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.

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