My last post on Myanmar....
A trip to Yangon is not complete without seeing Myanmar's chief landmark, the Shwedagon Pagoda. To prepare for the visit, Lara Stone and I wore longyi, the tube garment practically worn by everyone in Myanmar. Finally I had a good reason to wear a skirt!
The pagoda was walking distance from our guest house, we even had a view of it from our bedroom window. Because it was a Sunday, many people were heading there as well. Using the east entrance, the road leading to it is lined with food stalls and at the foot of the hill on which the pagoda stands is a market selling Buddha statues, other religious items, and some souvenirs.
As soon as we stepped on the stairs leading to the pagoda, we had to remove our slippers. The stairs are steep and it was certainly a long climb for us.
Because the shops along the way are a good distraction I was not prepared when we finally reached the summit.
My heart stopped the moment I laid my eyes on the pagoda. I swear my mouth dried and I felt my heart beat fast. I'm far from being a spiritual person, but the pagoda's sheer size had such a visceral impact on me. I did not expect it to be that HUGE! It helped that the place was in blinding gold (considering it was an overcast day), so I was practically on the brink of a transcendental experience.
The main pagoda is surrounded by dozens and dozens of pavilions, each as intricate and gold-laden as the other. The spires of the pavilions made me feel like I was in a forest with towering golden trees.
The pavilions were filled with worshippers, most of them facing the direction of the pagoda, while others were offering incense, bathing Buddha statues, chanting, or circumambulating around the pagoda.
We went back to the pagoda that evening. The atmosphere was a lot calmer by then because there were less people. Still, the place was very otherwordly as the pagoda was washed with light.
A monk showed me certain spots at the base of the pagoda where one can see the changing color of the diamond at the apex of the spire. At one time it is icy blue, and then you move a few inches and it suddenly turns either fiery red, orange, yellow, white, or green.
Prior to visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda, I deliberately did not read up on it. I wanted to see it with fresh eyes and somehow the plan worked because I was just filled with awe when I finally made it there.
That could be said as well of experiencing Myanmar finally, a trip I wanted to do since as far back as I could remember. There I saw inspiring beauty and felt the sincerity of the people I met. I know for sure I'm going back.