Convoluted Kandawgyi Lake forms a refreshing oasis in the heart of the city. It is a 20-minute walk east of the Shwedagon Pagoda, whose gilded profile is reflected to dramatic effect in its shim- mering waters. Created by the British as a source of clean water for Yangon, it is fed by Inya Lake (see p80) to the north and is only a few feet deep. Kandawgyi means “Royal Lake,” and its elegant wooden walk ways and bridges resting on stilts in the water are popular places for an evening stroll. In November, leg rowers from across the country descend on the lake to race in the annual regatta, sponsored by the government. The road skirting the southern shore of the lake, site of a luxury hotel, also hosts large, deco rated pavilions during the Thingyan water festival celebrations in April. In 2010, ahead of the national elections, the festivities here were marred by a triple bomb attack in which nine people lost their lives and more than 60 were injured.
The leafiest area of Kandawgyi Lake is along its northern shore, encompassed by the Bogyoke Aung San Park. This public garden is laid out around the two-story former home of General Aung San and his wife Daw Khin Kyi; it now holds a small museum dedi cated to the memory of the man who was the architect of Burmese independence. A bronze statue of Aung San stands at the entrance to the gardens.
The lake’s southeastern shore is the site of the Kandawgyi Nature Park, a massive sprawl of wood land encompassing walkways, children’s play enclo- sures, picnic areas, a mini zoo, and cafés. Crowded with young families during the daytime, it becomes a party zone during the evening, where the city’s young, hip, and rich come to eat, drink, and relax with the rippling reflection of the floodlit Shwedagon as a backdrop.
Inside the nature park, the most iconic landmark on the lake is the somewhat surreal Karaweik Palace, a giant, bird- shaped edifice seemingly afloat on the water. It was built by the government in the 1970s to resemble the royal barges on which the Konbaung kings used to travel on the Ayeyarwady River, complete with multitiered roof and mythic Hindu karaweik birds. The sumptuous interior holds a restaurant, handicrafts emporia, and a performance space where shows of tradi- tional Burmese music and dance are staged most nights for visiting tour groups.