Where the Burmese Sherlock Holmes Lived

Where the Burmese Sherlock Holmes Lived

The emergence of a ‘Burmese’ literature in the 1910’s and 1920’s was influenced by the import and translation of western literary forms, in novels and short stories.  Though this influence has arguably been exaggerated, the first true Burmese language novel by James Hla Gyaw has been often called an adaption of Duma’s Count of Monte Cristo, in reality the two share only a peripheral resemblance …

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Discovering the British Council’s Library

Discovering the British Council’s Library

The British Council might be a strange place to put on a list of prominent literary landmarks in Myanmar, but its library has played an influential role in the fight against decades of literary censorship in Yangon. The British Council’s original location was in Rander House on Pansodan Street, lower block, in the 1950’s. 

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Finding Nobel Laureates at Gandhi Hall

Finding Nobel Laureates at Gandhi Hall

Nothing about this squat, grey, block of a building would have it marked as a venue that has graced not one, but two Nobel laureates.  Once the home of the Rangoon Times, the first all-English language newspaper in Myanmar that ran from 1856 to 1942, it was also visited by the great writer Rabindranath Tagore in 1932, during his third and last visit to the city.  Apparently, he spoke and read from his work …

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Exploring Burma’s Bookshops: OS 2

Exploring Burma’s Bookshops: OS 2

A sister shop to the larger OS store on 37th Street.  This iteration opened in 2017 to take advantage of the busy foot traffic on Pansodan.  The manager, U Han Myint, often seen from the main street with a book in his hand through the open shutter space, has complete control over the shop, including purchases and sales …

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Exploring Burma’s Bookshops: Book Street

Exploring Burma’s Bookshops: Book Street

As if Yangon needed to cement itself even further as a city of books, in 2017, a street of books opened on Theinbyu road on the east side of the Secretariat.  The initiative of short story specialist and current Minister of Information, U Pe Myint to encourage the city’s residents to embrace their literary heritage and love for literature …

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Myanmar Writers Association

The Myanmar Writers Association has a long and twisted history in Myanmar.  Dating back to at least the parliamentary democratic era in the 1950’s, the association, initially independent, was brought under the control of both the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Home Affairs, during the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s … 

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Searching for Tagore at the Guardian Press Building

Searching for Tagore at the Guardian Press Building

With such a high concentration of colonial era buildings it can be so easy to walk pass a building and be utterly unaware of its former significance to the city.  The Guardian Press Building is made even more anonymous by relatively recent cladding which hides most of its prominent architectural structures making it appear as if it was only built in the 1990’s.

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Pitaka Taik

Pitaka Taik

Though there are many libraries in Yangon, the Pitaka Taik – three basket – library ranks as one of the most ornate.

Prime Minister U Nu, a devout Buddhist, convened the Sixth Great Buddhist Synod between 1954 and 1956 (the 5th was held in Mandalay a century earlier and resulted in the ‘world’s largest book’ at Kuthodaw Pagoda). 

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Reading George Orwell at the Strand Hotel

Reading George Orwell at the Strand Hotel

This iconic hotel was built as a wooden boarding house by an Englishman and in 1901 sold to the Sarkie brothers, the famous Armenian hoteliers, who renovated it to the structure more or less how it is seen today.  It soon became ‘the’ top hotel in the country and the first port of call for many writers who visited Burma, including George Orwell, Somerset Maugham, H.G.Wells, Noel Coward and Rudyard Kipling.

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Printing with the Government Press Building

Printing with the Government Press Building

Sitting in the shadow of the much larger and imposing Secretariat, it is easy to dismiss this two storey, red brick building as just another of the many abandoned and unloved heritage structures so common in Yangon.  And yet (as is true for so many of these buildings) for over a century the Government Press has a long and important history …

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Exploring Burma’s Bookshops: OS

Exploring Burma’s Bookshops: OS

Named after its owner, Ohn Saw, OS was a pallet stall on Pansodan Street for 30 years, until opening at its present location at the turn of the transition in 2012.  Despite the sheer amount of books in the shop, the majority of the 100,000 stock is kept in various places, including in bundle sacks in alleyways, and the 1st floor of empty buildings on Pansodan Street …

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Touring the Tourist Burma Building

Touring the Tourist Burma Building

Complete a circuit of Sule Pagoda in the heart of Yangon and it’s impossible to miss the three buildings that dominate the roundabout: the Sunni Jamae Mosque, City Hall and the Tourist Burma Building.  The last of the three, on Sule Pagoda’s south side and taking up an entire city block, is emblematic of the twisting histories of the city’s grand colonial era buildings: from riches to rags to restoration …

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Exploring Burma’s Bookshops: Yar Pyae

Exploring Burma’s Bookshops: Yar Pyae

The last bookshop to be found on Pansodan Street, just before the bridge rises to cross the train tracks and to the left of its more famous competitor Innwa Books, is Yar Pyae. Founded and owned by Daw Khin Swe Win, Yar Pyae opened on January 1st 1999 and is still going strong boasting nearly 100,000 books in stock and averaging 150 customers a day … 

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