Night Falls on Shwedagon Paya

Shwedagon Paya, sometimes referred to in English as the Golden Pagoda, is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda for the Burmese with relics of the past four Buddhas enshrined within.  Buddhists from all of Myanmar, and for that matter the world, make pilgramage there.  The central pagoda, at 99  meters (325 feet) dominates the skyline of Yangon (formerly Rangoon), in Burma.

I have been in Burma or Myanmar (I will use the names interchangeably here) for just three days of a 28 day planned stay.  Yesterday, on an afternoon when the temperature topped 100•F, I walked across the city with camera, Gorillapod and water bottle to visit.  Although I could have taken a taxi, it somehow seemed more appropriate to walk.
However, after walking 20 minutes and buying a second bottle of watter I succumb.  I hail a taxi, 2,000 kyat (USS2.50).  Half a block away, we get gridlocked so I get out and walk the rest of the way. The entrance alone is rather impressive but in no way prepares you for what is beyond.
A $5 admission is paid and give I give a  1,000 kyat donation to check my flip-flops.  The Shwedagon Pagoda has existed for more than 2,600 years, making it the oldest historical pagoda in Burma and the world.  “According to tradition, two merchant brothers, Taphussa and Bhallika, from the land of Ramanya, met the Lord Gautama Buddhaduring his lifetime and received eight of the Buddha’s hairs in BC 588. The brothers traveled back to their homeland in Burma.” (Wikipedia)

Interior shrine depicting Taphussa and Bhallika meeting Lord Gautama Buddha


The pagoda complex is amazing and goes on and on with over 80 shrines and buildings, including innumerable Buddhas of all sizes.  There are many people praying and of course tourists snapping photos of everything including monks in deep meditation.  I don’t really feel comfortable taking photographs of the monks while they meditate but I do shoot lots of other photos which nobody seems to mind.





Eventually the sun goes down and the  place lights up and is a whole other frequency.  Glad I brought the Gorillapod this evening as I get some good long exposure night time photos.  I stop at a few spots that call out to me to meditate for awhile, finding it easy to hit tranquility in the midst of all the tourist chaos going on around me.








Many monks in different robes.  A young monk approaches me while I am setting up a photo.  In Burma, all men are supposed to become a monk for awhile in their youth.  Of course some remain so but most return to family life after a couple years.  The young monk shows me a spot where I can stand and see the 72 carat diamond that is at the top of this 2,600 year old main pagoda (stupa).  He shows me how to move a few inches each way and each time the color changes.  First green, then red, blue, yellow.  He offers to show me one other place where I can see it change seven colors.  As we walk around toward the other side, he tells me how he is studying English.  He takes classes three days a week.  Then walks 60 minutes to the pagoda.  Later he walks to his monastery which is located another 45 minutes walk.

He comes from a poor village in the north, near China, which is closed to foreigners.  There is fighting on  and off and has recently been fighting just a few days ago there.  He needs no money except for his classes.  I have already decided to give him a bit when we part.

Next he shows me a shrine with a 24 carat gold bell.  Finally we arrive at the seven-color point.  It is really cool, but mostly I am enjoying our connection.  He asks me if I meditate and I tell him I have for many years.  This gets a raised eyebrow.  He suggests some places to snap some photos.  He admires my camera.  I show him some of the shots.  It is time for him to go back to his monastery.  I give him 5,000 kyat for a weeks’ classes.




Tonight I will take the night train to the south.  I do not expect to have internet for most of the next three weeks but should have some more stories and adventures to tell about this incredible place they call Myanmar.

Here’s a few more photos and yes they are copyrighted–enjoy–peace


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12 Responses to Night Falls on Shwedagon Paya

  1. Lena January 24, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

    oh my gosh. what an amazing place!! looks like the las vegas of buddhism but way way better! you must be having a blast!!
    Judi and I were talking about you today and then I look to see that you had just posted this today!! I got her signed up too so she can see your travels.
    Love you

    • Philip January 31, 2013 at 12:23 am #

      Hey Lena Beannie–great to hear from you. I am having my first internet window in 2 weeks. Leaving on the night bus for Bagan–google it if you don’t know what it is. Big love to you!

  2. Terry Brodie February 22, 2013 at 7:32 am #

    Thank you for sharing this blessing.

    • Philip February 22, 2013 at 7:42 am #

      My pleasure Terry and thanks for stopping by. Shwedagon Paya is a very special place.

  3. Judie February 22, 2013 at 10:09 am #

    Hi Philip! So glad to see you back online for a short bit! We are glad you are having such a great time! Exquisite photos~what a beautiful place~I appreciate you sharing this experience through your words and photos! Feels like I’m right there with you!! Safe travels to Bagan.
    Much love to you,

    • Philip February 22, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

      Thanks Judie. Not sure why but WordPress does some strange things at times. Great to hear from you. Hope it’s warming up there a bit.

  4. Judie February 22, 2013 at 10:14 am #

    Glad to see you back on your blog. What a beautiful place! Exquisite photos, Philip and how cool to have met this young monk. We are glad that you are having such a great time. Travel safe to Bagan~looking forward to your next entry~
    Much love to you,

    • Judie February 22, 2013 at 10:16 am #

      The first entry didn’t show up until after I posted the second one…oh well, now you have heard from me twice and know you are thought of and loved!!

  5. Lloyd February 22, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    Cuz! Birthday season is almost here! Looks like you’re already celebrating in fashionable style (as I would expect!) — Deborah and I send you great Love All Ways! — LLoyd

    • Philip February 22, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

      Thanks cuzzie! I hope you are having a fabulous pre-birthday week as well. Big love to you and Deborah!!!


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