Experienced: Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar
For the past two years of living and traveling around Southeast Asia, I have literally visited many temples such as in Ayutthaya, Bangkok and the Angkor Wat in Cambodia, which is one of the most important Archaeological sites in the world. Every time I set foot on these sites, I always feel amazed and always feel like I am about to discover a new world. Therefore, when I decided to head over Myanmar, I made sure not to miss Shwedagon Pagoda which is Myanmar’s source of pride and joy.
Shwedagon Pagoda is translated to ‘Gold Yangon’ as ‘Shwe’ means ‘gold’ and ‘Dagon’ means ‘Yangon’, the place where this massive golden temple is situated in. Shwedagon Pagoda is believed to enshrine remnants of four past Buddhas treasured within: the staff of Kakusandha, the water filter of Konagamana, a piece of the robe of Kassapa and eight strands of hair from Gautama. The pagoda is covered with hundred of gold plates and the top of the stupa is coated with more than 4,500 diamonds, 2,300 rubies, topaz, sapphires and 1,000 golden bells – AMAZING, yes!
Built on an elevated hill and standing close to 110 meters in height, Shwedagon Pagoda dominates Yangon’s skyline. As you arrive in Yangon, you will not surely miss this pagoda as it shines and glimmers in the very heart of downtown Yangon. Seeing this pagoda as it shimmers in the daylight and glitters at night is a delight. There is no wonder why it is referred to as “The Crown of Burma.”
To be honest, I think Shwedagon Pagoda does not deserve the attention it gets. Being the oldest Buddhist temple in the world (about 2,500 years old), and the most significant Buddhist site in Myanmar, it should get the same attention as some other sites get such as the Angkor Temples in Cambodia and Taj Mahal in India.
Shwedagon Pagoda is a place for pilgrimage not only among people of Burma but also among Buddhists from around the world. You can also notice that hundreds of local visitors head to the Golden Pagoda each day to pray and do some offerings. Monks are also present at the site, doing their rituals.
The pagoda is just so beautiful from any angle. On the other hand, it is fairly difficult to take a full shot of it as it is just so massive. Honestly, I had taken around 1,000++ shots as I was not satisfied with the photos – I could not just capture a full shot of the Golden Pagoda.
How to get there
There are many options to get to Shwedagon Pagoda. The first option is via cab. I think it is the most convenient and easiest way to get to the pagoda. Moreover, there is a standard fare to reach the golden temple that is, if you are coming from downtown Yangon. But you can definitely take a cab anywhere in the city. What I like about the cab drivers in Yangon is that they will not try to rip you off – well, for many travelers in Southeast Asia, taking a cab is a horror story. The taxi drivers in Yangon are so friendly and are always happy to talk with you. The taxi fare to Shwedagon Pagoda will cost you around 2,000 MMK or US$2.00 depending on where you will be coming from. The second option is via public bus. You can take a bus from Sule Pagoda which is at the center of downtown Yangon. It is really hard to say which bus you should get onto as majority of the signs are in Burmese. When I first went to Shwedagon, I took the public bus from Sule Pagoda as I wanted to experience the culture – yes, to travel like a local. Just ask the driver/barker if the bus goes to Shwedagon (make sure that they will understand you). The bus fare is pretty cheap, around 300 MMK or .30 cents. Another option is on foot. From downtown Yangon, it will take about 30 – 45 minutes to get to Shwedagon Pagoda. I think this option is not ideal as you will really battle it out as the weather in Yangon sometimes reaches up to 35C plus you have to make your way up to the hill!
The entrance fee to this golden pagoda is priced at MMK 8,000 or about US$8.00 for foreign visitors which is valid for one day. Please do take note that you always have to bring your ticket/sticker as they will check it as you enter the pagoda.
When to go
Shwedagon Pagoda is open to visitors from 5am to 1opm. If you have enough time to spend, I suggest you to visit the pagoda during sunrise and sunset. Just my two cents, visit the pagoda early morning or at night as visiting the pagoda in the afternoon can be a bad idea as the heat really gets unbearable.
What to wear
Since I have been to many temples around Southeast Asia, the rules on visiting them are no longer new to me. I have probably mastered the do’s and dont’s! Make sure that you wear light clothing but be aware that your knees and shoulders have to be covered – yes, you have to dress appropriately and modestly. Again, you are entering the most sacred and important pagoda in all of Myanmar. Just to give you a quick tip, you can wear flip flops/sandals or any shoes that you can remove easily as you have to be barefooted before you enter the pagoda. Also, bring a plastic bag with you; otherwise, you can also buy at the site as for sure, there will be sellers running to you to offer a plastic bag for your footwear.
Since I wanted to immerse myself in the Burmese culture during my visit to Myanmar, I bought a longyi which is a traditional Burmese sarong. Wearing it was okay at first but since I was not accustomed to this kind of clothing, I found it uncomfortable after a few hours of sporting it around. A longyi costs around MMK 12,000 or about US$10.00. You should get one and try it on too!
Would you like to see more photos of Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon? You can visit my Instagram feed and join my journey!