Yan­gon’s beau­ti­ful bod­ies of wa­ter

The Myanmar Times - - Metro - – John Grafilo

YAN­GON is home to two beau­ti­ful gar­dens sur­round­ing man-made lakes – Kan­daw­gyi Lake and the Inya Lake – that pro­vide a wel­come respite to the hus­tle and bus­tle of city life and a ma­jor at­trac­tion for for­eign vis­i­tors.

The two ar­ti­fi­cial lakes were con­structed by the British colo­nial ad­min­is­tra­tion in the 19th cen­tury to serve as recre­ational ar­eas for the grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of Yan­gon, which was then a ma­jor re­gional trad­ing hub.

First to be built was Inya Lake, con­struc­tion of which in 1882. It was com­pleted in 1883. It is con­sid­ered Yan­gon’s largest lake with its sur­face span­ning an es­ti­mated 388 hectares.

Ac­cord­ing to folk sto­ries what is now known as Inya Lake was once a clus­ter of la­goons, swamps and creeks be­fore it was sub­merged to be­come a reser­voir for the bur­geon­ing pop­u­la­tion of the seat of the British colo­nial ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The lake was formed by join­ing small hills that sur­rounded the creeks, swamps and la­goons, which formed dur­ing the mon­soon sea­son.

It is lo­cated about 10 kilo­me­tres north of the down­town area and bounded by Parami Road on the north, Pyay Road on the west, Inya Road on the south­west, Univer­sity Av­enue on the south, and Kaba Aye Pagoda Road on the east.

Its pic­turesque banks have gained the rep­u­ta­tion as a go-to place for young cou­ples steal­ing a few mo­ments to be by them­selves, es­pe­cially stu­dent cou­ples from a nearby univer­sity.

The area around Inya Lake is pos­si­bly one of the most up­mar­ket ar­eas in the whole of Yan­gon, and sev­eral posh res­i­dences and man­sions are lo­cated there, in­clud­ing the home of for­mer Myan­mar strong­man Gen­eral Ne Win, who ruled Myan­mar from the 1962 coup up to 1988.

Along the lake also stands the house of the late Myan­mar in­de­pen­dence leader Boyoke Aung San’s widow, where their daugh­ter and now State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi spent most of her years un­der house ar­rest.

The lake also gained cer­tain de­gree of no­to­ri­ety dur­ing 1988 Up­ris­ing against the gov­ern­ment, where stu­dents march­ing along the cause­way called White Bridge, were al­legedly herded, beaten and drowned by gov­ern­ment troops.

Just re­cently, the lake has been clas­si­fied as a her­itage area by the gov­ern­ment.

A few kilo­me­ters from Inya Lake is the Kan­daw­gyi Lake, which is only about 1.4 kilo­me­tres from down­town Yan­gon. This 61-hectare reser­voir which was built in 1884 is ac­tu­ally fed by wa­ter from the Inya Lake through pipes.

But un­like the Inya Lake, where most of the banks are in­ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic be­cause it is oc­cu­pied by pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als or com­pa­nies, most of Kan­daw­gyi Lake, if not all parts of the lake, is ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic. It has be­come one of the favourite week­end get­away of the city folk.

The lake is sur­rounded by a 45-hectare for­est re­serve called the Kan­daw­Gyi Na­ture Park and the 28-hectare Yan­gon Zoo­log­i­cal Gar­dens. The lake it­self is bounded by Nat­mauk Street to the north and east, Ba­han Street to the west, and Kanyeik­tha Street to the south.

On its south­ern and west­ern sides is the 6,000-me­tre wooden board­walk that stretches from the gate of the Sig­na­ture Restau­rant to the gate at the Karaweik Palace. Some por­tions of the board­walk are un­der­go­ing re­pair be­cause some of the planks and posts have rot­ted.

On the south­ern side of the lake floats a shrine to Shin Upagot. Upagot is a Bud­dhist saint who is said to pro­tect man from dan­ger.

On the east­ern side of the lake stands the golden royal barge shaped like a Karaweik, a lo­cal myth­i­cal bird. It is a con­crete struc­ture that looks like two enor­mous golden birds with a roof in the shape of a Py­atthat, a Myan­mar multi tiered and very or­nate roof struc­ture. The Karaweik barge replica was built by the gov­ern­ment in 1974.

Near the Karaweik barge replica are restau­rants where peo­ple can en­joy the gen­tle breeze while sip­ping cold drinks or hot cof­fee or tea.

Pho­tos: Aung Htay Hlaing

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