayed for about an hour and decided we have cooled down enough and its time to continue visiting the sights.
Street food again! So hard to resist...
We continued walking about 1.5 kilometers eastwards of Strand Road until we were all soaked in our sweat and wanted to give up walking, but then we saw this and we knew we have reached the next destination:
Selling green bananas?
I heard the use of green bananas is only unique to this place in Yangon. Where exactly is this place? Stay tuned next entry!