Saving old RangoonBreaking News
tags: colonialism, historic preservation, Burma, Rangoon, Myanmar, WSJ, travel
AS WE SIT IN YANGON peak-hour traffic, Thant Myint-U is conjuring a golden age. The eminent Burmese historian, academic and former United Nations official has devoted much of the last two years to saving the city's spectacular architecture. Despite the gridlock as we slowly nudge through its colonial heart, we couldn't be better placed to recall the glories of old Rangoon (as Yangon was once known). It's difficult to remember today, thanks to nearly five decades of Myanmar's political isolation under brutal military rule, but there was a time when it was one of the jewels of the British Empire.
In the 1920s, travelers from all over the world would arrive by ocean liner at the palm-fringed harbor, then plunge wide-eyed into the cosmopolitan avenues, where monks with shaved heads rubbed shoulders with English bankers and Scottish engineers and gilded pagodas glinted alongside the splendid façades of imperial buildings. Rangoon was one of the world's most vibrant ports—a key link in the trade route from Calcutta to Shanghai and a place that lured royals, celebrities, artists and adventurers. Nearly everyone of note stayed at the stately Strand hotel—which boasted one of the finest European restaurants in Asia—an enclave of European style founded by the same Armenian family who owned Singapore's Raffles. They would soon join the frenzied expat parties in private clubs, where gallons of champagne were drunk on humid nights scented with tropical flowers and jazz bands played until dawn under the slowly beating fans....
comments powered by Disqus
- The Most Controversial Psych Study Is Repeated — Same Weird Result
- A new book explores the stunning revelation that Hemingway spied for the USSR
- A President’s Restless Corpse May Be on the Move Again in Tennessee
- How China and the U.S. might collide — or not
- Major Viking Age Archaeological Find Discovered in Denmark
- The New York Times celebrates biographer Richard Holmes
- Historians are in demand! (On cruise ships)
- Douglas Brinkley says there’s a "smell of treason in the air"
- Mary Maples Dunn, Advocate of Women’s Colleges and President of Smith, Dies at 85
- Gil Troy says Jews and Israelis are the victims of a “Hate Swarm”