By Myat Soe Phyu
Thingazar Creek Neighbourhood is located between 22th street and 26th street from north to South and between 91st street and Thingazar East Ring Street from East to West in Thirimarlar North Ward, AungMyayThaZan Township, Mandalay city, Myanmar.
Street Activity on 26th street
The view illustrates street activities on a 200-meter stretch of 26th street, the boundary street to the south of Thingazar Chaung neighbourhood. It is a main way for local residents to get in and out to their Neighbourhood. If it is compared to the streets in the Neighbourhood, this street section displays different ambiences or characters such as land use types, building types and fabrics, street activities and settings, public and social spaces and so on.
In the morning, cars, motorbikes, trishaws, tricycles and bicycles are appearing from the Neighbourhood into this street for their way of work. The primary land use of the street is mixed commercial. On the adjacent section of Neighbourhood, street vendors, social welfare association, residential buildings, cinema, retail stores, shophouses, clothing stores, pharmacy stores, mobile sales and services can be seen along the street. At the corner of 91th street on that side, food vendors are busy with the customers in lunch and dinner times. On the other side along this street, the residential buildings, book stores, street vendors, tea-shop, restaurant, retail stores, clothing stores, hotel, Bank and gas station can be seen.
Along the street, there is a larger variety of building types different from those along Thingazar creek Neighbourhood. The significant difference is the scale of the buildings, which is notably bigger and higher than that of Thingazar Neighbourhood area; the majority of the buildings are 3-4 storeys high, while there are few two storeys buildings as well. Building types are brick-nogging (Brick lined walls in wood framed Home) and Reinforced cement concrete (RCC) buildings.
The street is about 40 feet wide with sidewalks each, but parts of the sidewalks are damaged. There are fewer pedestrians and no social spaces along the street because the street is busy with vehicles the whole day. Almost all activities on the street are necessary activities. There are some activities in front of the retail shops, but since there are very few in number. There can be seen the people having breakfast or lunch in a sidewalk café, waiting the buses on the corner, or simply people watching. The marked difference of this section of 26th street is that the building fabric is not very vertical and therefore the street is not enclosed. There is also some vegetation present on each side of the street and some medium high buildings are under construction.
In addition, this particular section of 26th street beyond Thingazar Neighbourhood is crowded with various vehicles because it is one of the main streets of Mandalay city. The vehicular traffic is continuous throughout the day on the street and so often traffic congested. As a result, the traffic noise is high; there is a decreased sense of public attractions in this area of the street and no recreational and leisure activities on the street.
Street Activities on Thingazar East Ring Street
The view shows the street activity called Thingazar East Ring Street in Thingazar chaung Neighbourhood. This street is connected to 26th street, which I have mentioned above, and this is one of two main streets to enter that community. One side of this street is Thingazar Creek and another side is residences. The whole street is vibrant with the presence of many people and numerous activities. This street is full with people who are chatting with their neighbours in front of the houses, sitting and resting on the bench with phones and playing ZEL game.
Along this street, there are small retail-shops, food vendors full of customers because there are many workers who work in Sugar cane warehouse, cycle workshop and one high-way truck gate. There is also one mosque which is a place of worship for Muslim groups who live in the north part of this street. There are also small grocery stores, pork-stick food cart, a small motel and betel shops. Vehicles are parking in front of houses; most are motorcycles and very few cars.
The interesting thing on the street is the presence of “ZaTiMan Mobile Library tricycles”. Those Mobile Libraries are opened by “ZaTiMan” youth readers association based at Shwe Kaung Nyunt ward of Aungmyetharzan Township in Mandalay. Those Mobile Libraries opens at basic education primary schools in Mandalay district with the aim of broadening scope of children, raising reading skills and contributing towards learning skills. The mobile libraries have various subjects of books totalling over 2000. Each library stops over at the schools in Mandalay city, letting students borrow books for up to two weeks, free of charge. In Thingazar Creek Neighbourhood, it is also used to give service to Dhamma halls or Dhammayon called in Burmese (also known as Lecture Hall in Buddhist Temples and Monasteries and the community place for religious festivals of local people) and schools in Neighbourhood. Mobile libraries of the association will provide the readers and students not only with the books but with scrabble sets, chess sport equipment and chairs and tables. But, mobile libraries have not run their service for two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic and current political condition in Myanmar.
Most of the residences along the street are one or two storeys buildings. Building materials are timber, bamboo and brick. Houses are very close to each other and there are many alleyways to go inside community. Along the side of Thingazar creek, benches are placed for sitting, taking rest and talking to neighbours. On the street, most people do their daily tasks—such as taking a bath, and washing their clothes at tube wells and Municipal water taps in front of their houses, so that they can communicate with their neighbours. The wells are prime places to catch up on gossip. Moreover, most of the houses are small, prompting residents to create their workplaces outside of the house, sometimes under shady trees nearby. Therefore, vibrant activities along the street can be seen.
Street vendors and mobile shops looking completely at home on the street is a social culture found in every neighbourhood and urban area in Myanmar. It makes the neighbourhood and the urban liveable. This view illustrates a social activity at the street vendor near Shwe Laung Gyi Dahama Hall on Shwe Laung Street next to Thingazar East Ring Street in Thingazar Neighbourhood.
Both grassroots and middle class are living mixed along the street. Some of the houses are two- to three-storeyed buildings but some are one-storey. Modern and tradition house designs are mixed. Most of the houses are traditional designs. Some houses have yards but some don’t have. The layout planning of the houses is not systematic. The street is about 15 feet wide, not straight, and made by asphalt. Some people are happy in talking with their neighbours in front of their houses and the elder men are reading newspapers on the bench beside the street.
The people pass through this vendor’s stall on their daily errands: some on bicycles, some on three-wheel motorbikes, and some on foot. The vender is preparing to start selling and some are waiting. She opens her shop twice a day; morning and afternoon. Most of local people used to take away the snacks for breakfast and tiffin. This is one of the social spaces for them. Sometimes, the vendor is full with people waiting for their snacks and they are talking each other and laughing friendly. They also greet the people going on the street. So, social activities can be seen along the street and this street vendor provides a social space for the local residents. They are amiable in character, mood and conversation.
“Kyaw Thi Ha Barber Shop”
This is a Barber-shop for men only, named “Kyaw Thi Ha”. It is situated at the corner of two alleyways of Shwe Laung Street in Thingazar Chaung Neighbourhood. It is not so far from the food vendor above mentioned. The shop is small, has two barber chairs and opens at ground floor of two storeys house, no air-conditioning system like modern hair salon. But, the shop is convenient in price for local people. The barber knows most of people in the Neighbourhood and they also know him. Moreover, this barber-shop is truly a meeting place for men. They can talk to each other while awaiting their turn, like in a tea-shop. They can argue with their friends about a football match they watched last night and share economic information and other news together. They hear news, talk politics, and gossip. They talk to the barber about everything behind the chair. Therefore, the barber shop in the neighbourhood community also provides a unique social function.
This view of Street vendor can be seen at Alae Baung Street near the begging of Thingazar creek in the morning and evening. It is situated at the north part of Thingazar Neighbourhood. Most local people nearby used to buy chips from this shop to eat with rice for their breakfast and dinner due to cheap price and good taste. This is also a social place for them. People can chat and greet each other while waiting for chips at the shop. So, the seller knows all about the community and she can tell about neighbourhood activities and conditions. This place is her neighbourhood area and she knows very well her neighbours’ characters, how many cultural activities are held annually, the activities that took place in the various types of street space.
Thingazar chaung Neighbourhood is an interesting colourful area in Mandalay city. Although it is situated in an urban area, it has a unique character in social life and activities differ from other wards nearby. People’s interaction with environment, by means of various activities and setting, can be found throughout the whole Neighbourhood.
Myat Soe Phyu is an architect and researcher from Mandalay, who studied at Mandalay Technological University and Yangon Technological University, majoring in Architecture. Recently, she has worked in Teaching and Research in the Department of Architecture, Mandalay Technological University till February 2021. Previously she worked at the Material Science and Material Engineering Research Department, Dattaw, Kyaukse, and in Teaching at the Department of Architecture at the Technological University, Kyaukse.