The World Traveling Guide

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Yangon

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Yangon is a former capital of Burma (Myanmar) and the capital of Yangon Region. Although the military government has officially relocated the capital to Naypyidaw since March 2006, Yangon, with a population of over five million, continues to be the country’s largest city and the most important commercial centre.

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Although Yangon’s infrastructure is undeveloped compared to those of other major cities in Southeast Asia, it has the largest number of colonial buildings in the region today. While many high-rise residential and commercial buildings have been constructed or renovated throughout downtown and Greater Yangon in the past two decades, most satellite towns that ring the city continue to be deeply impoverished.

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The British seized Yangon and all of Lower Burma in the Second Anglo-Burmese War of 1852, and subsequently transformed Yangon into the commercial and political hub of British Burma. Yangon is also the place where the British sent Bahadur Shah II, the last Mughal emperor, to live after the Indian Rebellion of 1857.Based on the design by army engineer Lt. Alexander Fraser, the British constructed a new city on a grid plan on delta land, bounded to the east by the Pazundaung Creek and to the south and west by the Yangon River. Yangon became the capital of all British Burma after the British had captured Upper Burma in the Third Anglo-Burmese War of 1885. By the 1890s Yangon’s increasing population and commerce gave birth to prosperous residential suburbs to the north of Royal Lake (Kandawgyi) and Inya Lake. The British also established hospitals including Rangoon General Hospital and colleges including Rangoon University.

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Colonial Yangon, with its spacious parks and lakes and mix of modern buildings and traditional wooden architecture, was known as “the garden city of the East.” By the early 20th century, Yangon had public services and infrastructure on par with London.

Before World War II, about 55% of Yangon’s population of 500,000 was Indian or South Asian, and only about a third was Bamar (Burman). Karens, the Chinese, the Anglo-Burmese and others made up the rest.

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After World War I, Yangon became the epicentre of Burmese independence movement, with leftist Rangoon University students leading the way. Three nationwide strikes against the British Empire in 1920, 1936 and 1938 all began in Yangon. Yangon was under Japanese occupation (1942–45), and incurred heavy damage during World War II. The city was retaken by the Allies in May 1945.

Yangon became the capital of Union of Burma on 4 January 1948 when the country regained independence from the British Empire.

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Yangon has a tropical monsoon climate under the #Köppen climate classification system. The city features a lengthy rainy season from May through October where a substantial amount of rainfall is received; and a dry season from November through April, where little rainfall is seen. It is primarily due to the heavy precipitation received during the rainy season that Yangon falls under the tropical monsoon climate category. During the course of the year, average temperatures show little variance, with average highs ranging from 29 to 36 °C (84 to 97 °F) and average lows ranging from 18 to 25 °C (64 to 77 °F).

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Downtown Yangon is known for its leafy avenues and fin-de-siècle architecture. The former British colonial capital has the highest number of colonial period buildings in Southeast Asia. Downtown Yangon is still mainly made up of decaying colonial buildings. The former High Court, the formerSecretariat buildings, the former St. Paul’s English High School and the Strand Hotel are excellent examples of the bygone era. Most downtown buildings from this era are four-story mix-use (residential and commercial) buildings with 14-foot (4.3 m) ceilings, allowing for the construction ofmezzanines. Despite their less-than-perfect conditions, the buildings remain highly sought after and most expensive in the city’s property market.

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In 1996, the Yangon City Development Committee created a Yangon City Heritage List of old buildings and structures in the city that cannot be modified or torn down without approval. In 2012, the city of Yangon imposed a 50-year moratorium on demolition of buildings older than 50 years. TheYangon Heritage Trust, an NGO started by Thant Myint-U, aims to create heritage areas in Downtown, and attract investors to renovate buildings for commercial use.

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A latter day hallmark of #Yangon is the eight-story apartment building. (In Yangon parlance, a building with no elevators (lifts) is called an apartment building and one with elevators is called a condominium. Condos which have to invest in a local power generator to ensure 24-hour electricity for the elevators are beyond the reach of most Yangonites.) Found throughout the city in various forms, eight-story apartment buildings provide relatively inexpensive housing for many Yangonites. The apartments are usually eight stories high (including the ground floor) mainly because city regulations, until February 2008, required that all buildings higher than 75 feet (23 m) or eight stories install elevators). The current code calls for elevators in buildings higher than 62 feet (19 m) or six stories, likely ushering in the era of the six-story apartment building. Although most apartment buildings were built only within the last 20 years, they look much older and rundown due to shoddy construction and lack of proper maintenance.

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Unlike other major Asian cities, Yangon does not have any skyscrapers. Aside from a few high-rise hotels and office towers downtown, most high-rise buildings (usually 10 stories and up) are “condos” scattered across prosperous neighborhoods north of downtown such as Bahan, Dagon, Kamayut andMayangon. The tallest building in Yangon, Pyay Gardens, is a 25-story condo in the city’s north.

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Older satellite towns such as Thaketa, North Okkalapa and South Okkalapa are lined mostly with one to two story detached houses with access to the city’s electricity grid. Newer satellite towns such as North Dagon and South Dagon are still essentially slums in a grid layout. The satellite towns—old or new—receive little or no municipal services.

 

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