Shwedagon Paya, Rangoon
As Rudyard Kipling the famous English author and poet described a long time ago, Burma (now called Myanmar) is a "Land like no other," the Shwedagon pagoda in the former capital of Yangon is truly an architectural wonder like no other temple.
Built 2,500 years ago on a hill, it is the country's most sacred and revered place of worship. The hill where the pagoda is situated lies 190 feet or 58 meters above sea level, so this glittering landmark can be seen from nearly every part of Yangon city. Having lived in Yangon for half of my life (and on many subsequent visits), I of course have been there numerous times, but I am always spellbound by the majestic splendor of this huge place. A beautiful building or structure can move a person, but a pagoda that has been said to be covered in more gold than all the vaults in England will take your breath away!
The immense 368 foot (112 meters) high golden stupa towers over the vast complex of gilded shrines, so it is easy to forget that the stupa is surrounded by smaller pagodas, temples and pavilions which feature intricate designs and giant smiling Buddhas in sitting and reclining poses. And of course, gold, gold, gold everywhere, 60 tons of it encrusted on the stupa, not to mention the precious gems, such as rubies, sapphires, jade and the huge 76 carat diamond orb winks to the skies from the very top of the spire. It is believed that 8 strands of the hair of Gautama, the Lord Buddha is hidden away somewhere on the grounds along with other holy relics. The temple complex itself covers more than five acres.
Even if you are not of the Buddhist faith (which I am not), be prepared to be absorbed in an atmosphere of holiness and spiritual tranquility, and even if you are hard to impress, you will be overwhelmed by its magnificence and breathtaking beauty. I was with one of my American friends one time, and this is what she said when we were there, "It is so captivating and no words can describe it, but I will say one thing, 'my eyes keep falling out of my head'"
Have you ever seen an ancient glowing golden structure? If not, be there in the evening again when the sun goes down. The Shwedagon is beautiful by day, spectacular by night when it creates a magical atmosphere as it is lit up by flood lights which reflects off the gold and lighting up the clouds, giving the night sky a yellow/orange glow.
There are four entrances to the Shwedagon; north, south, east and west, two of them with elevators. I would suggest that you take one of the elevators going up, and take the stairs going down. At every entrance, you won't fail to notice two giant 'chinthes' (mythical lions in Burmese literature) guarding it.
The Burmese are very religious, and it is believed that the Shwedagon reveals the heart of the people. There are always crowds of devotees who come to worship at the Shwedagon. Old, young, monks, nuns....people from all walks of life. This is what Myanmar is all about - the impact of Buddhism in the everyday life of the people. However, since the country opened up a couple of years ago, I hear that on some days, international travelers outnumber the locals. I recently read a news report that ATM cash machines have been installed all over the complex and Wi-Fi internet access is available on the grounds now. I am just puzzled why would anybody need to be on the computer while visiting this marvelous site?
Anyway, if you are ready to be transported to a whole new world and a serene environment (even though the place is bustling with worshippers and tourists alike), be sure to make this pagoda your number 1 must see attraction when you are in Yangon. You will be totally mesmerized by its wonder!
Admittance fee - US5.00 (valid for the whole day, so you can use it once more if you go there again in the evening)
Opening hours - 4am to 10pm every day
Whilst there is a National Monument in downtown Yangon (see seperate tip) it is a modern, concrete pillar. For my money the true National Monument of Yangon, indeed Myanmar, has to be the Shwedagon Paya. You can see it from just about everywhere in town, but it is only when you go there that you appreciate the scale and majesty of the place.
The bald figures themselves are impressive but do not nearly do justice to it. It stands on 14 acres of ground, is about 300 feet high, covered in 90 tons (yes, 90 TONS) of gold and topped by an 87 carat diamond. Given that amount of gold it positively glows in the bright Myanmar sun, and becomes even more magical when lit up at at night.
The complex itself consists of various prayer halls, great bells, shrines etc. and there are also a couple of exhibitions tracing the history of the place and of the life of Buddha. It is no exaggeration to say that no visit to Myanmar would be complete without a trip here.
There is a $5 entrance fee for foreigners, and the complex is open from very early until 2200 hours. I would suggest the best time to visit is in the late afternoon. The sun is not so hot (remember you have to walk atound in bare feet) and the sunset views over the city are spectacular.
I took so many photos here, I haven't got room to put them all here on the tip, so please check out my Shwedagon travelogue on this page for a few more.
This place is really amazing, the artwork on the temple is so vivid it makes for an absorbing visit. Burma itself is full of such amazing places, so get yourself here if you can. Burma
This Pagoda complex is amazing. its huge, varied, stunning, and absorbing.
This is apparently one of the most visited temple complex's in the world and I can sure see why.
I spent 2 hours here and my mind was in overload. You need at least one whole day to see it all and explore thoroughly, but not all at one time.
Be aware that the marble paving gets hot in the sun, walk in the shade if you can
Located in the north side of the paya, this temple built after the Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya is totally different in syle from the rest of the buildings of the complex. The temple was built by Dagon Khin Khin Lay a famous Myanmar writer and a grandaughter of a high official of the court of Mnadalay.
Maybe one of the most impressive buildings in the world, the complex is also the most sacred place in Myanmar. The pagoda is located north of the city, between the People´s park and Kandawgyi. The paya measures 1421 feet and is covered with more than 8,600 solid gold blocks. The top of it is decorated with diamonds, rubies and other gems, there´s a big emerald in the top of it that capture the sun´s rays. There are eight sides to the paya, 64 stupas and temples all housed together in a giant central terrace. There are four long stairways to the platform, being the south entrance the most popular due to the proximity to the city centre. Another way to get to the paya is through a lift (nort entrance), a good option is to climb the staircase when you arrive, leaving through the lift.
RANGOONThe most visited site here in Rangoon would have to be the Schwendagon Paya (holy one) Pagoda ..This is just the most amazing site that you will see in all your travels here..The first sight that you have of this ..is one long remembered ..Located not far from the city centre..(I took a cab there and back) standing nearly a 100 meters high this is said to be number 1 on the list of the worlds most amazing Temples...supposedly covered with over fifty tons of gold and the top of the spire covered in many thousands of precious Diamonds,Rubiesand Sapphires..This is just a mind boggler to say the least..
The day I was here it was an extremely hot day and as is with ALL Temples in Asia..I had to take off my shoes and must say some of the hot marbled areas had me doing the jumps..Arriving at the Temple you will be confronted by children selling plastic bags.(50cents)..it soon becomes apparent that these are for your shoes or sandals that must be checked in ($1 dollar)...a numbered ticket is given for retreival of same..
There is an entry fee here ( U.S.$ 5.00 )as there is for everywhere in Burma..This is a huge site and many hours can be spent here with a lot to see.There is over 80 other buildings here in the compound..even the entrance and the huge stairway to the top leaves one truly amazed...Make sure that you have plenty of water with you..also make sure that you have plenty of space on your camera and a fully charged battery...as you will take just so many photos of this amazing site..Try and get photos when the sun is shining on it as the reflecting gold will just glisten ..
Surrounding the basis of Shwedagon-pagoda are many different smaller shrines. They are dedicated to pre-Buddhist spirits, the socalled " Nats". There are also miracle working images, and even a wish granting stone. Walking around the foot of Shwedagon on its warm, solid marble tiles gives you an idea of the sense of beauty and the palpable feeling of serenity, the entire temple complex radiates.
This amazing paya is the crown jewel of Myanmar - and "the" definitely must visit place in this country. For the Burmese, Shwedagon is the most sacred of all their temples, and the most visited. You can see the huge 98 metre golden paya from almost anywhere in the city - glistening gold above the jaded glory of the Western style houses and buildings, and the squalor and poverty of much of modern day Yangon.
While the current form of this paya extends back to the 18th century, the original construction is felt to date from somewhere between the 6th and 10th centuries - built by the resident Mon people. The buildings have suffered earthquake damage, and several rebuilds have been necessary.
Once you walk up one of the covered corridor style staired walkways to the platform where the temple rests, the sheer size of Shwedagon is immediately apparent as you emerge to face the main paya. Its a good idea to employ a guide to take you around, as it is a large complex, and we found the assistance and additional information very helpful.
Visit the Shwedagon Pagoda, the very symbol of Rangoon and Myanmar alike. This massive bell-shaped stupa rises nearly 100 meters above its hill-top surroundings. Wander through this magnificent structure and its courtyards, stupas, bells, Temples, and Buddha images, and see religious and secular visitors from all parts of the globe.Sitting high atop the sacred shrine of Singuttara Hill, housing relics of The Buddha and three Buddhas that preceded him, encased in gold and in jewels, the Shwedagon pagoda is a wonder to see.
As described by Somerset Maugham: "The Shwedagon rose superb, glistening with its gold, like a sudden hope in the dark night of the soul, of which the mystics write, glistening against the fog and smoke of the thriving city."
Visiting the pagoda in the early morning or early evening, when most of the tourists have left and the locals bring their offerings, ritually washing and cleaning the countless Buddha-statues, is a very special experience !
The last day of our stay in Myanmar we decided to make some photos of Shwedagon by night as a last memory. The pagoda complex is brightly illuminated so I stroblgy recommend you stay inside until darkness comes
The base of the stupa is made of bricks covered with genuine gold plates. Burmese all over the country, as well as monarchs in its history, have donated gold to the pagoda to maintain it, a custom that started in the 15th century and continues to this day. We were told that the entrance ticket paid by tourist luckily goes for the maintainance of the pagoda (I hope)
Above the base are terraces that only monks and men can access. Next is the bell-shaped part of the stupa. Above that is the turban then the inverted almsbowl inverted and upright lotus petals the banana bud and then the crown. The crown or umbrella is tipped with 5,448 diamonds and 2,317 rubies. The very top, the diamond bud is tipped with a 76 carat (15 g) diamond.
There are four entrances to Shwedagon pagoda that lead up a flight of covered steps to the platform on Singuttara Hill.
The eastern and southern approaches nicely decorated have vendors on either sides selling all sorts of religious goods most notably Buddha images, good luck charms, candles, gold leaf, prayer flags, flowers etc (see pics). In addition these entrances have an elevator and the infrequently used western one is equipped with escalators. Unlike any other pagoda we visited the entrance corridor was in sparkling marble floor.
A pair of giant chinthe (mythical lions) guard the entrances.
Remember shoes and shocks have to be removed (they can keep an eye on them for a minimal fee if you don;t want to carry them around in bags)
There is entrance fee paid in US$. Luckily there is no camera or video fee.
The Shwedagon Pagoda is the most celebrated attraction for tourists in Yangon and religious site for Buddhists all over Myanmar.
It is a 98-metre gilded stupa located to the west of the Royal Lake, on Singuttara Hill. It is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda for the Burmese with relics of the past four Buddhas enshrined within (staff of Kakusandha, the water filter of Konagamana, a piece of the robe of Kassapa and eight hairs of Gautama, the historical Buddha).
The best time to visit Shwedagon pagoda is 2-3 hrs before sunset. This time is enough to sightsee around and soak up some of the local ambience. The pagoda closes later on so you can stay there even when the pagoda is beautifully illuminated.
Legend says that the Shwedagon Pagoda is 2500 years old. The story of Shwedagon Pagoda begins with two merchant brothers meeting the Lord Gautama Buddha and receiving eight of the Buddha's hairs to be enshrined in Burma. The two brothers made their way to Burma and with the help of the local king found Singuttara Hill where other Buddha relics had been enshrined. When the hairs were taken from their golden casket to be enshrined some natural and unnatural phenomena happened. The stupa has been rebuilt several times and reached its current height of 98 meters in the 15th century. A series of earthquakes during the next centuries caused damage (the worst one being in 1768)