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Re-live History Along Yangon's Colonial Heritage Trail Yangon Region Cities & Towns | Arts & Culture | 0 comments

Yangon is a gold mine for people with an interest in old-style colonial architecture. A treasure trove of old buildings from that period awaits your perusal.
Re-live History Along Yangon's Colonial Heritage Trail

The buildings are from the era of British colonialization, of course, and are quite numerous. They are prominent and handsome structures scattered around the city. Hereafter are some favorite ones:

Minister’s Building (The Former Secretariat Buildings)

Over 120 years old, these impressive buildings are in downtown Yangon. The complex is completely abandoned at the moment but there are plans afoot to turn into a museum complex. If you’d like to see it as it is after a half a century of neglect, you’ll need to get here pretty quickly. It’s one of the most attractive sights in Myanmar (Burma) and a key part of the Yangon City Heritage List.


The Strand Hotel

Built in 1901, this was the most famous hotel in the city. It sits on the banks of the Hlaing River and is now the property of General Hotel Management. It was fully restored to its former glory in 1993 and is a seriously swanky place to visit. The restoration was completely authentic and the developers didn’t add a new wing or despoil the grounds with so much as a swimming pool. Don’t feel obliged to appreciate if from the outside; the hotel is famous for being friendly to tourists even if they aren’t spending anything inside.

The Myanmar Port Authority

To be found on Pansodan Street, this impressive building is still in use inside and it’s best to linger only long enough for a quick photo before moving on down the street. The front is still as it would have been all those years ago. It was built in 1920 during the peak of British control over Burma and thus the architecture is slightly more modern than many other surviving buildings from that colonial period.

The Former High Court and the High Court Clock Tower

The former High Court is now the customs office in Myanmar. What do you expect from a nation whose most famous monument is the clock tower that props up the House of Parliament? The clock tower is a fantastic sight and instantly recognizable at a distance. Charming red brick and stone lead up to a domed roof with a very English-style clock face on the side. It’s what makes the former High Court such a pleasure to visit.

The Former St. Paul’s English High-School

Today this is Botatuang 6 High School, which is a bit of a mouthful so it’s still known as St. Paul’s. Founded as a Roman Catholic school for the children of the British elite back in 1860, it’s one of the oldest colonial buildings in Myanmar. It has a host of famous alumni, the most recognizable from a Western perspective is Colin McPhedran who wrote “White Butterflies.” The story details a daring escape from Burma and its Japanese invaders in 1942. The building's charming red brick façade draws many tourists for a photo opportunity.

Accountant-General’s Office

This is a smaller building than the others in the same area. It’s now the Civil Courts where people can sue each other for perceived slights and for the return of money and property. It was built in 1912 and from the outside is quite charming. Given that it’s just across the road from the Port Authority building, it’s an easy place to add to your itinerary.

Myanmar Custom’s House

The Custom’s House site has seen several  houses come and go. The British apparently kept needing bigger and bigger premises so they started building early and kept tearing it down. The current four-story affair was completed in 1915. It had to be restored following some serious damage during World War II and that was completed in 1947.

New Law Courts

This impressive building isn’t far from the older High Court offices. Its colonnaded exterior was design to keep the sun from penetrating too far into the offices during the heat of the Burmese day. It’s a very solid and striking building rather similar to the Fullerton Hotel (once a Post Office) in Singapore. You can find a plaque dedicating the building to the former British governor of Burma, Sir Harcourt Butler, who was rather popular locally though it’s said that his wife wasn’t one of his admirers. 

Myanmar Economic Bank Branch 3 (The Former Central Bank Building)

A spectacular Edwardian creation that can be found at the start of The Strand, it is still essentially the Central Bank but today goes under the substantially less-easy-to-swallow title of Myanmar Economic Bank Branch 3. Stop across the road and appreciate the ornate exterior and high tower.

Rowe & Co. Building

This is a relic of the shop “until you drop but only in one store” philosophy of the British colonists. Today it lies almost unused and you can wander the bare corridors and floors to your heart’s content. The exterior is somewhat marred by a giant advertising board mounted next to the tower but you can still get an appreciation for what a fantastic building it was in its heyday.

St. Mary’s Cathedral and Rectory

The largest Catholic cathedral to be founde in Myanmar is located at the back of the St. Paul’s school complex. It was built by the Dutch architect Jos Cuypers and finished in 1899. It took a little battering from an earthquake in the 1930s but was quickly restored. Its stained glass didn’t survive the Japanese arrival during World War II. It’s still an ornate and magnificent building today, but is no longer associated with the Catholic faith. The rectory is also an interesting building.

Inland Water Transport Building (formerly the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company Office)

The Irrawaddy Flotilla Company was featured in Kipling’s famous verse “Mandalay.” He made no mention of their offices, which have now been taken over by the Inland Water Transport authority. That’s a shame because they are rather poetic in their own right. Built in 1912 and with some of the tallest colonnaded fronting in Myanmar, they’re well worth a visit.

Former Myanmar Railways HQ

This is a fantastic building with a gently sloping tile roof. Each window is given its own individual shaded awning and the gentle spread of palm trees that line the outsides offer a lovely contrast to the walls. It has now been converted into a hotel and you can wander around inside. It’s a pleasant blend of Western and local architecture.

Telegraph Office

The telegraph office is a lovely old building that was designed by a Scotsman, John Begg. Its frontage is a mixture of reds, yellows and greens and visitors won’t be able to help being charmed by it. It was fully restored after the Japanese invasion of Yangon and remains a must-see for locals and visitors alike.

More attractions in Yangon Region? Check out: National Museum of Myanmar (Burma)

If you're interested in Cities & Towns attractions - check out: Ngwe Saung Elephant Camp is Interactive

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