Shwedagon Pagoda on Singuttara Hill, Yangon
After visiting some famous landmarks in Yangon, we proceeded to Bogyoke Aung San Market for our “Pasalubong Shopping”. I accompanied Monette, Ron, and Gay to the Jewelry section to buy Jade accessories then we headed to the nearby restaurant for lunch and to take advantage of their free wifi.
After having lunch, we went back to our hostel to take a short rest and prepare for our afternoon visit to Shwedagon Pagoda. During summer, everyone prefers to be in the hotel during noon time till mid-afternoon to avoid the humid temperature.
Upon arrival at the hostel, we were dismayed by the fact that our rooms are still not yet ready. The hostel staffs took a while before they finish cleaning our room so we stayed at the lobby and after almost an hour, we finally stepped into our dormitory room to rest.
Our next stop is a little bit challenging as well so everyone took the time to relax and had a quick nap. It was past 3pm when we left the hostel. Quick Tip: Taxi in Yangon are not metered so better ask the locals how much would be the going rate from one point to another.
We arrived at the entrance of the Pagoda in less than 15 minutes. Aside from humid temperature, it was a struggle avoiding peddlers who will force you to buy souvenirs and a plastic bag for your footwear (footwear is not allowed inside the temple). After placing my flip flops inside my bag, we began to climb up to reach the main temple area.
Upon reaching the main entrance, we were required to pay a US$5 entrance fee and wear Longyi while inside the temple. The location is spectacular and a lot more cleaner compares to the never-ending stairs we traversed to reach the Pagoda’s main entrance. The towering statues and various golden Buddhas are an unforgettable and almost unbelievable sight to see.
We sat near the middle of the fence (next to the prayer area) while waiting for the nightfall. Everyone thought that we are locals since we are all wearing traditional Longyi. While pretty much-doing nothing, we met some Filipino expats who noticed us after hearing one of us talking in Filipino.
We stayed until nightfall to see some structures lighted. Seeing the whole place illuminated made the whole complex something of indescribable beauty.
Why should you visit Shwedagon Pagoda?
Myanmar is popular for archaeological sites housing a number of Buddhist temples, centuries-old pagodas, and stupas. The Yangon region of Myanmar is where travelers will find the most popular of the Pagodas in Myanmar – The Shwedagon Pagoda. It’s known locally as Shwedagon Zedi Daw and is also known by the name ‘the Golden Pagoda’. The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon Myanmar stands 325 feet tall.
It’s located on Singuttara Hill and to the west of the renowned Kandawgyi Lake. The gilded pagoda is very sacred for the Burmese People. As the Buddhist pagoda houses ancient shrines of the past four Buddhas and Eight strands of hair from Gautama Buddha, it’s considered a place of great historical significance.
The legend of the Golden Pagoda
Legend has it that the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon was built about 2600 years ago. This makes it the oldest pagoda in the world. Local stories mention that the Pagoda was built in honor of Gautama Buddha, by two merchants in the BC 588. The eight hair strands of Gautama Buddha were a gift from Lord Buddha to the merchants. However, historians claim that it was built between the 6th and 10th centuries.
The Pagoda survived many earthquakes over the years and has undergone many repairs to keep everything intact. The gold in the stupa is genuine and has been maintained with the help of donations from people from all over the country. The tip of the stupa is decorated with about 5448 pure diamonds, which includes a large 76-carat diamond at the top.
Visitors are allowed to enter the Pagoda through any of the four entrances, which leads them to the ‘Paya’. To get to the top, visitors need to ascend the stairs in the Paya. The Burmese Buddhists still practice the tradition of buying flowers, incense sticks, candles, streamers, and colored flags so as to offer them to the enshrined relics of the four Buddha. The Pagoda draws the most visitors during religious festivals in Myanmar.
Shwedagon Pagoda is governed by the Board of Trustees. The Pagoda’s Board of Trustees is commanded by a higher authority known as Ovadacariya Sayadaws, which is a council of 11 most revered monks in Myanmar. The premise of the Golden Pagoda also houses another historically significant artifact called King Tharyarwady’s Bell. There are 100 lines of Pali and Myanmar inscriptions in the Bell which earned it the title of the Bell with the longest inscription in Myanmar.
The Bell was originally donated by King Tharyarwady in 1841. It weighs about 42 tons and is about 14 feet in height and 7 feet 2 inches in width. The Bell, also known by the name ‘Great Bell of Three Sounds’ is the second-largest bell in Myanmar. It is one of the main attractions of Shwedagon Pagoda.
Trivia: There is an exact replica of the Shwedagon Pagoda in Naypyidaw, Burma, known as the Uppatasanti Pagoda.