Shwedagon Pagoda – Must-See. A soft wind lessened the effects of the thick heat while the chimes on top of the stupa gently sang. The dense throngs had thinned, and a tranquil spirit drifted through the grounds.
I was at the tremendously beautiful and moving Shwedagon Pagoda, the holiest site in Myanmar (formally known as Burma). The pagoda is a site to behold, clad in gold, shooting over 300 feet in the air, and as legend says, dates back 2,600 years. The pagoda holds the holy relic of 8 strands of hair of Gautama better known as Buddha. The legend also states that two brothers who were merchants met Buddha and were gifted 8 strands of hair and then returned to what is current day Yangon and then the hairs were placed within the pagoda. Over the centuries the pagoda has taken on many iterations, changing size and height over the centuries. Today, it is covered in real gold plates. At the top, the pagoda is covered in 2,317 rubies and 5,448 diamonds, including a gigantic 76 carat diamond.
The Pagoda is a dense hive of activity from early morning until the end of the day. The Burmese come here to pray and meditate. But it also a place to socialize with family and friends, relax and share a meal.
An interesting note is that the Burmese recognize a week that actually has 8 days. Wednesday is divided in two, before and after 6 pm. It is important to know which day you were born on. For at many pagodas there are stations representing the eight days of the week where you may pray at.
Two Amazing Places To View The Shwedagon Pagoda
To the east of Shwedagon Pagoda is Kandawgyi Lake. And on the lake are two great viewing points to watch sunset over the pagoda. The first is next to Sushi Boy, which abuts the lake and has a great view of the pagoda for sunset. For a small fee of 800 kyat you can relax here and take in the evening.
Also on the lake is the Chatrium Hotel Royal Lake Yangon where I stayed for three nights. I was overjoyed when I entered my room minutes before sunset and realized my room had a direct view of the Shwedagon Pagoda. I slid my balcony doors open and took in an amazing sunset.
I recommend coming to the pagoda several times during different times of the day. This way you can appreciate how the different light interacts with the pagoda. My favorite experience is to come before sunset, and stay until closing at 10pm. The crowds begin to thin, the air cools down, it becomes more peaceful, and I can listen to the chimes blow in the wind.
Other notes, you are not allowed to wear either socks or shoes at the pagoda. Be prepared for your soles of your feet to burn during the middle of the day, since the floor can become very hot. You may enter the pagoda from any of the four gates, and foreigners will be charged 8,000 kyat. There are many water stations, but would advise to bring your own water bottle.
Shwedagon Pagoda – Must-See
Disclaimer: I was an invited guest of the Chatrium Hotel Royal Lake Yangon. My opinions expressed are my own. If you book through Agoda, I will earn a fee.