Walking the Streets of Yangon


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The people, stories and hidden treasures of downtown cosmopolitan Yangon (Rangoon)

by Bob Percival and Jonathan Copeland

My Balinese partner Murni and I first met Bob shortly after he left China and moved to Yangon. He had set up his successful walking tours of local streets around the neighbourhood where he lived on 29th Street. The streets were amazingly contrasted, colourful and pulsating with life. At the same time everything was crumbling and paint peeled off the mildewed walls. It was a photographer’s paradise. Bob seemed to know everyone. He was excited to be living there in a time of transition, in a place that was changing before his eyes.


We met in his office, the Shangri-La Hotel reception. It had the best wifi and best breakfasts in the city and was the perfect starting point for his tours. We hit it off immediately and got together for meals and drinks and breakfasts after that. He came to Bali with his daughter Gina a few months later.

I suggested that he write a book about his walks and he said that he was already thinking of that. I told him that I’d be delighted to come back and take the photographs.

We kept in touch and the next time I visited he’d finished the book and had printed it himself. It was doing well. The photographs were his own, in black and white.

We talked about an ebook, so that the streets and their stories could reach a wider audience, with photographs in colour to bring the streets to life. I came back a month later and met him in his Shangri-La office, the day before his return to Australia. He had to go back and live there for two years to establish residence to claim his pension and also to see his doctors. Some years earlier he had had a heart attack in Amsterdam.

I spent a week walking up and down Bob’s streets, book in hand, going into as many of the buildings and chatting to as many of the people he describes as I could. I accomplished the whole thing with a day to spare, which I used to photograph the colonial side of Rangoon, which is totally different and gave rise to the accompanying ebook Strolling down the Streets of Old Rangoon, The History and the Buildings.

Bob was back in Sydney, catching up with friends and doctors. I’m pleased to say that he approved the photographs and added another five streets to the book. The book is a real contribution to the history of Yangon, a unique and valuable record of real life in the city. We’ve kept his black and white photographs for Local Products, Local People, Odds and Ends.

Unfortunately Bob did not live to see the book although he knew what it would look like. He died of a heart attack on a flight to New York to attend his son’s 40th birthday party.Jonathan Copeland

Bob Percival Bob Percival

Jonathan CopelandJonathan Copeland

Colour photographs

What they said about


The people, stories and hidden treasures of downtown cosmopolitan Yangon (Rangoon)


“An authoritative and poetic insight into the streets of Yangon. If there was ever one book that purportedly held the magical secret of downtown Yangon, we may have discovered it, at last.”

Sondang Grace Sirait, MYANMORE, 12 September 2016

“Bob Percival’s Walking the Streets of Yangon, a collection of vignettes on downtown blocks, local restaurants and random shops.”

Coconuts Yangon, 21 September 2016

“Whether new to the city or a Yangon veteran, the book makes one feel as if Yangon is full of nooks and crannies begging to be explored.”

R.J. Vogt, Myanmar Times, 9 December 2016