Tales of Asia V – Rangoon (Yangon), Penang & Singapore HIGHLIGHTS

Here are the highlights from the final Tales of Asia talk, featuring cities of the British Empire – Rangoon, Penang and Singapore.

The full talk to follow.

Tales of Asia V – Rangoon, Penang & Singapore, 14 Nov, Sat, 2 – 3 p.m., Library@Orchard, 313 Orchard Road

Supreme Court and Municipal Offices, Singapore.

Supreme Court and Municipal Offices, Singapore.

Part V of Tales of Asia – the final episode – features the British Empire in the Far East, and the cities of Rangoon (today’s Yangon), Penang and Singapore.

Join me as we travel back in time to:

  • Stroll through Old Town Rangoon, exploring the European Town with its monumental architecture reflecting the puissance of the British Raj, and the multi-cultural districts with their Chinese, Indian, Jewish, Muslim, Christian and other communities, living in harmony.
  • Discover how the British wrote TRADE and EMPIRE into the urban planning and the architecture of their showpiece cities in the East Indies.
  • Visit colonial George Town, Penang – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and explore what remains of the British colonial heritage today. Also take a walk down the city’s “Street of Harmony”, a single street where many religions co-exist.
  • Get a glimpse into the life of the British colonials in the cities in the Far East – including Rangoon, Penang and Singapore.
  • Dive in deep into colonial Singapore, uncovering what it used to look like in the 1800s and 1900s, and discovering how the urban landscape has changed dramatically in the 20th century.
  • Find out more about the lives of the Sarkies Brothers, and the history of their three most famous hotels – the Strand Hotel (Rangoon), the Eastern & Oriental Hotel (Penang) and the Raffles Hotel (Singapore).

…amongst other things.

5 Essential Sights for the Grand Tourist – Rangoon (Yangon)

Lone monk amidst the visiting worshippers, Shwedagon Pagoda.

Lone monk amidst the visiting worshippers, Shwedagon Pagoda.

Over the course of the next 12 weeks, I’ll be doing a series of posts featuring 5 Essential Sights for the Grand Tourist’s Itinerary in each of the cities covered in the Grand Tour. I begin, this week, with the city of Rangoon – today’s Yangon.

✑ Stroll along Strand Road and Pansoedan Road, for a glimpse of the greatness of the British Raj. Stand and gape at the monumental civic, cultural and commercial colonial-era buildings that still stand, in particular, the Edwardian-era High Court Building, and the Accountant-General’s Office

✑ Wander West of Sule Pagoda, which contains Chinatown, Little India and the Arab/Persian/Jewish Quarter. Here’s where you’ll find the greatest concentration of world religions anywhere in Southeast Asia.

✑ Explore the languid, laidback tree-lined sidewalks of the suburb of Ahlone, a prestigious district of colonial villas, now housing foreign Missions and Embassies. Pop into the Governors House boutique hotel for a drink at the bar.

✑ Take the wonderfully rickety three-hour journey on the Circular Train to the rural outskirts of Yangon and back. Worth the $1 ticket price just to see the motley crew of locals en route. Be prepared to be crushed in your seat by heaving crowds though. Bring your passport.

✑ Pay a visit to the surreal and breathtaking apparition that is Shwedagon Pagoda. Enough said.

Yangon is breathtaking in its vibrancy and timelessness. Visit it before sweeping political and economic change forces the city to slough its magnificent older skin.  

The Accountant General's Office, at the junction of Strand and Pansoedan Roads.

The Accountant General’s Office, at the junction of Strand and Pansoedan Roads.

Interior of the Yangon Circular Train, during a rare moment of silence.

Interior of the Yangon Circular Train, during a rare moment of silence.

[The Romance of the Grand Tour – 100 Years of Travel in Southeast Asia is available now at all major bookstores in Singapore, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Waterstones in London. Find it also on http://www.amazon.co.uk and http://www.bookdepository.com]