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.
The full talk to follow.
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:
…amongst other things.
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 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]
In the course of writing the Rangoon chapter, I managed, very fortunately, to acquire quite a few early 1900s vintage postcards that presented views of the city of Rangoon in British Burma – today’s Yangon, in Myanmar.
The first postcard above is a spectacular bird eye’s view in colour, of Strand Road and the Rangoon River. As you can see, Rangoon was a bustling port – in fact, it was perhaps the most important port in Southeast Asia proper, after Singapore.
The second view, below, is that of the historic High Court Building (at centre), which still stands today. The building was built in 1914 in a distinctly Edwardian style, and wouldn’t feel out of place in London itself.
The wonderful thing about today’s Yangon downtown, is that it looks almost exactly the same as the Rangoon presented in these vintage postcards. All the amazing monumental architectural heritage still stands, and there is a race against time to preserve and restore many of these.
The first chapter of The Romance of the Grand Tour – 100 Years of Travel in Southeast Asia takes the reader on a stroll through the old town of Rangoon/Yangon in the 1900s and today, presenting views and vistas from the turn of the 19th century and the turn of the 20th century.
The Romance of the Grand Tour – 100 Years of Travel in Southeast Asia will be available from mid-April in all major bookstores, museum shops and featured hotels in Singapore, the Southeast Asian region and Hong Kong.