Shwedagon Pagoda – symbol of Myanmar, holy place, one of the most famous and the oldest (2600 years) Pagoda in the world.
No photo or words can describe the beauty and a spiritual atmosphere of this sacred place. I went to visit Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar in a day time, to spend hours wondering around and wait for the twilight to observe the place in a changing light while it was turning dark. The various scenery of the place unveils hundreds of temples, stupas and pagodas, illuminated at dusk and by the flames of thousand of candles. It took me hours to walk barefoot among the crowd of visitors. This is one of the most mistique places I’ve been to so far. Monks quietly slipping among visitors, lightning hundreds of candles around the main stupa Shwedagon Pagoda. The construction is 100 meters tall and built of tons of gold leafs. The main gold-plated dome is topped by a stupa containing over 7,000 diamonds and some 72-carat. The complex is 2600 years old.
How to get to the holy place of Yangon - Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar.
You can see the golden illuminating Shwedagon Pagoda from almost every point of Yangon city. It reflects the sunrays during the day and glows at night. There are 4 entrances on each of the four cardinal directions – south, north, east, west. After taking hundreds of steps the guard refuses to let me in, although I have a long scarf covering my ankles, he finds it a little transparent. It means I have to go back and buy another shawl 🙂 But it’s not a difficult task, the place sinks with street markets. Even the stairs to holy Pagoda are caver by local merchants market units with many beautiful handmade scarfs. I bought one which during the rest of my Asian jurney turned to be recognized as a symbol of Myanmar wherever I went. I climb the stairs again to face one of the most magnificent top views in Asia. Worth every effort. It is a great honour to witness Shwedagon Pagonda Festival, which usually falls between February and March. In 2024 the festival will be held between 16-25 March. For best prices on guided tours check and book here.
The Monks in the heart of Yangon.
There are different traditions among Monks in every part of Asia. While I was visiting small villages and towns in Myanmar I observed a totally different rituals. Monks were getting up at 4 am and starting each day with meditation. When Monks go out in the morning in rural and urban areas they carry bowls of rice. They knock to local houses and restaurants to receive blessing for their food. I found it incredible, this show an amazing bond between local people and Monks. They break all bondaries to became one society. Unfortunately this custom remains very rare in big cities. Monks are usually allowed to eat only two meals per day, the last meal would be at 12.00 noon. That’s why they get up so early. They are forbidden from consuming solid food after noon and until sunrise the following day.
After walking around they start to pray. In every single Asian house there is a small Buddha altar, honoured with the best location in the house. Fresh fruits, rice, cooked food, fanta, coke and even wine, which highly expensive in Asia, are being placed in front of Buddha statue.
Local Myanmar people.
A lot of things have changed recently in Buddhist culture.. Monks don’t live in line with strict buddhist rules, as they used before. It’s not surprising seeing a Monk holding a very expensive camera, or any apple device. Theravada Buddhist is a dominant form of religion in Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. It forbidds Monks to handle money of any kind, as the religion says that the soul wealth is worth much more than the money richness.
Asian people wake up very early to avoid working in the heat. You will see almost nobody on the streets in the afternoon time. Sometimes it was even hard for me to find any street food. After 6 pm. every street corner turnes into a noisy, delicious, colorfull and tasty scenery full of crowds and local merchants. If you wanna come to Yangon you need to book an accomodation in advance. This is one of the cities where almost every guesthouse is overbooked, even when it’s one of the most expensive accoms in Asia. This was of course way before covid in 2016. Myanmar was also much more expensive than any tooher south-east Asia corner. You would find difficult to pay less than 15$ per night, while in Cambodia it was almost a suite 😉