Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar, 10.8.14
With no previous experience of temples in South East Asia, Shwedagon Pagoda was a spectacular first. Regardless of your religious disposition, it would be hard to visit this captivating spiritual site at the heart of Yangon without feeling just a slight twinge of the otherworldly. Dating back 2,600 years, the Buddhist place of worship with a giant golden pagoda at its centre was teeming with saffron robed monks, native Burmese visiting an unmissable national heritage site and the occasional tourist struggling to take in the shine and sparkle of every intricate corner.
We spent at least three hours strolling around the north, south, east and west areas, every now and again being interrupted by an Asian tourist to take a photo with us (my first experience of feeling that foreign). The downpours of the rainy season hadn’t missed our visit so we had fun navigating the slippery tiles in our bare feet. Whilst sitting in one of the surrounding structures, which were basically used as chill out zones for all, a kind monk we got chatting to told us that it was a special day today, “Kindness Day”, as he described it, a celebration which takes place on the night of the full moon. On this occasion the locals brought in bunches of flowers as devotions to Buddha which lay strewn across the various sites of the temple.
We’d heard that it was worth sticking around for nightfall as the change in light has a dramatic effect on the pagoda. As the sky grew dark, the full moon (along with a few cleverly positioned artificial lights) transformed every inch of the towering 99 metres of gold and its embellished environment. The tightly mosaiced tiles, the golden crevices of the pagoda and the diamond encrusted stupa at its heights glittered and twinkled casting a glow over the faces of the devout onlookers. Whether you’re searching for haunting spirituality or astonishing historical architecture, Shwedagon is a must-see for all visiting Myanmar.