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Shwedagon: a Pagoda like no other

Not only is it one of the most important religious and sacred places in all of Myanmar but it is also quite a sight to behold, with the main pagoda standing at 110meters of gold! claim that “No visit to the Union of Myanmar is complete without a visit to the 2,500 years old Shwedagon Pagoda, which enshrines strands of Buddha’s hair and other holy relics” and I absolutely agree with them!

Shwedagon is literally translated to ‘Gold Yangon’ and is thought to be the oldest and one the the most holy shrines in the country. It is like a Buddhist Disneyland, a huge compound of hundreds of temples and Buddha’s from the past 2500years all with different meanings.

Many people have a misconception that it is just one big Temple, not realising in fact that it is a HUGE complex which just happens to contain an enormous golden Pagoda/Temple as it’s centre piece. So it’s not just the gigantic main Shwedagon Pagoda you’re going for but all the little temples and pagodas around it, and even a museum and gallery, and plenty of bells to chime if you’re into it. The massive size of the area definitely surprised me, it was a lot bigger than I expected.

It is all very very gold, even the coconuts! The main Pagoda was being refurbished at the time I visited so I only got to see a glimpse of the gold, but even that was impressive! So I can imagine how great it looks in the sparkling sun when it’s all uncovered.

golden coconut

A Golden Coconut

You should get a free map with your $8 entry ticket, go and find some shade to sit in, and study the map and have a read up about the place, it will make the whole experience more interesting when you know what you are looking at.

From the Yangon Backpackers Hostel (close to Sule Pagoda)  I thought it was a walkable distance, and it kind of is, except it was the middle of the day, so really hot. I went in the first entrance I found, ended up being the ‘West Entrance’ which lucky me, had escalators. Escalators to enlightenment now, how 21st century!

NB: don’t go in the middle of the day like I did, it’s just too hot and I got very dehydrated.

The Shwedagon Pagoda complex is a mix of foreign tourists, locals who have come to take pictures, locals praying, offering flowers and meditating and monks hanging around. Nobody bothers you and you can hang around for as long or as little as you like.

There is a little museum/gallery with old photos showing how the Schwedagon Pagoda complex looked many years ago and takes you on a photo journey from way back in the past to the present day.

Mounted binoculars are dotted around the complex which you can use free of charge to take a look at all the jewels on the top of the main Pagoda. So there is plenty to keep you occupied.

If you really want to get into the spirit of things, figure out which day you were born, head over to the relevant corner (planetary post) and wash the statue. Washing the Buddha at the corner of your birthday is considered lucky. I did it and the locals didn’t seem to mind me being there.

If you get bored, then you are boring. But you can try looking for the golden coconut.

TOP TIP: Take a bag for your shoes. Shoes, socks, flipflops etc are not allowed in the entire area and its a hassle to carry them around. A lovely smiley local woman offered me her plastic bag which was adorable and really useful.

Fast Facts

Opening hours: 04:00 – 22:00 hrs every day.
Entrance fee: $8 or 8000Kyat
Access: There are 4 gates from which to access the complex, North, East, West and South. South and West gates have escalators. North has many steps and is full of stalls selling all sorts of things from incense sticks to souvenirs.
Dress Code: Modest. Both males and females must have knees {read ankles, they are strict!} and elbows covered. If you arrive wrongly dressed you will need to pay extra for a Longyi to cover yourself up.

4.8/5 - (15 votes)