Yangon’s Alley Gardens is another example of an excellent urban renewal project we came across recently, following on from our recent post on Malang’s fantastic Rainbow Village. scheme. This one’s even simpler – doesn’t involve painting the entirety of downtown Yangon – but equally effective, albeit on a smaller scale, yet manages to hit the spot on several levels.
Anyone familiar with Burma’s (Myanmar’s) chaotic but fascinating largest city will remember the downtown area is laid out on a very rigid grid system. Long, dead-straight, roads divide the city centre into blocks which in turn are sub-divided by narrow pedestrian alleys running parallel to the main streets and allowing access to the rear of buildings as well as those hidden away in the blocks’ interiors.
Well, you may remember the grid with its rows of dilapidated tenements and spectacular though crumbling Victoriana but you certainly wouldn’t recall the back alleys since no-one, apart from residents, would have ever gone down them. Dingy, grubby, smelly; piled with garbage, scurrying roaches, scabby dogs and scavenging rats – why would you?
Under the auspices of the commendable Doh Eain organisation work’s now ongoing to, not only clean up these alleys but actually put them to good use. Numerous murals and paintings now brighten up the walls; gardens both decorative, fruit and herbal have been planted, kids’ playgrounds created and even in one alley a free library set up. Particularly useful in an area with high population density and very few public spaces or parks. Also, as is the case of Malang, visitors are beginning to wander in so, not only increasing passing trade for the back street shops and cafes, but also, importantly, creating a sense of pride for the residents. (Good-bye slum, hello fashionable selfie spot!)
Up to now, some 8 alleys have seen these makeovers with more certain to follow as interest and donations increase and we’ll definitely be including visits to this brilliant, and very worthwhile scheme on all our future Burma (Myanmar) tours and Yangon heritage walks.
And a big thanks to Win Win who checked the project our for us, got some excellent photos and tested the kids’ swings as well!