Maha Bandoola Park, named after a commander-in-chief of the Royal Burmese Armed Forces, is located at the focal point of downtown Yangon among a crowd of some of Yangon’s most beautiful and significant architecture. The park itself has long been the site of social gatherings, festivals and performances and many of the most significant demonstrations and rallies in Myanmar’s modern history took place in and around this park. It is the site where Bogyoke Aung San rallied for independence from the British Empire and the tall white Independence Monument has been erected here as a triumphant reminder. Standing in this park, one can appreciate the beauty and grandeur of the following significant sights.
Legend has it that this pagoda was built, in its initial form, even before the Shwedagon making it around 2,600 years old. Much folklore is associated with the site and it is said to enshrine two hairs of the Buddha. The urban planners who decided on the gridded system during colonial times made Sule Pagoda the focal point of the city.
Bengali Sunni Jameh Mosque
Located on a bustling corner just behind Sule Pagoda as you look at it from the park, this mosque is another example of how diverse the religious landscape of Yangon is.
In fact the downtown area is home to much of Yangon’s Muslim population most of whom are of Indian decent. The mosque, which was built during the colonial era, is a simply-designed building with a façade of colourful tiles and two minarets.
Yangon City Hall
This large lilac-coloured building stretches an entire block from Sule Pagoda Road to Maha Bandoola Garden Street to the north of the park. Construction was completed in 1935 and it is a fine example of east-meets-west architecture with a European-influenced design and structure rounded off with traditional Myanmar details such as the tiered roof and naga statues. These days it is home of the Yangon City Development Committee and surrounded by an unfortunate railing and barbed fencing.
AYA Bank Headquarters
This was built in 1910 as Row & Co. department store, one of the most exclusive in Yangon and indeed throughout Asia at that time. After the nationalization campaign in 1962, it was taken over by the government and used as the head office of the Department of Immigration and Manpower up. The three-storey building with wrought iron portico, large arched windows and dominating tower is now owned by AYA and gleams elegance and nostalgia onto the square below.
Immanuel Baptist Church
symbol of Yangon’s rich religious diversity which is so well represented in this small but significant square of Yangon, this church was originally built in 1885 by an American missionary only to be destroyed during World War II and rebuilt over the following decade. The design is fairly simple and Services are still held there early on Sunday mornings and you may hear the sound of hymns trickling through the windows onto the street at any time of the week.
Yangon Regional High Court
The sprawling red brick building stretching along the east side of the park is one of the finest examples of colonial architecture in Yangon. Construction was completed in 1911 and Supreme Court hearings were held there until Naypyitaw became the official capital. Unfortunately there is no access for members of the public today but it is said to be home grand staircases and a large green courtyard in the centre.