World Travel
New Original Fiction
Books & Movies

Film Space
Movies in depth
Dreamscapes Two
More Fiction
Lifestyles Archive
Politics & Living


The International Writers Magazine: Rangoon

Rangoon's Colonial Architecture
• Mark McGeachie
Somerset Maughan, George Orwell and Rudyard Kipling! What did they all have in common? Yes obviously famous authors - however they, along with many other celebrities, were also guests of the Strand Hotel in Rangoon.

Colonial Rangoon
Strand Hotel
Strand Hotel 1890's (photo by Philip Adolphe Klier)
Constructed in the 1890s the hotel has witnessed and survived the turbulent history of Burma (now known as Myanmar).  Whilst it’s name, design and origin evoke images of a luxurious colonial lifestyle, its connection with the history of the nation is much deeper. Certainly during the Strand’s early years there were many prominent guests from the colonial ruling class. 
During World War II the occupying Japanese forces appropriated and utilized the hotel. In the post war period during the transition to independence Burmese nationals started to become regular clients for the first time.Since independence the Strand has been owned and operated by State and private operators mirroring the transition from a centralised, military based government with strong control of business activity to a slowly evolving capitalist and democratic political framework.

The hotel has fortunately been restored and furnished in a manner that respects the original design and it’s cultural significance. It’s foreseeable future is assured.

It can only be hoped that other old buildings of architectural and historic significance in the city benefit in the same way. The cliché ‘faded glory’ might be used to describe the current condition of these buildings. Indeed their decayed condition in some cases endows them with a certain aesthetic. However the extent of dilapidation now seriously threatens their future viability. The government moving the nation’s capital away from Rangoon has created additional risk. This has left many buildings vacant or under utilized. Consequently there is little if any maintenance taking place.

Tax Office
Former British Tax Office
Now Yangon Division Court (with war damage)
Customs Building (formerly High Court)Customs

Whilst Myanmar faces numerous challenges, of which upkeep of it’s historic buildings and infrastructure is only one, there is reason for optimism as it is apparent that the people are sensitive to aspects of social and cultural responsibility and able to identify the economic benefits of tourism that can be derived by thoughtful restoration as in the case of the Strand. 

Sofaer’s  Building with vegetation.

Sofaer What positive role can writers and photographers play in relation to the survival of these buildings? They can apply the skills so often utilized by Maughan, Orwell and Kipling to write about and create images of the exotic city of Rangoon, the buildings, their history and context. This will assist in ensuring their importance is recognised and kept in the public consciousness. In the unfortunate event that the buildings are destroyed this material will at least serve to record their importance in the history of the country.

© Mark McGeachie February 2014 (at)

More comment

Share |


© Hackwriters 1999-2014 all rights reserved - all comments are the individual writer's own responsibility - no liability accepted by or affiliates.