A country with the remnant of the past; the land, rich in culture as much as jades and gems, Myanmar has an unwavering charm that transcends through time. In recent years, the country is one of the ultimate must-go countries in ASEAN. The most visited location is the capital city of Yangon; tourists and pilgrims alike travel here for a chance to see one of the wonders in the Buddhist World, the 2,500 years old Shwedagon Pagoda, or often called “the Soul of Myanmar.” Impressive with 4531 diamonds and hundreds of gold plates in a 110 meters tall pagoda, it is a sight for awe. Within the premise of the Shwedagon Pagoda, it is consisted of hundreds of temples, stupas, and statues—walking around the pagoda, one would mutter in an almost dream stage that it is as if witnessing heaven.
In the myth as old as Buddhism, the Buddha himself met two merchant brothers; Tapussa and Bhallika, who recognized him as the Enlighten One and gave him a gift of a honey cake. In return, he gave eight of his hairs to them to be enshrined in Myanmar. Upon building the shrine to host the relics in Singguttara Hill, once the Buddha’s hair was presented to the king, legend has it that there was an earthquake and jewels fell from the sky.
Over centuries of its initial construction, the structure has evolved from its humble beginning, heads of state took turns renovating, expanding, decorating the pagoda, making it more majestic over time. With massive changes throughout the years for Myanmar, politically and economically, even with the impact from natural disaster, the one constant which withstood all the changes and uncertainties is the Shwedagon Pagoda, which holds the soul and pride of Myanmar.
In visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda, it is as extraordinary both by day and night. It is opened for a visit every day from 4 AM To 9 PM; however, tickets are not sold to foreign visitor until 6 AM. Among stairways leading up to the pagoda in the north, south, east, and west points, the stairways at the southern point is the most commonly used since it is directed from the city’s center. It is a 104-steps stairway. The entrance with the longest stairway of 166 steps is the one on the west point; it is reopened after the renovation from the fire destruction in 1931. The crowed one is the entrance on the eastern side as it is closed to the street bazaars; there are even teahouses along the entrance. Last, the northern entrance with 128 steps is built in 1460 appeared to be the entrance with the least usage.
It is a must for visitors to dress modestly according to the rules for dress codes; trousers or at least knee length shorts or skirt; t-shirts with elbow length sleeves. Visitors should also be barefooted when visiting the pagoda.