Yangon, milestone of a city full of history
Yangon, former name Rangoon has been the capital city of Myanmar and now is the economic center of the country. When I was young, I lived in Insein Township near Yangon River, which is now the area of Aung Zay Ya Bridge. At that time, it was very difficult to cross the river and we used boats and ships in daily life to reach the other side. I still have in my memory the images of my grand father, my sisters and I, taking a boat together in the evening. He showed us around Yangon River and told us his childhood stories. It was a very local and peaceful place to live in. However, as we lived on the bank of Yangon River, we sometimes suffered from flood during rainy season. When we were children, we loved playing in the water with my sisters. So when the government announced the plan to build a bridge across the river, we all were feeling unhappy to move out from that area, as it was full of memory.
We moved out to the downtown area near China Town for temporary stay. I was not so happy to go to an apartment, as it had no space for playing around. I was already missing my childhood place a lot. Although it was a negative impact for a child like myself, who used to live in that area, it was a good step towards the development of the area, on both sides of the Yangon River. Transportation became more convenient and accessible, which leaded to the development of the new Hlaing Thar Yar Township. This is one of my earlier memories of Yangon City.
Later, when I was in high school, there were not a lot of shopping malls in Yangon. Bogyoke Market was the biggest and the most famous one in Yangon. Even famous supermarket like City Mart has not set up many branches yet. The famous shopping mall like Junction Square and other big shopping malls have not yet emerged from Yangon’s ground. But, we thought that we had everything in this Bogyoke Market and we enjoyed shopping and life very much. When new shopping malls started to be set up however, everyone in the city was excited to see new things and to explore new experiences. Is there anyone who doesn’t like to try new experiences? Everyone loves it I believe. With many shopping malls, now we can see the new face of Yangon everywhere.
Ten years ago, if you wanted to go out of Yangon, road transportation was the most accessible way to choose for ordinary people. How do you think was the highway that connects the capital city Yangon and Mandalay at that time? It was just one lane in each direction and it took around 15 hours to go from one city to the other. If you took the train to Mandalay from Yangon city, you needed to spend one night on the train. But when the new capital city of Nay Pyi Taw was established on 2005, an alternative route to connect Yangon and Mandalay was started and was completed in 2011. Yes, it is very convenient and has three lanes for each way. You can access the two main cities within a few hours and it leads to more economic development.
In 2012, when I had a chance to exchange with the international community, there were a lot of people who did not know where Myanmar was, even though some of them were from Asia, so, I really doubt that people living on the other side of the planet would know about Myanmar existence.
When Myanmar government opened the door to the international community, influx of visiting foreigners and people interested in Myanmar surprisingly increased. As a result, Yangon is becoming one of the main tourist attractions in South East Asian countries and the infrastructure is developing at a fast pace.
Actually, there are always realities on the other side that you cannot see or imagine. I just can see that many bridges and new infrastructure have been built in Yangon, but what about the quality of those things? Today, the bridge that made us move out from my childhood place is sick, after only one decade, and needs immediate repairs. If not, the situation would become even worse than it was during my childhood, since many people are now living on the other side of the river. This might not have happened if this bridge has been constructed with proper quality and maintenance work would be done regularly. If something would happen to that bridge now, it will ruin the daily life of many people again.
And it is also the same for the new highway road, although it is as convenient as it is, it is also very dangerous. Many people died on that road because of the poor construction of this road. If they had made this road with proper quality control and good material, the accidents seen on this road would probably be way lower.
When constructing modernized infrastructure, your goal is not only to get a highly developed city, just for the sake of having one. But, the people who are living in this city should benefit from it and their standard of living should be increased as well, along with the development of the city. However, what I see is that Yangon is developing at a fast pace, and people living in town have to move out from downtown Yangon to live in other areas, as they can’t stand for the cost of living anymore, Yangon being the main developed city of Myanmar but also by far, the most expensive.
In addition to this, many expatriates come to live and work in the city along with many investments from abroad, and they are also demanding.
Yes, as an immature country, we need the ones who possess professional skills and knowledge to build a better future for the country. But I am worry that this kind of situation will lead to decrease the employment rate of our citizen, similar to what have been seen in Singapore and other countries, which have an important influx of immigrant people.
Everyone learn from his mistakes. Well, it is also the same for Yangon city. She is also trying her best to appear in a good shape. But she may need help from the people who are living in this city. I only wish that Yangon would emerge as a highly developed city without affecting too much on natural environment and having negative impacts on the people living in the city. As a person living in the city for a long time, I still want to see the smile of Myanmar people and the city’s authenticity for a long time.
Written by Mingalapar forum team writer