The Shwe Dagon Pagoda
There are endless reasons to visit Yangon, but off in the distance, towering above the city, you can see one attraction that literally stands above all the rest – the incredible Shwe Dagon Pagoda. One of the world’s most impressive structures, the Shwe Dagon Paya towers over the city flaunting its opulence.
Said to house eight of the historical Buddha’s hairs, the pagoda is one of the most revered Buddhist sites in the world. It is definitely one of the most bejeweled. The 322 ft. (98 m) gilded central stupa is topped with an ornamental umbrella piece decorated with 5,448 diamonds and 2,317 rubies. The umbrella’s top bud is a single 76 carat diamond. Not too shabby!
Westerners are often shocked to discover that many of the temple’s Buddha statues are backed by flashing neon halos. Many find this a kitschy distraction from the ancient pagoda’s beauty. We, on the other hand, found it a rather interesting nod to neighboring India’s habit of using flashing neon lights in its Hindu structures.
I have been dreaming about visiting the Shwe Dagon since I was a teenager. Unfortunately, we arrived during the regilding process, so the lower sections of the stupa were covered with bamboo scaffolding and woven mats. Bummer! Oh well, just one more excuse to come back to Myanmar. All the same, even with the scaffolding and mats, the pagoda is a phenomenal sight.