Shwedagon Pagoda

Notes by yeyette on Sunday, January 3rd, 2016 under A Week in Myanmar, Yangon
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I arrived in Yangon at 11AM via Jetstar. I booked the ticket for only SGD165 (USD117), during Singapore’s SG50 promotion. What a steal! My Burmese friend told me that they never get this low amount before. It’s always SGD300 above.

My Burmese colleague told me that it’s a bit hard to get a taxi in the airport for foreigners. Taxi drivers will give you a high price so you have to haggle with the driver.

By the way, Philippine passport don’t need a visa if you visit for less than 14 days. For other nationals, you can check Myanmar’s embassy website for more information.

After you go out from the immigration, there are a lot of money changer outside, choose the best rate. They don’t have the same rate though the difference is not that hight but still, it’s money. Also, there are a lot of “fixer” asking you if you need a taxi. I asked one how much and he said 10,000kyat (pronounced as “chyat”) (USD7.65) . My Burmese colleague told me that the fare from airport to Shwedagon Pagoda is not more that 5,000Kyat (USD3.85). I went out and went to the taxi stand. There are taxis waiting outside, just across the road. Though some of the driver still give you a high price, yet lower from those “barker or fixer” inside the airport. There was a notice board outside with the place and their corresponding price. Shwedagon was 6,000kyat (USD4.60). One taxi stopped and I asked how much to Shwedagon (in English language). You always have to ask becase they don’t have a meter. He gave e the rate of 6,000Kyat. So, I’m in!

Airport to Shwedagon is around 30 minutes but expect traffic jam. It was over 12noon and the driver asked me if I’m hungry. And yes I am. Myanmar is 1 1/2 hours behind Singapore.

Street food vendor in Myanmar

Street food vendor

The good thing is that the driver can speak English fluently. And he is honest as well, and generous. There was a flood in some part of Bagan and there were students in the road asking for donations. He stop every organization and give. You can contact him at +9509420093211, his name is Nay Lynn if you need his car service. He is talkative and you won’t get bored with him as long as you will talk as well, haha. He suggested that I will eat first before going to Pagoda and recommended a place.

I went inside the restaurant and an unfriendly lady served me. She didn’t smile at all. Maybe she’s tired, or don’t want to communicate in English, I don’t know.

What I love Burmese food? Fresh and healthy! Oh, I love their green tea salad! The best!

Burmese green tea salad

Burmese green tea salad

I’m so glad they serve steamed and raw vegetables and some soup. I super love it!

Burmese food

Burmese food

I wasn’t able to finish the meat though and I don’t like their fish sauce, haha. Quiet smelly for me. The driver told me that the food is only 2,500kyat but I paid 6,000kyat (USD4.60). Maybe I ordered too much, haha. Anyway, it’s worth it.

From the restaurant to Pagoda, you have to walk for around 7 minutes.

If you are following this way, turn right.

A gardener taking a break:

Entrance to the Pagoda. Farther up is going to the second floor.

A view from the top:

Three little birds

Going to the entrance:

The entrance of Pagoda is 8,000Kyat (USD6.15). You have to pay upstairs. Leave your shoes downstairs but you have to pay 2,000Kyat (USD1.50) just by leaving your shoes. But you have an option (as what I noticed), either you leave your shoes or put it inside a plastic and bring it with you. Socks is not allowed as well. If you have a luggage with you or a backpack, leave it with them and just pay 2,000Kyat together with your shoes.

The guards will scan your bag before you can go up. If you are upstairs and you cannot find the cashier (because I can’t at first), somebody will approach you to pay the entrance. They then give you a sticker indicating that you already pay.

Cashier

The entrance:

People sleeping inside the temple. It’s cooler inside.

I was totally awed with what I saw. I thought I was in a different world. It’s like a fairy tale, but instead of castle, it’s temples.

Shwedagon Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda

A monk praying

A little bit of history of Shwedagon Pagoda (an excerpt):

Shwedagon Pagoda

The origin of Shwedagon Pagoda materialized in brilliant epoch in Buddhist history over 2,600 years ago. In India, Prince Siddhartha had just attained Buddhahood when he was visited by two brothers Tapussa and Bhallika, merchants from Myanmar who offered a gift of honey cakes. In return, Buddha personally removed eight hairs from his head and gave these to the two brothers for enshrinement in their native town of Okkalapa which is now the City of Yangon. On their return, the two brothers presented the Buddha’s hairs to the King of Okkalapa who erected the pagoda and enshrined the eight hairs together with the relics of previous three Buddhas. The original height of the pagoda was 66 feet. From the 14th century onward, successive monarchs in Myanmar rebuilt or regilded it until Shwedagon reached its present height of 326 feet. It has ten unique different sections, namely, the base, the three terraces called “Pyisayan”, the “Khaung Laung” so called because of its bell shaped, the “Baung Yit”, with distinct embossed bands, the “Thabeik” (monk’s food bowl), the “Kya-lan” (an ornamental lotus flower), the “Hngnet Pyaw-Bu” (banana bud), the “Hti” (umbrella), the “Hngetmana” the flag shape vane which revolves to the direction of the wind, and the “Seinbu” (diamond bud). The “Hti” and “Hngetmana” and the “Seinbu” are decorated enlaid with 3,154 gold bells, 79,569 diamonds and other precious stones.”

Shwedagon Pagoda:

Shwedagon pagoda

If you walk around, tour guides will approach you. You can reject them politely if you don’t want a tour guide. I don’t know how much they charge but it is not free for sure. Photographers will approach you as well. If you travel alone, they will ask you that they will take your photo using your camera but you have to give a donation afterwards. I didn’t know this one. After the guy took my picture, I said thank you but one guy said that I need to give him money. I don’t want to be rude but I didn’t approach the guy to take my picture. I told him that I thought taking my picture with my own camera is free and that I didn’t approach him for that. I don’t want to in the first place. But since he approached me, I told to myself, why not. The guy was being sarcastic so I just left and give thanks to the photographer. The photographer was quiet and never ask anything. He just smiled at me.

The surrounding:

They have this belief that in which day of the month that you were born, you have to pray for it and you will gain abundance.

Then, I saw this kid dancing inside the temple. She has this radiant smile that amazes me. I wanted to embrace her at that moment. It was an amazing feeling just by watching her dancing gracefully.

And yes, foreigners (and children) cannot go inside the Shwedagon Pagoda. In my mind, it’s not to protect their religious belief, but to protect what’s inside.

As I walked around, almost done with my sightseeing, another tour guide approached me. Old man this time. He was short and yet speaks English very well. He said he was a retired Math teacher. He never toured me around, we just talked. He is an interesting man who can speak A-LITTLE-BIT of almost every language, e.i. French, German, Japanese, Spanish, Russian and I don’t know what else. So, if you need a tour guide, you can contact him at ukhinmgwin@gmail.com or call him at +9509250661473. He is Mr. Khin Mg Win.

He told me a bit of his life. Maybe he found me interesting as well that he shared his life. He said he’d been a monk for 3 times before getting married. I asked him which one he prefer, being married or being single. He said being single is the best. We were laughing and some locals were staring at us. He has 3 children, all professional. He has this beautiful brown eyes but the sad thing is that his right eye has a cataract. He has a lot of stories to tell but he is lazy to write he said but he can share it to the world. So if you are going to travel to Yangon, don’t hesitate to contact him if you want a guide and meet interesting people.

You can shop here after you visit the temple. It’s outside the temple, near the exit gate.

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