S U L E P A G O D A
While researching and planning for my first trip to Myanmar, specifically the capital city of Yangon, one of the recommended attractions has to be the pagodas scattered all around the Yangon.
With a country so culturally and religiously centered around Buddhism, visiting the pagodas would be a great place to observe the locals with their normal lives at the same time admire the architecture of the pagodas. Of the 6 recommended pagodas, I decided to visit two, the Sule Pagoda and Shwedagon Pagoda.
Sule Pagoda is conveniently located in Central Yangon and was walking distance from my hotel in Chinatown. The golden Mon style pagoda is 44 meters high and it is a prominent landmark easily spotted when you head towards the city center. It design is unique from others as its octagonal shape flows from the base all the way up to the spire and topped with an ornamental element shaped like an umbrella. The Sule Pagoda is deeply respected as it enshrines a hair relic of the Buddha.
The roads encircle the Sule Pagoda leaving it to stand right in a busy roundabout in the city center. I didn’t enter the premise of Sule Pagoda but instead viewed the pagoda from an overhead bridge linking to the circular plot.
When night falls, the Sule Pagoda lights up in golden glory against the dark Yangon skies.
S H W E D A G O N P A G O D A
If there is only one pagoda that you can visit when you set foot onto Yangon, or even when you didn’t plan for any time to visit a pagoda, you should STILL set aside some time to visit the Shwedagon Pagoda. I would say that it is mandatory to visit Shwedagon Pagoda!
Set atop a hill, the drive towards Shwedagon Pagoda sees the busy streets filled with food vendors for hungry pilgrims, flower vendors for holy offerings and stone sculptors for those looking for peace at home. When you alight at the vicinity of the temple, you will have to climb up some flight of steps before you are actually at the temple gates. These flights of steps are comfortably sheltered and flanked on both sides are shops selling offerings and intricate ornaments.
T H E H I S T O R Y
The Shwedagon Pagoda, located west of the Royal Lake, sits on 114 acres of land on Singuttara Hill and is the most impressive and sacred Buddhist site for the Burmese as it enshrines strands of Buddha’s hair and other holy relics.
However its actual history is rather unclear as the Burmese believed that it was built more than 2,500 year ago but historians and archeologists believed that it was built in 6th to 10th centuries AD, which is about more than 1,400 years ago. Put aside its iffy history, the grandeur and majestic Shwedagon Pagoda greets you as you stand at its entrance. The Pagoda is covered in hundreds of gold plates blinding me in the hot afternoon sun and the top of the stupa is encrusted with more than 4,000 diamonds with the largest one at 72 carat. The main stupa, standing at 110meters, is surrounded by many smaller temple, stupas and statues that are intricately details and a good display of design and architecture.
The bustling grounds of the Shwedagon Pagoda sees devotees and monks offering flowers and food, worshipping, meditating and showering the statues.
Like many other temples and place of worship in South East Asia, there is a more conservative dress code and visitors should wear bottoms that cover to at least the knee and top which has sleeves. Upon entering Shwedagon Pagoda’s premises, visitors are also expected to walk around the area barefooted. If you do happen to be inappropriately dress when you visit, the ticketing station will inform you and you will be able to rent some scarves or long cloth to cover up before entering.
The entrance fee to about US$8 at the time of my visit in May 2018.