Looming over the skyline of Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, is the Shwedagon Paya, also known as the Golden Pagoda. Considered the most sacred of all Buddhist sites for the Burmese, the pagoda is one that all Myanmar Buddhists hope to visit at least once in their lifetime. According to local legends, the Shwedagon Pagoda has existed for more than 2,500 years, making it the oldest historical pagoda in the world.
We visited Shwedagon during Thingyan, the Burmese New Year, when people from around the country flocked to the holy spot to send prayers and offerings. Buddhist monks dressed in their mahogany robes roamed the temples while locals walked barefoot with their hands clasped. The golden gilded pagoda and its surrounding shrines shimmered and sparkled under the sun, turning everything around it into a shade of orange and yellow. By night, the pagoda lit up the entire city with its golden glow – a beautiful sight visible from almost anywhere in the city. I’ll let Alberto’s photos do the talking for now, we hope these images shot from Shwedagon will give you a good feel of the imposing Buddhist site.
The shimmering Shwedagon Paya, as seen from Kandawgyi Palace
Under the blazing sun, the main stupa and its surrounding shrines sparkle and shine
An impressive display of architectural and construction splendor
A gilded golden Buddha figure in Shwedagon
A hall of over 16 Buddha statues
Volunteers come to sweep the grounds of Shwedagon during Thingyan
I pour holy water over the Buddha statue nine times and pray for safety
Hundreds of Buddha figures sprawl across the complex
Local kids were extremely curious about foreigners – this bunch in particular were more than happy to take a photo with me
Other Sights in Yangon
Sule Paya stands at a major crossroad in downtown Yangon. Although it lacks the grandeur of Shwedagon Paya, it definitely provides respite from the chaotic traffic beyond. According to local legends, it was built 2,000 years ago to house a strand of the Buddha’s hair.
Aung San’s House was where the great leader Aung San lived, shortly before he was assassinated. As the founding father of Myanmar, Aung San had liberated Myanmar from the British and gained independence for the country. His daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi, the General Secretary of NLD, spent part of her childhood here. The house is still in original condition, with many interesting items on display, such as Aung San’s car and library.
Bogyoke Aung San Market has a beautiful array of Burmese handicrafts on display. From wood carvings to traditional longyi, the variety of local products available is impressive – a must for those looking to buy souvenirs.
Where to Stay
Kandawgyi Palace is a tastefully designed traditional teak wood hotel on the shores of the Royal Lake (Kandawgyi Lake). What was originally the Rangoon Rowing Club is now an architectural masterpiece reminiscent of the old Burmese days. With its location by the lake, the hotel is also an oasis of calm, a world’s apart from the raucous city center and yet just steps away from the hive of activities. Our top-floor lakefront deluxe room overlooked the calm and peaceful lake, with the golden Karaweik Restaurant glowing in the distance. On the ground floor, the wooden terrace extends out into the lotus-studded water surrounding a pool and red-cushioned benches. The entire poolside area is a lush garden made up of original rainforest trees amidst tiled pavilions. My favorite part of all? The view of Shwedagon Paya from the hotel — priceless.
Note: Special thanks to Myanmar Travel who hosted our hotel stay and provided plenty of valuable advice. Myanmar Travel is not in anyway associated with the military government. All opinions expressed above are my own.