Sunday, February 5, 2012

Shwedagon Paya, Yangon

Kipling wrote: "A beautiful winking wonder that blazed in the sun, of a shape that was neither Muslim dome nor Hindu temple spire..."
"The Golden dome said, 'This is Burma, and it will be quite unlike any land that one knows about,'"
Rudyard was right! Truly the shining and defining symbol of Yangon and of Burmese identity, this massive gold dome is impossible to miss.
It's a whopping $10 entrance fee...which was enough to cover almost half my room and board for the night...oh, did I happen to mention that Burma doesn't accept credit cards... and so I basically landed and had to scrap my budget and go completely shoestring? I didn't...? Oh, then the ten large I paid at the door better be worth it.
Shoes off at all Burmese temples...I don't know why, it's basically filthy everywhere you go. So... toes got totally burned on the hot sun tiles and heels got totally blackened by the sooty shade... but that's just me complaining, isn't it?
Actually, the Shwedagon Paya in the center of Yangon city, is a must see for all visitors.
It is 2,500 years old, a testament to religious faith, it is draped in gold, and is the destination for pilgrims across the country at least once in their life.  (I think this is a Burmese Leprechaun pointed the way to the pot of gold.)
The compound is comprised of 82 small buildings, everything from smaller temples to off-limits prayer rooms to sleeping quarters.
There aer also some funny stories associated with the temple. One is that during the 15th century, Queen Shinsawbu gilded part of the dome with her own weight in gold. Another has to do with an enormous bell that resides int he northwest compound that was dropped accidentally in the river by the British and left for dead, only to be resurfaced by the Burmese using some low-tech bamboo.
The temple is also said to hold 8 hairs of the Buddha. That's kind of creepy though.
There are two entrances, one with an elevator on the south side, but skip that and enter through the fantastic golden dragoned gate on the north side for an incredible effect.
Finally, I have to say, "If you've seen one temple, you've seen them all," but perhaps I'm a bit jaded on my travels. Truly, this is a spectacular visit, the gold alone was so bright in the blue sky. A trip well worth it. Go early in the morning before it gets too hot. Enjoy!

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