Top 10 Colonial Buildings In Yangon, Myanmar
Yangon is one of the finest places for viewing colonial architecture, as it has the highest concentration of colonial buildings in the world. Myanmar became a colony of Britain in 1824 after the First Anglo-Burmese War, and remained until 1948. After independence, the country had been run by a military regime where no infrastructure improvements were made, leaving colonial structures standing. However, many of these beautiful structures now stand in disrepair. These impressive buildings have seen a lot over the years, including colonial control, a Japanese invasion, military rule, and the struggle for peace.
Although some of the structures are in bad condition, there are efforts to restore them, led by the Yangon Heritage Trust. YHT’s goal is to promote and protect Yangon’s past, while advising on restoration, and create a plan for Yangon to be one of the most livable cities in Southeast Asia. Visiting Yangon will transport you back in time, where you have the opportunity to view these outstanding pieces of colonial architecture. Here are the top 10 to check out:
Opened in 1902 now known as the Minister’s Office, the Secretariat held the entire British administration of colonial Burma from its opening until 1938, and then for three more years from 1945-1948.
A classical Victorian structure complete with a redbrick outlay and arches lining the verandahs, the Secretariat’s facade is imposing. The pilasters are Corinthian style, complementing the grand pediments. This is the grandest of the colonial structures in Yangon.
Sadly, I missed not being able to go near the building by a couple weeks for an exhibition as it is closed nearly permanently, but it’s magnificence is still apparent from a distance.
2. High Court
This is another neo-Classical, Victorian building located in the heart of Yangon across from Independence Park. Completed in 1911, this Queen Anne revival structure housed the British court and then until 2006, the Supreme Court of Myanmar. The beautiful quoins and its domed clock tower exemplify its elegance.
3. Rowe & Co
The Rowe & Co building, now the headquarters of AYA Bank, was completed in 1911 and housed one of largest department stores in SE Asia. In the 1960s, the building was overtaken by the government and turned into the immigration office until 2005. The defining features on this Victorian style building are the arched windows and central domed tower, which sits at a 45 degree angle from the street.
4. Strand Hotel
This Victorian style hotel was built in 1901 by a pair of Armenian brothers, who also built the Raffles Singapore and E & O Penang. The hotel is one of the most iconic pieces of Yangon colonial architecture, and was renovated in 2008 to become one of Yangon’s premier high end hotels. The symmetrical structure has 12 doric columns with a small pediment above, and a larger pediment at the top of the hotel displaying its name.
5. Myanma Port Authority
The Myanma Port Authority building, formerly the headquarters of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Co., was once the headquarters of second busiest port in the world, after New York City.
This structure is of neo-Classical style, with Corinthian columns stretching the length of both sides of the building. What stands out on the building is certainly its tower, with a pitched roof and arched windows, reaching high along the riverfront skyline.
6. Accountant General Building
A classic colonial structure in downtown Yangon on Pansodan Road. A building desperately needing renovation, part of it was destroyed in WW2 bombings. It is now the home of the Auditor General of Myanmar, U Myo Myint, appointed in 2016.
7. Bogyoke Aung San Market
Wander the cobblestone streets to find some gifts for you and your family, and observe Myanmar life in the quarters. You’ll find plenty of tourists, but yet there is still some authenticity to the market.
This Victorian structure was built in in the early 20th century, with the centered dome and triple pediments standing out as key features. Also, you’ll see the centered balustrade and opposite end arch designs are quite unique.
8. Pegu Club
A former gentleman’s club of British Rangoon, the Pegu Club is a great piece of Victorian architecture similar to the Governor’s Residence, lengthy and two floors each with porticos. Some fun facts: 1. Accounts of British soldiers in this club inspired Rudyard Kipling to write “On the Road to Mandalay.” 2. A bar called the Pegu Club opened in New York City recently, so the influence has reached its way to the US. Be sure to have a Pegu Club cocktail at any establishment while you’re in Yangon.
Unfortunately, the Pegu Club is not accessible so you’ll have to view from the gates, and only imagine yourself arriving in late 19th century Yangon before you’re on the road to Mandalay.
9. Governor’s Residence
Another Victorian masterpiece in Burma, the Governor’s Residence was actually the British Governor of Burma’s home. It’s a secluded teakwood mansion in the Northwest part of central Yangon, now complete with a stunning pool and the Kipling Bar & Mandalay Restaurant. It’s two story design has a seamless transition from indoors to outdoors with huge verandahs and outdoor space on both levels.
10. Police Commissioner’s Building
One of the most imposing structures in Yangon, the Police Commissioner’s Building also sits on Pansodan Road with its 22 Ionic columns. It’s currently being turned into Yangon’s newest luxury hotel, ready to compete with the Strand, just 500 feet away.