Minerva Memories – Yangon

British, Buddhist and modern architecture coexist and look over Rangoon bustling life.

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Even though it is no longer the nation’s official capital, Yangon remains Myanmar’s largest and most commercially important city.

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Its downtown skyline is dominated by the ‘winking wonder’ of Shwedagon Paya, a dazzling Buddhist temple that attracts pilgrims from all over the world.

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Since the 2010 elections, Yangon’s fortunes have skyrocketed along with its land prices, as both local and foreign investors scrambled to grab a foothold here.

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At the same time, decades of economic stagnation are only too apparent in the city’s slums, shanty housing and creaking, frequently overwhelmed infrastructure – something you’ll quickly realise as you crawl into town in a taxi from the airport.

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In December 2013 a masterplan for Yangon was unveiled. Funded by the Japanese government’s aid and development agency JICA, it proposed 103 priority projects costing over $5 billion – around 100 times the current budget of the Yangon City Development Committee.

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‘A city of blood, dreams and gold’ is how Pablo Neruda described Yangon. Nearly a century after the Chilean poet lived in what was then known as Rangoon, the former capital is emerging from bloody and neglectful military rule into an era of glittering possibilities.

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Exiles are returning and foreigner investors and adventurers flooding in, triggering a blossoming of new restaurants, bars, shops, building sites and traffic jams.
Yangon’s awe-inspiring Buddhist monument Shwedagon Paya is the one sight in Myanmar you cannot miss.

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Vibrant streets lined with food vendors, colourful open-air markets, evocative colonial architecture – some of the most impressive you’ll find in Southeast Asia – are other reasons for lingering.

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The Rangoon Memorial is situated in Taukkyan War Cemetery, which is about 35 kilometres north of Yangon (formerly Rangoon). The cemetery is on PY1 Road (formerly Prome Road), about 15 kilometres from the airport and can be easily seen from the road. The RANGOON MEMORIAL bears the names of almost 27,000 men of the Commonwealth land forces who died during the campaigns in Burma (now Myanmar) and who have no known grave.

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The memorial was designed by Mr. H.J. Brown, ARIBA and unveiled by General Sir Francis Festing, GCB, KBE, DSO on 9 February 1958. The memorial stands in TAUKKYAN WAR CEMETERY, which is the largest of the three war cemeteries in Burma. It was begun 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 Taukkyan to preserve the individuality of these battlefield cemeteries.

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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 delay occurred before the Army Graves Service were able to complete their work, and 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

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This is the road to Mandalay

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About Basia Zarzycka

www.basiazarzycka.com