When I travel I am always aware of the ground underneath my feet. Often what’s under your feet can give lots of clues as to where you are. When I was in Myanmar I got very obsessed with photographing my bare feet in different situations,…
The first full day in Myanmar was spent in Yangon and most of it at the Shwedagon Pagoda. It is one of those things that you really cannot spend time in this country and not visit it. It literally blew me away with its beauty, size, welcoming atmosphere and was lovely to visit to gain an insight to local people and what this place means to them. It is used both for religious and community purposes so was teeming with family’s having some time out together sharing food and stories as well as people who have come to worship or meditate. The thing that struck me was how everyone happily mingled together whatever their reason for being there and how easily they accepted us as tourists in that mix. Having said that there were very few western tourist around on our visit. We were asked a number of times for selfies with families and people wanted to chat and practice their English with us.
The pagoda has four entrances into the complex north, south, east and west. Each one of these is an extensive corridor of stairs that climbs up the side of Singuttara Hill where there has been some form of pagoda for 2500 years. It does feel like this place is very much a central place for Yangon and even Myanmar as a whole. It is clearly important to the people and used very well like it is a safe place of refuge from life when you need it. It is all so overwhelmingly beautiful that it does feel a bit like being in something other worldly or maybe a film set. I will focus on the architecture and decor in another post as there is simply too much for one!
Each of these entrances are lined with shops and stalls selling flowers to give as offerings and a whole range of other items either for use in the temple or as a souvenir of your visit. It is a very busy place full of the hustle and bustle of life. If you do plan to visit I suggest you mark out a day for it as it is very easy to sit and people watch for hours never mind all the structures and statues that will catch your eye.
Something else I observed was how many people went there for a rest. Many people where having a snooze in corners as we wandered around and I think that also gives you an idea of how welcoming and accepting a place is that you would feel able to do that. Some of the structures are clearly designed to provide a cool place to be on a hot afternoon and it is heartwarming that the facilities are well used in this way and nobody minds.
An extra treat on our visit was stumbling across a photo shoot happening at the bottom of one of the entrances. We weren’t sure if it was a wedding or something else but the woman being photographed was stunning and the light glorious.
Just on from this photoshoot I spotted a group of monks dressed in pink standing in beautiful light and managed a quick picture of them too. The colours are gorgeous everywhere you look. The people are definitely the best dressed in south east Asia by a long way and I think men in sarongs should be encouraged everywhere!