“One for Buddha, one for father, one for mother, one for Wednesday and one for good luck.”

Someone recently told me, “Shwedagon Pagoda isn’t technically one of the 7 wonders of the world, but it should be!” Agreed.

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

Our second visit to Shwedagon Pagoda.

Our second visit to Shwedagon Pagoda.

Shwedagon Pagoda is an icon of SE Asia and the Buddhist religion. It has also been symbolic of our move to Myanmar. When I would daydream about life in Asia, Shwedagon was the place I envisioned exploring. It was the place I expected  to fall in love with.

The size alone is striking. You can enter the pagoda from four entrances; North, South, East and West. Each offers a different perspective of the enormous structure and each has a different feeling of grandeur.

Every column at Shwedagon is more beautiful than the next. A lot of them are made out of pure jade, this one is glass mosaic.

Every column at Shwedagon is more beautiful than the next. A lot of them are made out of pure jade, this one is glass mosaic.

Bells like these hang from the umbrella (the top of the stupa). These bells surround the grounds and provide enchanting tunes.

Bells like these hang from the umbrella (the top of the stupa). These bells surround the grounds and provide enchanting tunes.

Entering through the South Gate offers a massive marble staircase with teak ceilings. Vendors line the steps selling flowers,  mala beads, Buddha posters, paper umbrellas, fruit, incense and anything else that could be considered an offering to the thousands of Buddhas and shrines.

Offerings made by locals in a large meditation room.

Offerings made by locals in a large meditation room.

At the top of the stairs awaits many middle aged men in Longyis eager to take you on a tour. For 10,000 kyat (pronounced “chat”) they will show you “all important places” and “all beautiful Buddha.” We decided that seeing “all beautiful Buddha” was very important.

"All beautiful Buddha."

“All beautiful Buddha.”

Myanmar is famous for its Teak. This Buddha is about 4.5 feet tall and made from one solid piece of Teak.

Myanmar is famous for its Teak. This Buddha is about 4.5 feet tall and made from one solid piece of Teak.

The first thing our tour guide wanted to show us was one of the seven shrines that surrounded the golden stupa. He took us to “Wednesday Corner” and asked “What day you born?” Hmmm, well frankly, we weren’t sure so he said, “Okay okay. Wednesday is okay.” He showed us how to take the small tin cup on the edge of the fountain, fill it up with water and then pour it over the head of the Buddha. Each cup full of water that is poured over the shrine has a different meaning, “one for Buddha, one for father, one for mother, one for Wednesday and one for good luck.”

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“One for Buddha, one for father, one for mother, one for Wednesday and one for good luck.”

The structure itself sits on the top of a hill surrounded by hundreds of smaller buildings. Each smaller building is the home to shrines, Buddhas and offerings. In every building, you will find locals meditating, eating,  socializing and texting. The people watching is spectacular.

A monk taking a nap. Lots of naps happen here.

A monk taking a nap. Lots of naps happen here.

Smaller stupas frame the large pagoda.

Smaller stupas frame the large pagoda.

A local man meditating in one of the many rooms at Shwedagon.

A local man meditating in one of the many rooms at Shwedagon.

A little boy squats into prayer position below four golden Buddhas.

A little boy squats into prayer position below four golden Buddhas.

A young couple prays together in front of the Bodhi tree.

A young couple prays together in front of the Banyan tree.

This is a typical contrast. Person praying and person on their smart phone.

This is a typical contrast. Person praying and person on smart phone.

Each time you visit Shwedagon, you will discover something new. It is so large and has  so many nooks and crannies to be discovered. I love finding new rooms that I have not visited and new perspectives that I have not yet discovered.

One of many rooms filled with 15-20 foot tall Buddhas.

One of many rooms filled with 15-20 foot tall Buddhas.

Mala beads and flowers hang in front of many statues.

Mala beads and flowers hang in front of many statues.

A large meditation room. The monk in front is  about to kneel down in front of the LED lit Buddha in the center.

A large meditation room. The monk in front is about to kneel down in front of the LED lit Buddha in the center.

There is so much to learn about this true world wonder. I will continue to go back again and again and open my heart to this incredible place.

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We made it!

We left San Francisco at 1 am on Sunday morning, stopped in Hong Kong, then to Singapore and finally landed in Yangon on Monday afternoon. The view from the Hong Kong airport is incredible. The airport sits on a man made island surrounded by brilliant jagged green mountains and beautiful blue water. The Singapore airport is a destination in itself. During our three hour layover, we visited the sunflower garden, the tropical indoor gardens, Koi ponds, movie theater and LAN gaming room. If we had about 30 more minutes, we would have gone for a dip on the rooftop swimming pool. The bathrooms at the Singapore airport were the cleanest we had ever seen. They even have touch screen surveys to “Rate this toilet.”

Indoor garden in the Singapore airport

Indoor garden in the Singapore airport.

Standing over a Koi pond in the middle of the terminal.

Standing over a Koi pond in the middle of the terminal.

The Sunflower Garden on top of the Singapore airport.

The Sunflower Garden on top of the Singapore airport.

Three hours later we were in the air and could spot land from above. There was a moment on the airplane as we got closer to landing that reminded me that the past nine months of planning this move were about to become our reality. As we hovered golden stupas that stood out against the lush green jungle, I had this overwhelming feeling and said to myself, “we made it!”

Flying into Yangon. There is a golden stupa just left of the wing.

Flying into Yangon. There is a golden stupa just left of the wing.

A grand golden entrance on the tarmac.

A grand golden entrance on the tarmac.

The airport was very small and surprisingly efficient. The director of the school picked us and our six enormous duffle bags up at the airport. Driving through Yangon was so much more vibrant than either of us thought. The contrast of golden arched entry ways against the lush green foliage is striking! The arches make you feel like each one is a palace, and the arches are your royal welcome. The streets are filled with vendors, beer stations, busy workers and busy dogs.

When we arrived to our apartment building we were greeted by many friendly ISM faces. It seems like most of the ISM staff live in our building. We were supposed to move into 906 but apparently there was a leak. So then they decided to move us into 704, but that apartment was leaking too. So after a lot of charades and going up and down on the elevator with everything we currently own, we spent the night in 1501 with a picturesque view of the Shwedagon Pagoda. Not too shabby!

The view from the front door walking into the apartment.

The view from the front door walking into the apartment.

The master bedroom with Scott getting stuck trying to open the wardrobe.

The master bedroom with Scott getting stuck trying to open the wardrobe.

The guest room.

The guest room.

The next morning, we got picked up by the ISM bus at 6:45 am and brought to orientation with the entire K-12 staff. We have now worked for three days and are really ready for a break and to see more of Yangon.

The road in front of the high school leading to the street market.

The road in front of the high school leading to the street market.

Mohinga for breakfast.

Mohinga for breakfast.

A beautiful Myanmar woman with her beautiful greens.

A beautiful Myanmar woman with her beautiful greens.

Birds.

Walking to the high school from the market.