[gallery type="slideshow" ids="94283,94282,94281,94280,94279,94274,94275,94276,94277,94278,94273,94272,94271,94270"] RANGOON — Some of Rangoon’s best kept secrets lay hidden only a thirty minute stroll from the city centre. The precinct known locally as the army cantonment remains largely off limits to the public, with a small contingent of soldiers still on duty to discourage the curious—not always with great success. Up until early this year, the area had been earmarked for development as part of stage 2 of the controversial Dagon city development. Due largely to its proximity to the revered Shwedagon Pagoda, the project has since been discontinued after considerable public pressure. Overgrown with shady trees and ample undergrowth, the area remains a fascinating place to stroll and explore. Originally developed by the British army and still home to at least one ancient artillery piece, within its boundaries can be found numerous buildings designated for army use, such as soldiers’ barracks, administrative buildings and the old War Office itself. The cantonment was also once the home of a Burmese Army communication’s battalion. An enormous, rusting 70s era satellite dish still points skyward near the former War Office complex. The British built the now disused Daw Khin Kyi Hospital, named after the wife of revered independence leader General Aung San, close to the southern entrance of the site on Elan Pya Pya Street. At the highest point of the site sits the Signal Pagoda, so named after British colonial rulers, perhaps lacking in sensitivity to local religious beliefs, adopted the Pagoda’s stupa to hoist signal flags for shipping on the Rangoon River. The pagoda itself predates the nearby iconic Shwedagon. At the height of the Second World War, the area surrounding the Shwedagon Pagoda was considered by the local population to be a safe haven from intensive Japanese bombing of Rangoon. It was during this period that the British built underground water storage tanks to sustain the war effort and the local population. Sitting almost at the base of the Pagoda itself, these massive concrete water facilities remain intact but disused. What the future holds for this cool, quiet inner city sanctuary remains to be seen, but for now, it makes an ideal destination for those with an interest in Burmese history—or even just a love of peace and quiet and a cool breeze away from the hustle and bustle of Burma’s commercial capital.
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