Yangon Walks 1. The Strand Road

Strand Road Yangon

Strand Road Yangon

Dagon  to Yangon.  The former Mon settlement of Dagon was renamed “Yangon”  (which can be translated as “End of Strife” ) by the victorious King Alaungphaya to celebrate the end of Mon insurrection against Burmese rule in 1755. Yangon,  including the teak wood stockade, covered an area of seventy-five acres and lay roughly between the Sule Pagoda to the north and the Strand to the south, Mogul Street/Shwe Bontha Street to the west and Judah Ezekiel Street/Bo Aung Gyaw Street to the east. Although there were few Europeans there were Armenians, Moguls, Parsis, Hindus, Jews, Chinese, and other foreigners. Following the 1824-26 Anglo Burmese War, the British occupied the town for two years. The war of 1852 saw Yangon become a British possession, and eventually the capital of Burma.

Rangoon Pre World war 1

Rangoon Pre- World War 1

Looking at this old pre WW1 map, you can see the lay out of the town.Under British rule, Rangoon (Yangon) was a major port city as well as a major financial, political and administrative centre and was a major exporter of oil, cotton, rice and timber. Thus many foreign businesses opened their offices  here including the British  (the leading  houses were Scots) but as time passed the population of Chinese and particularly Indians increased. These businesses often built grand and elaborate offices.

The centre of the grid pattern was the Sule Pagoda.

The Sule Pagoda still remains the mile marker for the country. The buildings were generally constructed to high standards, and those which remain reflect the aspirations of their original owners and the opportunity for present and future generations of Yangon residents to help preserve an important part of collective history.

The design

The main part of the new city was designed under  the direct supervision of Lord Dalhousie, the Governor of British India ( until 1937 Burma was  governed as a province of India, save for those areas given autonomy). Doctor Montgomarie (who had assisted in the planning of Singapore) suggested a plan which was accepted, and a young lieutenant of the Bengal Engineers,  Alexander Fraser  was ordered to carry out the plan. It used the Rangoon river as the base of a grid pattern stretching north, with superblocks measuring 800 by 850 feet and  bordered  by major avenues. The avenues were bisected by 50 and 30 feet wide streets. Although it looked good on paper the narrow streets in particular were not ideal especially in tropical conditions. The north of the city around the Shwe Dagon was a military cantonment, but later was given over to public parks surrounding the various lakes, which were landscaped. The heyday of building was between 1890 and 1930, and started around the central business area, the Strand Road and Merchant Street which  were near to the  busy docks.

Start. Walk One   The start is on Strand Road                                                                                                      

The General Post Office.

Post Office Yangon

Post Offie Yangon

It was  was originally built by an established company of traders and agents, Bulloch Brothers & Co. The company was founded in Rangoon by the Scots brothers James and George Bulloch in 1865 following their successful business in Calcutta. Bulloch Brothers traded and supplied rice, particularly to the Straits Settlement       (now Malaysia), and were agents for the British India Steam Navigation Co and Bibby Line, amongst others. At one time they carried out the office of honourary consul for the United States of America. Bulloch Bros collapsed during the Great Depression, in 1933 One can see the Italianate style red brick building with an ornate iron portico.  The side of the building shows a series of additions to the main structure to allow for a stairwell, an elevator, more offices and storage space. After Bulloch’s liquidation, the premises were used by the British India Office. Walk West

 British Embassy

The British Embassy Yangon

The British Embassy, Yangon

These premises  were the offices of J& F Graham, built around 1900. “Graham’s Buildings” were the  Rangoon headquarters of this Glasgow based company which had  success as a shipping company and as an insurance agent, as well as importing general merchantise  and exporting rice.  In 1903, Reuters Telegram Company, Ltd. opened its Rangoon branch in this building Architects: JG Robinson & GW Mundy.




Embassy of Australia  

The Australian Embassy Yangon

The Australian Embassy Yangon

Formerly Gillanders and Arbuthnot, who were ship’s agents with offices in Liverpool, London, Calcutta and Rangoon


Strand Hotel

The Strand Hotel, Yangon

The Strand Hotel, Yangon

Aviet and Tigran Sarkies, Armenian brothers (who founded the Raffles Hotel in Singapore) already had had a previous hotel (Sarkies Hotel) in Merchant Street, and a restaurant on Merchant and Pansodan (Phrayre) Streets. They purchased land from a Mr. Darwood who wanted to sell a 12 room boarding house on the site. Commencing construction in 1896, the original 60 room hotel was graced by cast iron verandas on each floor and opened 1901. Talbot Kelly, visiting shortly after the opening was pleased with his well furnished room and verandah. However, bed line consisted simply of a mosquito net, a mattress and a pillow. In the hot season this was all that was required. Another visitor praised the omelette as ” the only reason to visit Rangoon”. Today it is Lobster Thermador which attracts diners. The hotel was the first building in Rangoon powered by electricity and water came from an artesian well. World War One reduced both trade and visitors to Rangoon badly affected the hotels fortunes, and following termination of hostilities in 1918 the family began to split and indeed sold the hotel in 1925 to another Armenian family, the Aratoons.. Business grew and an extension was added in 1937 – approximately four years before the outbreak of World War 2.  The British retreat from invading Japanese forces in 1942 saw the hotel under military management – the bar was used to stable officer’s horses. The Strand became the Yamato Hotel.

The extension to the Strand Hotel, Yangon

The extension to the Strand Hotel, Yangon

Trade increased after the war and in 1955 air travel took over from ships as the main method of arrival and departure into Rangoon but The Strand remained the only first class hotel in the city. With the military taking over the country in 1962, the hotel was renamed the People’s Hotel and trade in general declined over the next 30 years. The hotel became a grubby ghost of it’s former self. However recently a joint government /private enterprise closed the hotel for major renovation and this has revived it’s fortunes. The extension is found at the rear of the Australian Embassy  

Opposite the Strand you will see the entrance to the Pansodan Jetty on the river.

Pansodan Jetty

Pansodan Jetty

Before air travel, nearly all of Burma’s visitors arrived along this waterfront. Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru were repeated visitors, and the future King Edward VIII came ashore here in 1922 with his cousin Lord Louis Mountbatten, greeted by crowds, banners and a military band. The ferries come in many sizes, the smaller ones generally covering the trip from Yangon to Dalla on the other side of the river.

Yangon River Yangon

Yangon River Yangon

In 1885, the deposed King Thebaw was transported here from Mandalay on board the paddle steamer “Thooreah” and then was detained on the troop ship “Clive” for several days in the channel prior to being sent into exile in  India.  There are also old railroad tracks which run along the Strand which were a spur line connected to the main city railway station.It replaced an original horse drawn tram service. The first main railway line began in 1869 from Rangoon (Yangon) to Prome (Pyay), and opened in 1877. Keep on the Strand Road and walk west.

Myanmar Airways Office

Yangon Airways Office

Yangon Airways Office

Formerly Burma Airways which was founded in 1948,  these offices were built by Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation.  Following the second Anglo Burmese war in 1853 large tracts of teak forest became available, and in 1864 the Bombay Burmah Trading company was established to finance and organise the timber industry.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The compaany also felled trees in Upper Burma  and the Court of Ava made financial claims against this company for unpaid royalties on felled timber, which the company rejected. The Court of Ava was in detailed discussions with the French government which the British government regarded as a threat to their interests. Primarily for this reason London decided on war and Lord Randoph Churchill (Sir Winston’s father and at that time Secretary of State for India)  relayed an ultimatum to the Burmese to drop the case against the company, which they ignored and the war began resulting in the  submission of Upper Burma in 1886.

Myanmar Port Authority

Yangon Port Authority

Myanmar Port Authority

Formerly the Port Trust.  An Italian camponile style tower dominates the Strand and Pansodan .This building was completed in 1928, the architect was Thomas Oliphant  Foster. Following the second Burmese war in 1853, the seizure of territory up to Magwe  and the establishment of the British port of Rangoon, trade increased quickly. In 1880  it was decided to form a Port Trust Authority. When Upper Burma was finally annexed in 1896 Rangoon became third only to Bombay and Calcutta in port traffic in British India. Textiles were a major import, two thirds coming from Lancashire. By the late 1890’s rice exports had trebled  over the previous 20 years, and timber shipments quadrupled. . Cross the Pansodan Road and keep walking west.


 Yangon Divisional Court (Civil)

Pansodan from the south, with the former Accountant Generals office on the left

The former Accountant General’s office on the left

Formerly the Accountant General’s Office . The Accountant-General was responsible for the collection of revenue in Burma, principally from opium, salt and teak. In 1909, for instance revenue came from opium, salt, customs, railways, post office charges, telegraph charges, tributes, required military and irrigation. In 1909 the largest export was teak, the UK being the largest importer and Germany the second. In total 50,000 cubic tonnes were exported in that year. Much UK bound teak went to the Royal Navy.

Keep walking along Stand Road

Customs House.

Customs House Yangon

Customs House, Yangon

It still has the same function as when it was built in in 1915 Architect: John Begg who also designed the Telegraph Office. On Pansodan.         Keep walking west Yangon Division Office Complex including the Judicial Offices Building

 Yangon Division Office Complex including the Judicial Offices Building

former New law Courts Yangon

former New Law Courts Yangon

This long structure with high pillars, was built between 1927 to 1931.

The 3,000 tonne steel frame was supplied by Dorman Long of Middlesborough, UK..

It was once headquarters of the Burma Socialist Program Party. During WW2 this was one of the Kempei-tai’s ( Japanese military police) interrogation centres and prisons, the others being the Rangoon Jail and Insein Prison).

 Myanmar Economic Bank Branch 3 

former Bank of Bengal

former Bank of Bengal

Formerly the Bank of Bengal and then the Imperial Bank of India. The Bank of Bengal’s parent bank was founded in 1806  with the establishment of the Bank of Calcutta. A Royal Charter renamed this bank the Bank of Bengal and had as it’s remit the whole of the Bengal Presidency. Together with the bank of Bombay and the Bank of Madras, it had close dealings with “John Company” –  the East India Company and also with the Imperial Government of India. The management was mostly Scots and partly owned by private individuals and well as the government of India. It helped finance the rice industry in Burma, which became the largest rice producer in the world in the 1920’s and the 1930’s. It became the Imperial Bank of India in 1921. Regulations were very fair but strict. For instance the Calcutta branch returned a cheque sent by William Bentinck ( Governor General of British India during 1828-35), because it was “four annas beyond the sum at his credit”. Bentinck’s response was that “this was the bank to do business with which would not violate its rules in the smallest particular for the Governor General himself”. The buildings further along the Strand Road are less imposing but include

Kheng Hock Keong Fukinese Temple.

Khem Hong Temple

Kheng Hong Temple yangon

In 1861, 11th year of the reign of Qing Emperor Xianfeng, the Hokkien community in  Yangon founded the Kheng Hock Keong. Members of the Hokkien community as well as Chinese shipping companies in Rangoon contributed funds for this, largest and oldest Chinese Buddhist and Taoist temple dedicated to the Chinese goddess Mazu in Yangon. It was originally built of wood but the present brick building was completed in 1903.  


As to reach the temple requires a long walk, it is suggested to return to the Pansodan Road marked by tower of the Port Authority Building.


Click for walk 2

For all information on Yangon and any other locations in S.E. Asia please contact: www.dtctravel.com

Posted on by TOBY in Asia, Burma, Myanmar, Remembrance Tour, Specials, Tours, Walking tours 2 Comments

2 Responses to Yangon Walks 1. The Strand Road

  1. Bridgett

    Hello, this weekend is nice in favor of me, because this moment i am reading this wonderful
    educational piece of writing here at my residence.

    • TOBY

      Thank you. The place is changing fast now, but some memories lingeer on!


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