During the construction of the Shwedagon Pagoda, thousands of tons of soil were excavated to form the bricks and mortar used to build the stupa.
Water from Inya Lake was channelled through pipes to form the Kandawgyi, or Royal, Lake. This lake was intended as a clean water supply during the British Colonial Administration.
Surrounded by wooden walkways, it’s now a popular place to hang out in the evening, whether relaxing with the monks and fishermen, or running with the fitness fanatics.
From the walkways it’s possible to look towards Singuttara Hill, topped by the 110m high pagoda.
The Karaweik is a concrete replica of the Pyigyimon Burmese royal barge, built in 1972. This famous icon of Myanmar is a popular design for t-shirts and corporate logos. Today it serves as a less iconic buffet restaurant on the north-eastern shore of Kandawyi Lake.
Kandawgyi Palace Hotel
The first building on this site was the Rangoon Rowing Club, used by British officers and executives from 1934.
In 1948 the Rowing Club was abolished to reopen as the Union Club Burma. This was patronised by the Burmese government officials and their guests. Soon afterwards the Union Club was converted into the National Biological Museum and one original dinosaur sculpture from the museum still stands in the gardens, overlooking the pool area.
Around 1979, the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism took over the museum and turned it into a hotel, later adding more bungalows.
In 1993 the government sold it to a private company who replaced the bungalows with a modern teak hotel. The new lake side hotel is distinctively Burmese in its architectural design and surrounded by a tropical garden.
This became known as the Kandawgyi Palace, the Palace on the Royal Lake, although many still know it simply as as “the Teak Hotel”.
China to Myanmar
This is the low season in Myanmar, when the temperatures are high and the rains frequent, so there are a lot less visitors. Our midday flight from Kunming to Yangon (whose airport still goes by the old name of RGN for Rangoon) was almost empty.
Coming from the arid heat of Beijing to the oppressive humidity of Yangon meant I wasn’t looking my best when meeting our lovely contact from Kotar Travels.
Because international money transfer is near impossible a tour agent arranged our flights and hotels in advance based on trust, and we had to pay the balance on arrival. We were whisked to her office where we handed over a pleasingly small number of crisp $100 notes in exchange for a collection of flight tickets and hotel vouchers. It’s possible to stay flexible and book flights once you arrive, but with only a fortnight in Myanmar we were more comfortable making a few plans in advance.
During the transfer to the Teak Hotel she explained that Yangon is growing rapidly and is already home to 5 million people. To combat air pollution the government is in the process of forcing all the old cars off the street, so most vehicles appear new and in good condition. Lexus in particular seems to have cornered the market from town cars to SUVs. Unlike the centre of Beijing there was no sign of the occasional horse and cart or home-made pedicab, and very few cyclists.
On arrival she paid for herself by getting us a free upgrade to a garden room with a patio overlooking the Royal Lake and the Karaweik beyond, so a promising start to our stay.