Sunday, January 25, 2015

Burmese Days 10: Plenty to see at Scott's Market, Rangoon

If you like crafts markets, they do not get much more vibrant than the Bogyoke Aung San Market (Burmeseဗိုလ်ချုပ်အောင်ဆန်းဈေး) also known as the Scott's, on Bogyoke Aung San Road in downtown Rangoon. I think most locals still call it by the old English name, and a taxi driver will immediately know what you mean, even if he does not speak English.
The market consists of seven parallel halls separated by cobblestone alleys. Some of the buildings are 2-storey, but the central hall has a long chamber with a tall cast-iron arched ceiling. Balconies cross the alleys in some areas, so you can stay on the second floor and cross to other sections. The complex was built in 1926 by the former British administration, and was named after the Municipal Commissioner of the time, Mr. Gavin Scott.
The market is divided into different disciplines. The front has vendors of clothing and fabrics. The higher-end fashion stores have air-conditioning (very welcome).
They seem to sell a lot of underwear here.
Here are some of the lovely ladies of the market. Do they try on the underwear?
Deep in the buildings, hundreds of ladies work on sewing machines. The light level was so low, I could not see well, and the heat was muggy and wilting (at least to this wimpy Westerner).
We visited some of the gem and silver dealers. Burma is famous for rubies and sapphires, and the silver craftsmen do amazing work. The coffee pot in the photograph above is one of the family souvenirs from the 1950s. The decoration shows scenes from the life of Buddha. My mother remembered seeing the artist with a mallet and nail working on the patterns.
Look out from the balconies, and you see some of the old British buildings in varying states of preservation. It's a fascinating scene.
Immediately west of Scott's Market is the imposing brick Anglican Holy Trinity Cathedral. A magnificent construction of brick the, cathedral was designed by Robert Chisholm, an architect from Madras, in what Wikipedia calls the Indo-Saracenic style. Construction began when Lord Dufferin, the Viceroy of India, laid the cornerstone in 1886, and the project was completed in 1894. A magnificent pipe organ was destroyed in World War II and could not be repaired. The scale of this cathedral underscores the size and wealth of the Anglican community.

We will look at street markets in the next article.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Eagle Lake and Chotard Landing, Mississippi: Quiet Living

Eagle Lake is an oxbow lake in northwest Warren County, Mississippi, about 40 minutes drive northwest of Vicksburg. The lake is popular with boaters and fishermen, but also has a year-round population. Some are retirees and some commute to Vicksburg. My friends and I visit annually in late December for the Audubon Christmas bird count.
On a cold gloomy morning, there are some nice landscape photography opportunities.
There are some urban decay subjects, like this shed in the woods off Hwy 465.
This little church stands abandoned off Hwy 465. I do not know the denomination and the signs were gone.
Some folks are really into hunting here.
Eagle Lake Shore Road parallels the south side of the lake, with some mobile homes and landings.
If the level of the Mississippi River is low, you can proceed west into Tara Wildlife (ask for permission) and follow some dirt roads to one of the rare river overlooks. People who do not live here in the South are often surprised that the Mississippi is often inaccessible from land. Road or bridge access may be tens of miles apart. These sand bars are on the river side of the mainline levee, so if the water is high, this beach and the adjacent woods are flooded.

Chotard, or Chotard Landing, is a community of elevated trailers and cabins on the water side of the mainline levee, facing Lake Chotard. It is popular with fishermen, but because it floods whenever the Mississippi River is high, all the properties must replaced way up on piles.
It is impressive to see some of these places - they are way up. Chotard was part of the Mississippi River until 1934, when the Corps of Engineers removed one of the cutoffs, leaving Chotard Lake as a detached oxbow.
If you need a restroom, the community graciously provides one. What happens event spring when the place floods?

Eagle Lake and Chotard Landing are worth a visit on a nice weekend. Take your binoculars for some good birding.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Not much left: Chicot Junction, Arkansas

If you cross the Mississippi River on US 82 over the beautiful new bridge at Greenville heading west and turn south on Highway 65, you will soon drive by a group of abandoned houses in the woods. Oops, you just missed Chicot Junction. There is not much left of the town. The Arkansas Gazetteer states, "Chicot Junction is a populated place located in Chicot County at latitude 33.203 and longitude -91.26. The elevation is 128 feet. Chicot Junction appears on the Eudora North U.S. Geological Survey Map. Chicot County is in the Central Time Zone (UTC -6 hours)."
I am glad I drove by in March, before the spring growth season began. Otherwise, I suspect many of these houses would be completely buried in jungle.
These were once decent little homes.
 I found one mobile home that was occupied.
All the permanent cottages seemed to be deserted, but not in particularly bad condition. Very odd. What was the former business here that has dried up? 
I would like an old Chevrolet like this.
Keep driving south and you pass through Eudora. It has more activity, but came across this abandoned store. It looked like the owners closed the doors one day and never came back. I feel sorry for places like this. It is the story of rural America in the early 21st century - small towns are simply closing up.

Photographs taken with a Fujifilm X-E1 digital camera, mostly with the 27mm f/2.8 Fuji lens. I processed the files with DxO filmpack 3 or PhotoNinja to simulate black and white film. In the Tri-X mode in DxO, I used the yellow filter, reduced the grain, and increased contrast a bit.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Lost Houses: Lower Main Street, Vicksburg, Mississippi

Dear Readers, happy and prosperous 2015 to you all.

Main Street is one of Vicksburg's historic streets, and the waterfront and hill near the Yazoo Canal (formerly the main stem of the Mississippi River) is one of the earlier areas to be settled in the 1800s. Sadly, we have lot many of the old houses from this area over the years.
I recall that in the 1980s and early 1990s, the square building at the corner of Main and Washington Streets was a local corner grocery store. Unfortunately, I never photographed the interior. But the good news is that Rusty's Riverfront Grill now occupies the site (901 Washington Street). This is a success story - an old building with a new life.
The next building uphill is a garage at 714 Main Street.
716 Main was an old-fashioned house that had been empty for some time and, as of mid-2014, was being deconstructed. In the second picture, you can see right through the left wall.
718 Main is in good condition and was occupied in late 2014.
No. 722 is a duplex with plaster or concrete siding made to look like limestone. The brick building in the left distance is the Jackson Street Community Center. That was the former site of a YMCA (click the link).
On the next block east (uphill), the shotgun shacks at nos. 802 and 804 were demolished years ago. This photograph (a Kodachrome slide) is from 2000.
Across the street, at 807 Main, there was once a big 2-story building. I did not pay much attention until I saw the demolition crew at work in February of 1998. These photographs were also Kodachrome slides taken with a Leica camera.
At 808, the building had the concrete (or plaster?) siding shaped to look like limestone blocks.

So it goes; slowly but surely, more structures are being removed than built. Vicksburg has more grassy lots than even 20 years ago. Is this the fate of small towns in America?