In the center of Yangon (aka Rangoon), Myanmar/Burma’s largest city, is the Shwedagon Pagoda, a massive golden stupa and the most holy Buddhist site in Myanmar.
Pictures do not do justice to the Shwedagon Pagoda: it is over 320 feet tall and covered in plates of solid gold. You read that right, this is not gold leaf we are talking about here, but think bricks of gold. It is said there’s more gold on the Shwedagon Pagoda than was ever contained in the vaults of Fort Knox.
According to sources, the top is a crown tipped with 5,448 diamonds and 2,317 rubies, including a 76 karat diamond at the very top, but good luck ever seeing it — this thing is so huge that no matter where you stand, it’s difficult to make out its spire.
Interestingly, the Shwedagon Pagoda isn’t what you imagine from a holy site. Although pilgrims and the faithful can be found praying throughout the temple, the overwhelming atmosphere is festive and sociable. I was stopped by no less than 10 local Burmese who wanted to know where I was from and what I thought of Myanmar.
To get to the pagoda, you enter at the foot of a hill and must walk up a large, interior set of steps flanked by merchants. The photo above is only one of at least two or three such corridors. If you look below, you can see the exterior of the corridors climbing up the hill — this gives you some sense of the scale of the pagoda.
Most of this climb is done barefoot (no shoes or socks) due to the religious prohibition of footwear inside temples. For those visiting, plan ahead and bring a plastic bag to carry your shoes in. After exiting, a couple of wet wipes will also go a long way to make your world right before putting your shoes back on.
If you’re going to Myanmar, the Shwedagon Pagoda is a must-see, unlike any other place in the world. If you’re looking for other images of this beautiful country, click here to visit our Myanmar page with a full list of entries.