The Shwedagon Pagoda was amazing!! I was blown away with this pagoda complex. There was so much to see here. There is always something so magical to me about places like this; it’s like something out of a dream. I don’t know if I think that way because I studied European Art History and this side of the globe is extremely different. We came to the pagoda near sunset so the complex had some great light casted on it.
The Shwedagon Pagoda is the most important pagoda in Myanmar. It is believed to contain four relics of four Buddhas: the staff of Kakusandha, the wwater filter of Konagamana, a piece of the robe of Kassapa, and eight strands of hair from the head of Gautama. The pagoda was constructed 2,600 years ago, so it is believed to be the oldest Buddhist stupa in the world.
The foreigner entrance is at the Western Staircase of the pagoda complex. The building you go in to enter is the building on the right (above, in the picture). Inside the building you have a place to pay the entry tickets, then there are benches to sit to take off your shoes. There is someone there to watch your shoes, and when you come back down, she will give you a wipe to wipe your feet off with (so nice!!).
The way up the hill to the pagoda is a series of stairs mixed with escalators (above). I have never been barefoot up an escalator before; it kind of tickles. The kids liked the variety (stairs/escalators) because it didn’t make this huge hallway seem so long, up to the top.
Once you reach the top of the hill and exit the large hallway, the magnificent pagoda is before you. Our guide said that we must walk around the pagoda clockwise so that is what we did.
See the map above. The complex is very large. I wish I had looked back at this picture when I was there so I could see what each building and image were for/represented. I do recommend looking through the telescope on the North Stairway; it was amazing to see the intricate detail on the stupa.
Something unique I noticed about Myanmar pagodas are all the smaller stupas that surround the main one. These mini stupas always made the pictures look more magnificent.
Ringing the bells are my kids favorite things to do at pagodas here. The kids line up and we allow them each to do three gongs. The local visitors love to see the kids do it and we usually have a crowd of people taking pictures or video of them.
I definitely recommend going to the Shwedagon Pagoda. I loved the magnificent centerpiece (the pagoda), but I also loved how filled the complex was with relics, statues, alm bowls, bells, flowers, paintings, woodwork, dragons, flags; it is sensory overload. I also loved sitting down and watching those who were worshipping there.