Shwedagon Pagoda

The Shwedagon Pagoda, positioned in the center of Yangon is apparently the most sacred and oldest of Myanmar’s Buddhist temples.  By some accounts, it is over 2,600 years old (although rebuilt-refurbished several times due to periods of neglect and earthquakes).  Archaeologists estimate that the date of initial construction was somewhere between the 6th and 10th centuries AD.  What makes this temple so sacred is the belief that it contains relics from four of the past Buddhas including eight strands of hairs from one of them.  This was our first destination the morning after we arrived in Yangon.  Even in the morning, it was busy with both tourists and locals.  Shwedagon is a dizzying array of shrines, stupas, bells, incense and Buddha statues.  We found that we were still fairly rare as western travelers and we were viewed with curiosity.  I was a bit tentative at first taking pictures of people since I didn’t know how they’d react.  We soon found that they were friendly and accommodating, mostly when we showed them the result of the picture on the back of the camera.  We spent a couple of hours there since we wanted to see more of Yangon before our flight to Bagan the next morning.  If I am to visit again, I’ll certainly want to visit at night as we noticed in our passing that it was lit beautifully.  One thing common to many Buddhist temples in Asia is the need to have your legs covered if you have shorts or a skirt above the knees.  They will happily lend you a longyi when you arrive which is a traditional wrap that both men and women wear in Myanmar.

 

Shwedagon Pagoda - main stupa

Shwedagon Pagoda – main stupa

One thing that we saw in Myanmar that I didn’t notice in other Asian countries is little girl pink monks. Logan and I saw these girls leaving a prayer bell and were ready to snap a few shots. The leader noticed our cameras and immediately stopped the girls and positioned them for a group shot just for us! Thanks for stopping for us pink monks!

pink monks (girls)

pink monks (girls)

Another thing that I noticed with the people in Myanmar is their stoic picture poses. This girl selling incense or candles welcomed the picture and I even got a smile out of her. Another example of thanaka design on her face (pronounced as in gin and tonica).

vendor girl

vendor girl

 

Shwedagon statue

Shwedagon statue

From our conversations we found that with government’s slight loosening of control that they were starting to get better quality of news sources. In the past, 100% of all news was censored. As we saw, there was a great appetite for news and politics, including with the monks.

monk reading paper

monk reading paper

There were many cats hanging out around the various Buddha statues. We figured they were their pets or caretakers. In any case, they were enjoying basking in the early morning sun and playing.

Buddha cats

Buddha cats

praying monk

praying monk

meditation

meditation

incense and candles

incense and candles

friendly visitors

friendly visitors

Shwedagon statues

Shwedagon statues

praying monk with incense

praying monk with incense

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