In the past week I’ve read several articles — online and in real stain-your-fingers newspapers — about Hillary Clinton’s recent visit to Myanmar. Many people, naturally, are optimistic about “democratic” changes in the country, and believe Clinton’s visit may help to encourage the process. One article also mentioned that land prices in Yangon have shot up dramatically since Clinton’s visit — in some case only a few mere hours after she left town. I’m not sure if that is optimism or sheer greed. One fears that glassy-eyed, slick-talking businessmen intent on “development” will buy up property and further wreck havoc with Yangon’s beautiful, but fragile, old buildings.
Much of the lovely architecture found around Yangon dates back to the old British Colonial period — when they slapped the name “Burma” on the unsuspecting locals. The past few years have already seen many old buildings razed; some of them because of damage from Cyclone Nargis, and others simply because a property developer has seen profit in the acquisition. If you want to see some of Yangon’s architectural treasures, you had best make a visit soon before they are all bulldozed into history.