COLONIAL BUILDINGS IN YANGON
Colonial Buildings in Yangon are best viewed around Maha Bandoola Park. The British-built City Hall is adorned with Burmese peacocks. The art-deco train station is crowned with four traditional Burmese temple spires. The historic block includes the dilapidated 100-year-old Supreme Court building and wedding cake City Hall, with its white paint and intricately tiered roof. Inya Lake has some nice colonial-era houses around it and a huge restaurant along one of its shore. In central Yangon, the Independence Monument stands tall near the Supreme Court building. Carved on the monument is a slogan declaring that the rights of citizens must be shared by all.
Strand Hotel is Yangon’s most famous and luxurious hotel. Built by the Armenian Sarkies brothers, who also built the Oriental in Bangkok and the Raffles in Singapore, it is housed in an elegant 1920s teak mansion on lush grounds, with doubles from $220. Among the famous guests who stayed were George Orwell, Rudyard Kipling and Somerset Maugham. In the early 1990s the hotel was given a $36 million overall by Adrian Zecha, the founder and designer of the Aman Resorts. The teak and brass rooms were fixed up and outfit with satellite television and other amenities. Rooms that used to go for $10 a night were jacked up to $500 a night. There is bar with a band that plays ragtime music and working air conditioners. Outside are beggars. The Strand, http://www.ghmhotels.com , doubles from $300. Governor's Residence, http://www.governorsresidence.com/ .
Ceil Miller Bouchet wrote in the New York Times: On Yangon’s chaotic riverfront boulevard, Strand Road, stately buildings like the Custom House, the Central Post Office and the British Embassy bear stucco and stone witness to the city’s turn-of-the-century status as one of the British Empire’s key commercial and trading hubs. A haven of tranquillity, the Strand Hotel, among Yangon’s best-preserved colonial-era mansions, has cosseted globe-trotters almost continuously since the Armenian Sarkies Brothers, owners of the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, opened it in 1901. It’s also home to River Gallery I, opened by a Kiwi expatriate, Gill Pattison, in 2005 and the ideal place to explore Yangon’s buzzing contemporary art scene. Last year Ms. Pattison expanded, with River Gallery II, just up the street in a lofty-ceilinged former law office. Strand Hotel, 92 Strand Road; hotelthestrand.com. River Gallery II, 33/35, 37th and 38th Streets, rivergallerymyanmar.com. [Source: Ceil Miller Bouchet, New York Times, February 7, 2014]
”Walk or have your taxi drive past the Secretariat, the spectacular Victorian brick labyrinth and former colonial government headquarters where General Aung San, father of Burmese independence, was assassinated in 1947. From there it’s a few blocks to the riverfront Botataung Pagoda, where pilgrims gawk at tarnished jewel-encrusted antique icons and religious items (like a small bowl filled with “the sands of Buddha Gaya”) inside the gold-gilded sanctuary — rebuilt after a World War II bombing raid that was aimed at a nearby wharf destroyed the original stupa instead, revealing ancient treasures buried inside. Before leaving, stroll past stands selling coconut and banana offerings (meant to appease mischievous Burmese folk spirits called nats) and down to the riverfront to watch ferries cross the tidal Yangon River waters as ships glide toward inland ports. Secretariat, 300 Theinbyu Road. Botataung Pagoda.
”To grasp Yangon’s urban past and future possibility, snag a copy of the illustrated paperback “30 Heritage Buildings of Yangon” at the Governor’s Residence hotel gift shop on Taw Win Road and peruse it over a sundowner on the poolside terrace of this 1920s-era teakwood mansion in the city’s lush Embassy Quarter. Visiting this beautiful boutique hotel, a member of the Orient Express group, is one of Yangon’s most out-of-time experiences. Governor’s Residence, 35, Taw Win Road; governorsresidence.com.”
Parks in Yangon include People Park (near Shwedagon Pagoda), a 130-acre landscaped park with numerous gardens and a museum with life-size models of Burmese minorities clad in tradition clothes; Bongoke Aung San Park, a popular weekend retreat for Yangon residences located around Kandawgyi Lake; and Hlawga Wildlife Park (45 minutes by car from downtown Yangon), a 1,650-acre park with a lake, 70 kinds of animals, 90 species of bird, elephant rides, boating and fishing.
Musmeah Yesua Synagogue
Musmeah Yesua Synagogue
is located in Yangon Muslim’s district among mostly Indian-owned hardware shops and paint stores. The only synagogue in Myanmar, it is a two-story, white-washed structure built between 1893 and 1896, replacing an earlier wood structure built in 1854. Outside is a blue Star of David. Inside are some Israeli tourism posters and a photograph of the Wailing Wall and two 100-year-old copies of the Torah. A few blocks away is a Jewish cemetery with 60 moss- and jungle-covered tombstones. On holidays Jews often invite Buddhist, Muslim and Hindu friends to the synagogue .
As of 2001, there was a community of 20 Jews in Myanmar. Remnants of a once thriving community, they look half Burmese and half Iranian and are members of eight families who live in Yangon. Among them is only one young marriageable man, Sammy Samuels. At that time he planned to stay in Myanmar to care of the synagogue and cemetery. To find a Jewish wife he needed to go abroad because the only young women in the Jewish community in Yangon were his sisters.
The Burmese Jews mostly arrived in the 19th century and were teak, cotton and rice traders and merchants. Most came from Iraq. Some also came from Iran and India.. At their height there were maybe 2,500 of them. Many fled Burma in World War II or after their businesses were nationalized in 1960s. Only Samuels can read Hebrew. Sometimes only three members of the community show up at the synagogue to observe the beginning of the Sabbath. One of the regulars told the New York Times, “Sometimes you feel very lonely, you feel sad. Sometimes its only me, only me in the big synagogue.”
Sule Pagoda (intersection of Sule Pagoda Road and Mahabandoola Road) is an interesting temple located in traffic circle in the middle of downtown Yangon. Reputed to be 2,000 year old, this temple has a 152-foot-high (48-meter-high) golden stupa which is unique in that it has an octagonal rather than circular base. At night it is lit by floodlights that attract insects which in turn attract bats.
The pagoda is said to enshrine a hair of the Buddha. Its name in the Mon language (“Kyaik Athok”) means "the pagoda where a sacred hair relic is enshrined." In addition to numerous Buddha images (some of which are encircled by neon light and swirling psychedelic colors), there also some interesting statues of demons, gods and famous monks. Surrounding the pagoda are small shops with palm readers and astrologers.
Walking around the pagoda and the areas near it you can see pious devotees performing deeds of religious merit as well as the view of the surroundings — the lofty Independence Pillar in the Maha Bandoola Park, Immanuel Church, a mosque, the City Hall of Myanmar, the colonial High Court Buildings. Major thoroughfares from different directions converge on Sule Pagoda hill. Sule Pagoda offers goods views of the Yangon cityscape and is a good place to watch city life go by.
The high golden dome of Sule Pagoda was used by the British as the nucleus of their grid pattern for the city when it was rebuilt in the 1880s. The octagonal shape continues right up to the bell and inverted bowl. According to legend, Sule Pagoda marks the site where King Ukkalapa held meetings to build Shwedagon. "Su-Wei" is a Myanmar word meaning "meeting". In course of time 'Su-Wei' was corrupted to 'Su-Le' by successive town planners. King Thayawaddy, Montgomery, Fraser and others all decided to keep Sule Pagoda as the center piece of Yangon because of its strategic location, religious significance and artistic beauty. It can be reached through four entrances of the four stairways facing four cardinal directions or by two overhead bridges. Hours: 4:00am to 10:00pm daily Admission Fees: US$5 per person.
Botataung Pagoda (Botahtaung Paya Road, on the banks of Yangon River near the downtown area) contains a hollow stupa with a mirror maze, inside of which are glass cases containing ancient relics and artifacts that were sealed inside an earlier pagoda. The golden stupa rises 132 feet and the pagoda's name means "a thousand leaders," a reference to 1,000 military leaders that guarded relics of the Buddha brought to Burma as they were transported out of India.
Two thousand years ago, one thousand army leaders guarded the Buddha's hair relics brought by King Okkalapa. The meaning of Bo is "leader" and tahtaung is "a thousand". It was built almost in the same time as Sule Pagoda and Shwedagon Pagoda. The name of the pagoda was originally Kyaik-de-att, which was a Mon name, or Sandaw Shin as it enshrined the sacred hair of the Lord Buddha.
The Botataung Pagoda is hollow inside and you can walk through it. It's a sort of mirrored maze inside the pagoda with glass show-cases containing many of the ancient relics and artifacts which were sealed inside the earlier pagoda. Above this interesting interior the golden pagoda spire rises to 40 meters (132 feet). It rises on the circular base and especially its umbrella or crown at the top of the spire in quite different from the conventional design.
The festival of Botahtaung pagoda is annually celebrated during the dry season. It hosts a weaving contest held on the precinct of the pagoda . The pagoda also hosts a contest of cooking Htamane every year. Htamane is a traditional Myanmar food cooked from the sticky rice with nuts and coconut. During the festival cultural theatrical troupes usually perform throughout the night to entertain the audience. Food stalls are set up around the entranceway.
Botahtaung pagoda was rebuilt after it was destroyed by Allied bombing during the World War II. The relics excavated during the time of repair were placed in the showcase in the interior corridor walls. These including silver, bronze and alabaster images of Buddha in a pagoda-shaped casket serving as a repository of the Sacred Hair and relics of the two great Disciples. After the renovation new temples, a monastery and other religious buildings were constructed on the precincts of the pagoda. The area of the site is limited because of the river front on one side. Just on the left side of the pagoda's compound is another interesting place, Ahma Mya Nan Nwe, a worship place for the Spiritual Being who is believed to be guarding the Botahtaung Pagoda.
Hours of Botahtaung pagoda: 6:00am to 8:00pm daily Admission Fees: US$2 per person. Location: Corner of Strand Road and Botahtaung Pagoda Road, Kanna Block, Botahtaung Township. The Botahtaung Jetty can be viewed after talking a short walk towards the Yangon River.
SIGHTS ASSOCIATED WITH AUNG SAN SUU KYI
National League for Democracy Headquarters (near Schwedagon Pagoda) See Political Parties. Backpackers go there and buy Aung San Suu Kyi souvenirs. Intelligence officers check all who go in.
Bogyoke Aung San Museum (No 15. Bogyoke Museum Lane, Bahan Township, not far from Schwedagon Pagoda) was established in 1962, 15 years after the assassination of Bogyoke Aung San, Aung San Suu Kyi’s father. “Bogyoke” means “General” in Burmese. The museum was a home of the general before he was assassinated. The building has two stories. On display are a memorial, furniture, clothes, books and a car used by Bogyoke Aung San. and his family photos. Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Closed on gazette holidays. Admission Fees: US$2 per person. The Kandawgyi Nature Park is very close to it. The entrance to Kandawgyi Nature Park has a bronze statue made in the memorial of Bogyoke Aung San. The Shwedagon Pagoda's Eastern Stairways is also nearby, about 15 minutes walk. The Martyr's Mausoleum is a memorial honoring General Aung San.
Aung San Suu Kyi's House
Aung San Suu Kyi's House(54 University Avenue on Inya Lake) is the modest, slightly-rundown, lakeside residence of pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi. It is located in a posh neighborhood not far the homes of many of generals she battled for decades. Ne Win, the retired general who ruled Burma for more than 30 years, lived about a mile away, across Inya Lake. The New Yorker described her house as a “two-story colonial villa, stately but threadbare.”
Partially hidden by an overgrown garden, trees and a six-foot green and yellow picket fence, the house is not only the home of Aung San Suu Kyi, it was also the home of her late father, Aung San, a national hero and the leader of Burma's independence movement after World War II. Aung San Suu Kyi spent the early years of her life at the house and returned to it in 1988 after her mother had a stroke.
Kenneth Denby wrote in The Australian, “Aung San Suu Kyi's house has one of the loveliest views in Rangoon. Meters from the weathered two-storey building, in its garden of crumbling outhouses and tropical trees, the waters of the Inya Lake glitter in the late morning sun. Families look down on the city from the big wheel in the nearby amusement park and young couples sit on benches holding hands. At night, the restaurants light up along the shore and the traffic noise from the road to the airport goes on all night. [Source: Kenneth Denby, The Australian, November 20, 2010]
Aung San Suu Kyi's House Arrest and Speeches
On July 20, 1989, about year after hundred were killed in the brutal 1988 crackdown of pro-democracy demonstrations, Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested during a protest rally and taken to the house. Eleven truckloads of armed soldiers later showed up, cut her phone lines and prevented her from leaving. Two years later she was awarded the Nobel Peace prize but she couldn't leave her house to receive it. On July, 10, 1995, after six years of house arrest, she was finally allowed to leave.
After her release then, Aung San Suu Kyi was largely confined to her house. Her attempts to leave were thwarted in various ways. Once the train carriage she was traveling on was unhooked from the rest of train. On another occasion, her car was blocked and after she refused to get out. Some thugs then literally picked up the car and turned it around.
In the early 1990s people were arrested for taking photos of the house. On the walls outside it were signs that read "No Slowing Down" and "No U-turn". Soldiers were discretely posted outside near a sign in Burmese that read, "The enemy of the army is the enemy of the people." In the mid-1990s, after her release, Aung San Suu Kyi appeared every Saturday and Sunday on her driveway at 4:00pm to address her supporters who stood behind barricades while traffic police directed traffic along University Avenue.
She usually spoke for about an hour, using a microphone, and answered questions that had been dropped off earlier in her mailbox. She seemed relaxed when she spoke, and often cracked jokes that were greeted with rounds of applause and laughter. She often spoke in English for the benefit of the tourists that had gathered to hear her.
Initially the crowds were small, and made up mostly of foreigners. Most Burmese were afraid to come. By the spring of 1996, the crowds were several thousand strong and mostly Burmese. Not long after that, the government decided enough and was enough and prohibited the speeches. The house was then cordoned off and people often couldn’t even drive by and look at the house anymore. Not long after that Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested again. She spent much of the 2000s under house arrest in the house. See History.
MUSEUMS AND SHOWROOMS IN YANGON
Gems Museum (10 minutes walk from Kaber Aye Pagoda) houses images of sandstone and cast bronze, original clay votive tablets and many artifacts from the Pagan Period culture as well as items of Pinya, Innwa, Taungoo and Nyaung Yan Period can be viewed in the Myanmar Historic Period Showroom. In the Royal Regalia Showroom, visitors can see articles made of pure solid gold and decorated with gems which were displayed in front of the throne to the left and right in customary order when the Kings of Myanmar gave audience to receive homage.
Myanmar Traditional Folk Art Showroom and Myanmar Performing Arts Showroom are on the second floor. Myanmar Art Gallery No.1 and No. 2 are on the third floor, where visitors can see copies of the drawings upon the walls of the 11,000-year-old Pyadalin cave, copies of the wall paintings from the thousand- year-old vault-based temples and stupas of the Pagan Period and reproductions of paintings of successive periods. Original works of art in oil and watercolors of Myanmar great Artists can be viewed also.
The Buddha Images Showroom and Culture of National Races Showroom is on the 4th floor. He one cane see 176 ancient Buddha images from the Pyu, Pinya, Innwa, Toungoo, Nyaung Yang and Konbaung periods in Hall 'A'. Musical instruments, art and craft articles, weaponry, totem emblems and symbols of the clan-or lineage of the national minorities that live in Myanmar are displayed. Hours: 9:30 am to 5:00 pm daily, except Mondays and gazette holidays. Admission Fees: US$ 5 per person Location: - Myanma Gems Enterprise No -66. Kaba Aye Pagoda Road. Mayangone Township. Yangon. Fax: 95 -1 - 665092; Tel: 95 -1 - 660365; 650487.
NATIONAL MUSEUMS OF MYANMAR
National Museum (near the Strand Hotel, No. 66/74. Pyay Road. Dagon Township, 20 minute walk from Shwedagon Pagoda) is a three-story building with a reasonably interesting collections of royal jewelry and archaeological artifacts. Among it dusty treasures are the eight-meter-high lion throne used by the last Burmese king and the Mandalay regalia, a collection of gem-studded arms and jewelry that is the Burmese equivalent of the Crown jewels except the gems have been pried out by thieves.
The National Museum of Myanmar was founded in 1952 on premises at what was once the Jubilee Hall. In 1970 the museum was moved to a more spacious building on Pansodan Street. But these premises were not originally constructed to house a museum. The present National Museum is housed in a five-storey building constructed for the purpose in spacious and specially landscaped grounds. Ancient artifacts, works of art, stone inscriptions, documents, carvings and historic memorabilia are on display in 14 halls on four storeys. Three halls on the ground floor hold exhibits on the evolution the Myanmar script and alphabet, the Lion Throne Room and Yatanabon Period pieces. A tour of the museum will provide visitors with greater knowledge and understanding of Myanmar and its people.
National Museum Travel Info: Hours: 10:00am to 4:00pm. except on Myanmar New Year Holidays (Thingyan Festival) in April. Admission Fees: US$ 5 per person. Tel. -95-1-282563. 95-1-282608. Location: 66/74 Pyay Road. Dagon Township. Yangon. Shwedagon Pagoda is within a walking range about 20 minutes from the National Museum. The Sein Gay Har Super Market also lies about 10 minutes walk from the museum, towards downtown. People's Square and People's Park are also close by, about 10 minutes walks.
Ground Floor Collection in the National Museum
On the Ground Floor, one can study the origins of the Myanmar alphabet. Myanmar script and literature as well as those of the other national races of Myanmar. There is also an interesting stone funerary urn of the period AD1 - AD 9 with Pyu writings on it in this hall. In the 19th century Yadanabon Period Exhibit hall one can see clothing fashions. furniture and other household articles of the time. There is also a palanquin used by king Thibaw's Chief monk. It has a gilded roof with three spires.
In the throne room you will see miniature models of the eight kinds of thrones of ancient Myanmar kings and the magnificent Royal Lion Throne of our last monarch King Thibaw in all its original majesty. This great throne is made of smooth-grained "Yamanay" timber adorned with lions at its base. The whole throne is heavily gilded. This throne is always placed in the "Hluttaw" Hall. (the Hall of the Council of Ministers). The king uses this throne when deliberating with his ministers on state affairs or delivering judgments on important issues.
First Floor Collection in the National Museum
On the first floor of the museum are four halls. one with an impressive display of the royal regalia. a second hall with exhibits of historic significance; the third hall with exhibits of pre-historic times and the fourth containing exhibits on natural history. In the hall of the royal regalia one can see beautifully ornamented objects that played a significant role in important royal ceremonies of ancient kings throughout Myanmar history. An example of the high standard of craftsmanship is the royal betel box in the shape of a Brahminy (Hamsa) bird. It is a beautifully gilded box embedded with valuable gems.
In the hall of Myanmar history are the pagodas. temples. monasteries and ordination halls of the Pagan Period and the marvelous murals of the Pinya. Innwa. Toungoo. Nyaungyan and Konbaung Eras. One can see rare ancient votive tablets with moldings from scenes of the Jataka Stories (stories of the Buddha’s life and past lives). that is the Lord Buddha's birth stories. In the hall of pre-historic times is a model of the Padalin Cave which is over 10,000 years old where stone age men once dwelt and etched drawings on its walls. There are also stone weapons of the Neolithic Period and also some bronze weapons of a later age. Then. there are clay pots. urns. votive tablets and necklaces that date back to the Pyu Era that spans the period from the first century to the ninth century A.D.
Then there are rare and priceless exhibits - silver chedis (stupas) found in the archaeological excavations at the ancient Pyu city of Sriksetra. They provide material evidence that Buddhism had flourished in Myanmar as far back as the ancient Pyu Period. In the exhibit hall on natural history are many fossils dating back millions of years. In this hall is an exhibit that is a truly rare find. It is fossil of an anthropoid primate that has been dated as being approximately 40 million years old. It was found in the Pondaung region of Upper Myanmar.
Second Floor Collection in the National Museum
The second floor of the museum is where exhibits on Myanmar culture can be seen with one hall assigned to Myanmar music. song and dance. In the hall on culture are displayed exhibits on Myanmar rural life. One can learn much of the social. economic and cultural traditions as well as modes of transportation of days gone by. One sees the Myanmar bullock cart still in use in some rural areas. The utility cart is used to transport heavy loads of paddy and other agricultural produce whereas the cart used on ceremonial occasions is a thing of beauty decorated with delicate wood carvings. The cart is very light and dainty with streamlined proportions. It is used at pagoda festivals and novitiation ceremonies when its passengers are belles of the village dressed in their best finery.
An offering bowl for monks gilded and wrought with mosaics of semi-precious stones is also on display. It is used for offering food and other comestibles to monks on religious occasions. In the hall of music. song and dance. you will see many musical instruments and the ornate "saing waing" or drum circle as well as marionettes that can be made to dance in classical dramas and operas.
Third and Forth Floor Collection in the National Museum
On the third floor of the museum are 3 exhibition halls. two for Myanmar paintings and a third for ancient ornaments and jewelry. In the Hall of Paintings you can observe the progress of the Myanmar art of painting beginning with the cave paintings of the Stone Age and down through the Pagan. Innwa. Amarapura. Konbaung and Ratanabon periods to 20th century contemporary art. The works of famous artists are on display. In the third hall can be seen the personal ornaments and jewelry worn by the Myanmar people since ancient times. Here you will see an ornament for the ears of the 18th century A.D. It is called a "Nadaung" in Myanmar and is a cylindrical plug which is worn by pushing it into the pierced ear lobe. It is an ancient piece of jewelry.
On the fourth floor are halls for the Buddha Images and for the display of the culture of the ethnic races of Myanmar. The Buddha images include those which date back to the Pyu Period and up to the present day. In the Hall of ethnic culture you can see a colorful display of their national dresses as well as various artifacts that they traditionally use.
Buddhist Sights in Yangon
Maha Pasana Cave (near the Inya Lake Hotel, north of Kabar Aye Pagoda) is a 455-x-370-foot artificial cave built to hold the Sixth Buddhist Synod which celebrated the 2500th anniversary of Buddha's enlightenment and has held from 1954 to 1956. The participants at the conference recited, edited and approved the entire 16,000-page Buddhist scripture, known as the “Tipitaka”, here. "Maha Pasana" means "Great Cave of Stone."
Made in the shape of the cave in India, where the first Buddhist Synod or Great Council was held just some months after the Buddha went through Parinirvana (final nirvana), the great man-made cave is 455 feet (138.32 meters) in length. 375 feet (114 meters) wide, with internal dimension of 220 feet (66.88 meters) x 140 feet (42.56 meters). It was in this great cavern that the Sixth Buddhist Synod was inaugurated in the year 2498 of the Buddhist Era (1954) with 2500 venerable monks convening to recite and verify the words of the Buddha in Pali. The entire Tipitaka in printed form takes up about 40 volumes.
Kabar Aye Pagoda (Kabar Aye Road near Maha Pasana Cave) was built to in 1954 commemorate the sixth synod described above. It also enshrines relics of Buddha and his disciples. The name “Kaba Aye” means “World Peace” in Burmese. The circular platform around the main pagoda is enclosed in the manner of a cave-temple. There are five porches decorated in the traditional style with flamboyant arched pediments, lotus flowers, lotus buds and the swastika motif in carved stucco. The main pagoda is 117 feet 6 inches (35.82 meters) high, with subsidiary smaller pagodas on the five porches each 8 feet (2.4 meters) high. The compound of the Kabar Aye Pagoda is a large one consisting of many monasteries. The stairways to the pagoda are full of vendors on both sides, selling many hand made products. The Buddhist Art Museum. Maha Pasana Cave and newly built Wizaya Mingala Dhammathabin Hall are also located in the same precinct. The Buddhist Art Museum at the Kabar Aye Pagoda has a wide collection of religious paraphernalia and Buddhist texts. Kabar Aye Pagoda Hours: 6:00am to 8:00pm daily Admission Fees: US$5 per person Location: - Kabar Aye Road. Mayangone Township.
SIGHTS OUTSIDE OF YANGON
Sights Outside of Yangon include Thanlyin (Syriam), a small pagoda on an island in the middle of a river; Twanté, a small town which can be reached by a two-hour boat ride from Yangon on a canal; and the Myanma Agricultural Development Center, an area with rich orchard and farmland between Yangon and Bago on the Yangon-Mandalay road.
Htauk Kyant War Memorial Cemetery (32 kilometers from Yangon on the road to Bago) is situated on beautifully-kept grounds and has 27,000 stone-graves of Commonwealth and Allied Forces soldiers who died in Burma in World War II. The relatives of the Allied Forces soldiers throughout the world visit the War Memorial Cemeteries in Myanmar to pay homage to their respect at the Allied Forces soldiers' graves. The Burmese never destroyed the graves of the Japanese soldiers and they are visited too.
There are three Allied War Memorial Cemeteries in Myanmar, in Htauk Kyant, Thanbyuzayat and Yangon. Htauk Kyant is the largest. It was built in 1951 for the reception of graves from four battlefield cemeteries at Akyab, Mandalay. Meiktila and Sahmaw which were difficult to access and could not be maintained. The last was an original 'Chindit' cemetery containing many of those who died in the battle for Myitkyina. The graves have been grouped together at Htauk Kyant to preserve the individuality of these battlefield cemeteries Burials were also transferred from civil and cantonment cemeteries, and from a number of isolated jungle and roadside sites. Because of prolonged post-war unrest, considerable delays occurred before the Army Graves Service were able to complete their work. In the meantime many such graves had disappeared. However, when the task was resumed several hundred more graves were retrieved from scattered positions throughout the country and brought together here. The cemetery now contains 6,374 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, 867 of them unidentified.
In the 1950s. the graves of 52 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War were brought into the cemetery from the following cemeteries where permanent maintenance was not possible: Taukkyan War Cemetery contains The Yangon Memorial, which bears the names of almost 27,000 men of the Commonwealth land forces who died during the campaigns in Burma and who have no known grave. This cemetery commemorates more than 1,000 Second World War casualties whose remains were cremated in accordance with their faith. Hours: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Location: in Mingaladon Township, Yangon Division On the Yangon-Pyay Road about an hour drive from downtown Yangon.
Pagodas Outside of Yangon
Maelamu Pagoda (suburb of North Okkalapa, 20 minutes drive from central Yangon) features a collection of spire pagodas and sculptured figures. Maelamu Pagoda is famous for the giant images depicting Buddha’s earlier lives. It has a spacious ground where visitors can stroll around. Known for it's wonderland of spired pagodas and sculptured figures located in a sub-urban town. Maelamu means “the Maid of the Mangrove.” According to legend a long time ago a hermit came upon a mangrove tree bearing an abnormally large bud. He took the bud and later the bud produced a little girl. The child was brought up by the hermit who named her Maelamu after the Mangrove tree. She grew up into a beautiful girl and Sakkra (Indra), the monarch of the celestial divinities, fell in love with her. He asked the permission of the hermit to marry her. The hermit agreed. Afterwards a child was produced who became the King of Okkalapa. He was the person who enshrined Buddha's hair relics and built the Shwedagon Pagoda. A pagoda was also built and was named as Maelamu Pagoda in South Okkalapa. The site near the creek of Nga Moe Yeik was found in the 1950s and the Pagoda was built.
Near the entrance the figure of Mai Lamu can be seen. There is a huge figure of reptile into whose belly you can walk in. There is also a figure of crocodile with wide-open jaws. The Maelamu Pagoda had a legendary association with another tragic story. The legendary crocodile played an important role in a tragic romance between a prince of Yangon and a princess of Dalla, on the other side of the Yangon river. In the legend. the crocodile carried the prince in his jaws and swam across the Yangon river to meet the princess of Dalla. Hours: 6:00 am to 8:00 pm, closed on gazette holidays. Admission Fees: US$2 per person.
Kyauktawgyi Pagoda (the corner of Pyay Road and Mindhama Road and on Mindhama Hill) houses the Lawka Chanthar Arbayar Laba Muni, a Buddha image carved from one piece of white is marble rock. The image is 37 feet long, 24 feet wide and 11 feet thick. In 2003 a huge marble alms bowl was carved out of Sagyin marble and brought to Yangon and placed on Minn Dhamma Hill. Within the walking distance of Minn Dhamma Hill there is an elephant house where the three white elephants are kept. In many Asian countries including Myanmar white elephants are regarded as a supreme royal symbols. Hours: 6:00 am to 8:00 pm.
Ah-Lane-Nga Sint (a 10- minute's drive from the airport) means a five-storied tower. The five levels of the modern pagoda represent the five stages of the ethereal world. The tall tower commands a good view of the surrounding areas. Female members are not allowed to climb up this tower. The abbot who initiated the project has since passed away his body has not decomposed.
Koe Htat Gyi Pagoda (20 minutes from Yangon on Bargayar Road) houses another enormous sitting Buddha Image. Also known as Atula Dipatti Maha Muni Thetkya Image., Buddha image was made in 1905 and is 20 meters tall. The Koe-Htat-Kyi (or) the nine storey has an iron sheet roof and was built in 1905. The pavilion has a nine-tiered roof and hence it is generally referred to as the nine-tiered pagoda. In the past it was a wooded recluse for monks. quiet and peaceful. There are many monasteries, including the 14-acre compound of the Bargayar monastery, which has devotional halls and an ordination hall in the compound. You can walk around the image. and will see Buddha images at each corner. At the other side of the image. there are statues describing the lives of Buddha. At the entrance of the hallway. there is a statue of a frog and a snake. A legend says that the frog ate the snake meaning victory and the image was built on this land. There are also small shops selling beads. books. flowers. candles and other offertories. Hours: 6:00 am to 8:00 pm Admission Fees: - US$2 per person Location: Bargayar Road, Sanchaung Township, Yangon; 20 minutes drive from downtown Yangon; about 15 minutes walk from Myanigone Junction.
Pagodas near Yangon’s Airport
Kyaikkalo and Kyaikkalei (near Yangon International Airport) are the two ancient Pagodas standing on the left side of the highway running from Yangon to Bago.. The pagodas are located in Mingaladon township, Yangon. Their names are of origin, with “kyaik” meaning pagoda. The pagodas are only a short distance away from the highway and can be seen quite clearly. Among the two pagodas, Kyaikkalo is a much larger and the more prominent pagoda.
The Kyaikkalo and the Kyaikkalei are both associated in legend. During the lifetime of Kakusandha. the first of the five Buddhas of the present age (Baddha Kaba) a certain yakkha (ogre) offered a challenge to Kakusandha Buddha. The latter wishing to subdue the arrogant yakkha accepted the terms of the wager, which were that the two would play a game of hide and seek, with the loser submitting to the winner. The yakkha. using his supernatural powers reduced himself to the size of an atom and hid himself in the deepest bowels of the Earth. But Kakusandha Buddha took him out from his place of hiding and placed him on his palm. Now it was the turn of Kakusandha Buddha. He made himself the size of a particle of an atom and walked along the space between the eyebrows of the yakkha. calling out to the yakkha to try and find him. The yakkha only heard the Buddha's voice but could not find him. At last he gave up and submitted to the Buddha who preached the Dhamma for the yakkha to observe. The hillock on which the Buddha hid himself and disappeared from the yakkha came to be called in old Mon "Kyaik-day-kaler", "the Hillock of the Buddha's Disappearance". The hillock on which the yakkha surrendered and submitted to the Buddha came to be known as "Kyaik-day-kalo" meaning the Hillock of submission to the Buddha."
The Kyaikkalo Pagoda has been an object of veneration throughout Myanmar history. Successive Mon and Bamar kings repaired and renovated it. In the year 747 of the Myanmar Era (A.D. 1385) the Mon king Banyanwe (A.D. 1385 - 1423) better known as Yazadarit (Rajadhiraja) restored and embellished it. The octagonal shape of the base indicates that the pagoda has the Mon architectural design and was originally built entirely of massive blocks of laterite stone. It is a pagoda with a solid stupa. Each side of the octagonal base measures 35 cubits in length and 5 cubits in height. The main pagoda stands on the uppermost terrace and it is surrounded by 25 minor stupas. The northern. western and southern sides have stairs leading up to the uppermost terrace. As there are deep precipices on the western and nothern sides. massive retaining walls fortify the precinct.
The pagodas' festival is held for three days annually during Tabodwe (January/February). Not only the town folk people but also people from Yangon and Bago come to worship the pagodas and enjoy the festival. People around come to pay their homage and offer flowers, food and fruit. Hours: 6:00 am to 9:00 pm. Location: Located on the road from Yangon to Bago, little farther than Yangon International Airport.
THANLYIN (few miles away from Yangon across 1.5 mile-long bridge) is situated at the confluence of the Yangon and Bago Rivers on the southern bank of the Bago River. To the south of Thanlyin is a ridge named Utaringa Kon. On this this ridge is Kyaik Khauk Pagoda, for which the town is famous. The colonial town of Syriam was built by the British for it's port and petroleum refinery plant. Thanlyin is a half-an-hour from Yangon by car or train across one of the longest bridges in Myanmar.
Syrium is where Christainity and Europeans made their first inroads into Myanmar. In 10th century many traders from the sea were attracted to Syrium. Sailing ships from Malacca and Sumatra and as far as the Middle East came to trade from the west. The Portuguese under Phillip Debrito set up the base in Syrium in 1581. Debrito was known to some as a pirate. He played of kingdoms of Burma against one another. He sided with the Pegu kings, who recognized him as the master of a lower province. The first Catholic mission, led by Father Bonabite, came to Syrium in 1721. It built a large brick church in 1750. This large Church still exist in Syrium as old brick building.
Kyaik Kauk Pagoda (in Thanlyin on a hill on an island) has an imposing golden stupa similar to the Shwedagon Pagoda. According to legend the history of the pagoda dates back to the time of Emperor Asoka, the great king of India who helped spead Buddhism 230 years after the demise of the Lord Buddha. One of Asoka’s missions was sent to Suvannabhumi [Thaton] in present-day Myanmar. It was headed by Maha Theras Sona and Uttara. One of their pupils and assistants Ashin Somaga was sent on a mission to Pauk-khara-wady or Dagon (Yangon). He resided at this place and visited Let-kha-ya and Siha islands and propagated the Buddha’s teachings there. A hermit named Khaw Laka lived on Utaringa Kon. After hearing the Dhamma he became a bhikkhu. Later Ashin Somaga and Bhikkhu Kaw Laka went to Pataliputra in India and requested Emperor Asoka to give them some sacred relics of the Buddha for worship. They received 24 strands of the Buddha’s hair. They returned to Siha Island and when they reached the Pada jetty they left two sacred hairs to be enshrined in a pagoda built there. Later these hairs were re-enshrined in a pagoda now know as Kyaik DeiYa.
The remaing hair relies were enshrined each in one pagoda at each of 16 Villages: 1) Ta Hmaw Village; 2) Ka Lun Pun Village; 3) Ka Hnein Village; 4) Ka Hnaw Village; 5) Mon Naw Village; 6) Tha Laing Village; 7) Hmaw Wun Village; 8) Kan Ti Village; 9) Kha Pi Village; 10) Tha Naw Kaik Village; 11) Ah Lwei Eake Village; 12) Pa Wun Gai Village; 13) Pa Yin Village; 14) Wi Thone Village; 15) Pa Ro Village; 16) Than Hlyin Village [Saga Village]. The the remaing six hairs were enshrined in a pagoda built on Utaringa Kon [now called Hlaing Pok Kon].
The pagoda on Utaringa Kon was built by King Cula Thirimasoka of Thaton in the Buddhist Era 241. It was a big structure built of laterite stone. Because this place was where Ashin Bhikkhu Kaw Laka resided, the Pagoda came to be known as Kaw Laka Pagoda. This name over time was corrupted to Khauk Pagoda or Kyaik Khauk in Mon. Ye Le Paya at Kyauk Tan means the pagoda in mid-stream. Built of a laterite, it was founded by King Zeyasana, the seventh king of the Pada Dynasty in the third century B.C. The first pagoda was only 11 feet high. The pagoda complex comprises several buildings including a monastery. Pilgrims and visitors are ferried across to the pagoda from the river bank. One can feed river catfish, which surface to snatch tit-bits of food thrown at them. When food is thrown. they reach out to snap at it, revealing their size, which can reach up to one meter in length.
NATIONAL RACES VILLAGE
NATIONAL RACES VILLAGE (in Tharketa Township on the left of the Yangon-Thanlyin Bridge over the Bago River) was constructed by Ministry of Progress of Border Areas and National Races and Development Affairs. It contains: 1) Nan Myint Tower; 2) Bamar Village; 3) Rakhine Village; 4) Htokekhanthein; 5) Mon Village; 6) Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda; 7) Kayin Village; 8) Mt. Zwegabin; 9) Chin Village; 10) Reed Lake; 11) Kachin Village; 12) Mt. Khakaborazi; 13) Shan Village; 14) Inlay Lake; 15) Kayah Village; 16) Taung Gwe Pagoda and Ngwe Taung Dam; 17) Sekka Nyinaung Pagoda; 18) Shin Upagotta Pavilion & Pond; 19) Crocodile Farm; 20) Bird Sanctuary; 21) Golden Deer; 22) Handicraft Center; 23) Main Hall; 24) Grand Gate; 25) Play Ground; 26) Admin Office; 27) Forestry Demonstration Plot; 28) Main Gate; 29) Mangrove Ecotourism; 30) Orchid Garden.
The Kachin traditional house is constructed like that of a village elder. Construction materials are wood, bamboo and thatch. The left side of the house is used like the back of any kinds of houses. The kitchen, wooden mortar and pestle. firewood and household goods are kept there. Traditional utensils are depicted on the pillars of the house in the form of paintings. At the back of the house there is a ground where the traditional Manaw can be held. If the house has a Manaw pillar—which is sort of like a totem pole—the owner of the house is the elder who can hold Manaw Festival which is the traditional Kachin Festival. The Moekyoe Nat room or compartment for spirits is found only in the house of national race elders. The living room, shrine for Nats, front room, kitchen and room for virgins are seen separately.
The traditional Kayah house is on stilts and cattle and pigs are bred under it. There is no window in their original houses because of the cold much of the time in Kayah State. To resist the severe weather roofing goes past the floor and nearly touches the ground. Kayah nationals produce cotton textiles with handloom handed down by their ancestors. Processing of materials is shown step-by-step. Cross-bows, arrows and fish traps are also shown. There are two fireplaces— one for the host and one for the guest to warm up when its cold and also to cook. The Kayah usually have a meal in a big circular bamboo-lacquerware tray with legs. They like to drink an intoxicating brew they make themselves can see receptacles for intoxicating drinks and mugs usually made of bamboo. Musical instruments such as the Phasi or bronze frog drum and buffalo horn used as clarion are also shown. Kayah women wear clothes usually woven on a back strap loom by themselves.
In the Kayin traditional house, you will see bronze frog drums and buffalo horns. Bronze frog drums are a symbol of Kayin heritage and buffalo horn is a musical instrument played in their leisure time. There are four rooms in the Kayin traditional house. Fruits, betel nuts and rice are put out to dry on the open extension of the floor. Parents and brothers sleep in the front room. You can go to the kitchen through virgin's room. Clothing woven on a Kayin traditional back strap loom is also seen there.
In the Chin traditional house, there is a blacksmith's forge at the entrance of the house. The living room has no partitions or a window. In front of the living room there is a private room for bachelors. You can get there by climbing a wooden ladder. In the kitchen you can see these shelf made of rocks. On the lowest shelf are dried fish and meat. Other important household items include brass pots, water pots, rice- wine pots, cotton spinned machines, cradles and musical instruments. Gongs are the most valued possessions. Back strap loom are used to weave traditional clothes and blankets. You can also see Chin traditional dance which is very enjoyable.
The Mon traditional house is built of sticks. The living room is a step lower than the main part of the house. Crocodile shaped three-stringed musical instruments are displayed. In the living room, the Mon hang their traditional clothes. The significant item of Mon traditional house is a hole for talking love about affairs . This is often used by the ladies of the house to rendevous in the forest with her boyfriend at at night. Sometimes Mon traditional dances are performed.
Rakhine houses are three meters of the ground and have many rooms. The Living room is at the first entrance of the house. On the left of living room there is a shrine room, then the parent's room and rooms for unmarried sons and daughters. Passing them, you will get to the kitchen and dining room. In the courtyard there is a well and a special bathroom. You can sometimes see Rakhine traditional dance.
At the base the ladder of a Shan traditional house is a water pot for foot washing. There are two kinds of living room. The inner one is for invited guests and the outer one for unexpected guests. At a lower step of the outer living room there is a balcony where Shan traditional dances take place. In the inner living room you can see the shrine shelf and traditional utensils. The kitchen is at a lower step of the dining room.
There are many rooms in the Bamar traditional house. Firstly. you will get to the living room at the entrance of the house. There, traditional Bamar food and drink, betel boxes, pickled tea leaves, cheroot and green tea pot are displayed. Traditional musical instruments include harps and xylophones. The kitchen is in separate part of the house. Household utensils are placed in the kitchen. The loom is under the house where traditional cloths are weaved. There is a well, granary and bullock cart in the courtyard. Hours: Open daily 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. except Myanmar New Year Holidays (Thingyan Festival) in April. Admission Fees: US$5 per person.
Text Sources: Myanmar Travel Information, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, The Irrawaddy, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, burmalibrary.org, burmanet.org, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books and other publications.
Last updated August 2020