25th Street stretches for only two blocks, between Merchant Street and Anawrahta Road. It’s one of these streets you would pass without even noticing. Its delights are not obvious, behind its cluttered and confused spaces. This area is part of the Indian quarter, mainly Sunni. The lower (middle block) has eateries that are simple and very local. The man with the early morning roti stall hidden away in the shadows just to your left, as the street heads north, and the magnificently basic Tun Family (Rice & Tea) Indian cafe, where a great tasting range of dishes including potato and egg curries, dahl, soup, rice, and condiments can all be had for 1000Ks. The rest of the block is peppered with rare examples of early Bombay colonial-style residences painted in turquoise, faded green and mustard-yellows. One 1907 block of apartments is particularly special. Here you can also find a range of local bike shops offering basic models for 45000Ks and multi-geared bikes for around 85000; dynamo light, bell and basket all included. The street energy here is friendly and local, with lots of smiles and easy chatting.
As you cross Mahabandoola Road there is a small fruit market, at the moment overflowing with huge baskets of in-season mandarins, oranges and oversize apples. The upper (middle block) is called ‘all trades’ street by the locals. It’s all about sewing supplies and haberdashery. Here you can find all thicknesses of thread, skeins of multi-coloured wool, scissors, needles, sewing machine spare parts and of course sewing machines. MR J Singh ‘s newly arrived Goldy machines from China, as well as his specialised embroidery and umbrella-stitching machines from India, shine in the early morning sun. Mr Singh has travelled from New Delhi to market his wares. This week he will celebrate the birthday of Guru Nanak at the Sikh Temple in Dagon. He’s happy to be in Yangon. In this block you will also find the Supater Razar Jamay Mosque, which services the local Sunni population. 25th Street celebrates its multiculturalism gently. Across the road from the mosque is the Christian-run OK 345 Household & Industrial Sewing Parts shop that raises money for Yangon’s St Mary’s Cathedral, and nearby is the Alibaba Amusement Centre for the more secular minded; the lights are blazing and the spectacle is unceasing. My favourite shop is the button stall, hundreds of different coloured buttons (50-100Ks) made from glass, plastic and coconut shell, it’s a brightly coloured flame, alight with childhood happiness. Enjoy.
by Bob Percival
——– ABOUT THIS BLOG ———–
This blog is about the downtown streets of Yangon, the narrow thoroughfares that form the north/south grid of what was once called Old Town, laid out and designed by the British in the late 1800s. It’s now Downtown. These streets are living spaces. They have there own rhythm, colour and stories. They draw up the fresh air from the River, the lungs of the City. They provide shade and respite from the Yangon sun and heat. They are the walkways and shopping strips for pedestrians escaping the traffic-choked major roads that run east/west across the city. These streets of downtown Yangon are the life and blood of this city. Each week I will explore one of these streets. Please come along for the walk.