Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon in Myanmar is located at the top of Singuttara Hill and can be seen for miles around the city. From afar, the tallest golden stupa is the visual highlight of this temple. From close, Shwedagon is a gathering place for Burmese and foreigners – an impressive monument to spirituality and human creativity.
The temple was built between the 6th and 10th centuries – over time the height of the main pagoda was increased to its current height today (nearly 100 meters tall). And yes that is real gold covering its sides – worth billions in today’s dollars. Nearly 22,000 solid gold plates/bars cover the outside of the main stupa.
Part of the attraction of visiting is of course the mesmerizing art and beauty of the temple but also people watching – families come here to pray, monks meditate and and a diversity of foreigners visit from around the world. Be sure to walk in a clockwise position – various ‘posts’ are located around the main stupa which are tribute to days of the week – visitors should stop at the station that corresponds to the day they were born.
Four main entrances lead up to the temple – the southern entrance is one of the more popular entrances and is lined with vendors selling a variety of products. Once you reach the top of the hill you will remove your shoes (or carry them with you). If you are wearing shorts or any other revealing attire you will need to put a deposit down on clothing at the entrance – which you will collect upon returning the clothing when leaving.
And if you have time, walk slowly through the streets surrounding the temple – vendors sell a diversity of fruits, vegetables and sometimes unidentified foods. The communal stalls serving a variety of intestines make for a tasty stop (if you have the stomach for this type of food). Intestines on a stick paired with small bowls of soup or noodles and hot chili makes a delicious snack. Your seated neighbors will be happy to see a foreigner taking an interest in some of the street food of their country.
And we will leave you with words that famed English Journalist Rudyard Kipling wrote about the Shwedagon Pagoda upon seeing it, “As it stood overlooking everything it seemed to explain all about Burma.”