Downtown Yangon

This is not how Yangon looks like. But this is how the city feels like in several ways.

Downtown Yangon’s buildings are neither bright nor cheery. They are often an inappropriate mélange of awkwardly shaped tiles, faded colors and mutated architectural styles with “Doric-wannabe” columns. Cars are mostly colorless, thanks to former restrictions on vehicle imports, making Yangon an anomaly where the value of car appreciates. The roads are not clean either, as opposed to what the artist would like us to see here. Car lanes are often filled with holes, and shrouded in fumes, dust and smoke. The skeleton of Yangon testifies to the many rough decades the city has endured.

And yet, Yangon feels vivacious … if a little distant.

There is indeed a strange upbeat detachment in the ambiance. Sunlit sidewalks are filled with shadows of people going about with their lives, enjoying meals, and shopping from roadside vendors. But you cannot see them. The crowd seems dynamic and friendly, and yet you cannot talk to them. Even the brightly colored cars are veering away from you to the opposite direction.

As if that isn’t enough, the artist has placed solid black lines between me and this iridescent city of my childhood, where I grew up on one of these streets.