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