Rangoon, or Burmese Yangon, is actually not a particularly old city, although an initial settlement in the same place dates back about 2,500 years. But, even though the town itself is not old, it creates, more than any other Southeast Asian capital, in the visitor an impression of a town from the past. The reason: within the past 30 years only little has changed.
The city itself features few highrises and practically no traffic congestion. What moves in the streets, fringed by buildings in various states of dilapidation, are pedestrians and bicyclists aside mostly vehicles from the 50's and early 60's, some even go back as far as the 40's. Only recently have imports of second-hand vehicles from Japan been allowed.
Until the middle of the 18th century Yangon had been a small Mon village by the name of Dagon. Dagon had never been the center of a realm of any significant extent. Nevertheless, even in the earliest times of Burmese history the place was of considerable importance, because Dagon was home to the Shwedagon pagoda, which has not only for centuries, but for millennia, been an important religious location.
In 1755 Dagon was conquered by the Burmanese King Alaungpaya, who rechristened the town to Yangon, which translates The End Of The War.
In 1824, during the first Anglo-Burmese war, Yangon was shortly occupied by the British, but was cleared again soon after. In 1841 the town burned down to the fundaments of the city walls, but was on orders of King Tharrawaddy rebuilt anew.
In 1852, during the second Anglo-Burmese war, the small town of Yangon was again conquered by the British, who this time did not withdraw, but on the contrary turned the town into the administrative center of southern Myanmar, which at that time was under their control. They also renamed Yangon to Rangoon.
In 1855, after the British had without major effort won the third AngloBurmese war and had conquered northern Myanmar, Yangon became the capital of the Burmese part of the crown colony India, to which it had initially been added.
The British rebuilt the town completely anew and used a square pattern for their city planning, which until today makes orientation in the center of town comparatively easy.
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