And finally - Shwedagon Pagoda!
It is visible from almost everywhere in Yangon and most definitely from the roof top of my hotel. So, I enjoyed already a night time view and and glowing Shwedagon pagoda in the early morning hours.
For me, Shwedagon had the same fascination as Angkor Wat or Borobudur and I had long wanted to visit it. I did reserve enough time to enjoy every view and every corner of it and I visited at various times of the day, including a whole day during full moon, which will be a separate post.
Traffic around the pagoda is an ever flowing stream of vehicles with a long wait for pedestrians to finally cross the street. Shoes off! right at the fence, even though I first wanted to get a few viewpoints from the lush garden around the pagoda and the huge Chinthe statues, those half-lion, half-dragon guardians next to the covered entrance ways.
At the base of the stairs visitors can either leave their shoes against a fee, or get a plastic bag against a donation. But since I wanted to exit at a different point, I took my shoes with me when walking up the graceful stairways to the pagoda. There are vendors everywhere, selling religious items but they are not as obnoxious as those vendors in Balinese temples, or those at Angkor Wat or the Borobudur.
On the top of the stairs of the Southern stairways and at the bottom of the Western entrance or the taxi drop-off points with the lift the entrance fee of 8000 K has to be paid. You are actually getting a pretty good map with that, a ticket and a sticker for your shirt, which falls off after 3 minutes! Interestingly at the time of my visit 8000K was roughly 7.63$, but if you choose to pay in U.S.$ they charge 9$ which doesn't make any sense. There are ATM machines on the main terrace but no toilets (those are on the street level where the lifts are located), and I did not find any bottled drinking water anywhere. Locals drink from water containers and cups which are available on the main terrace.
Enough has been written about Shwedagon Pagoda and everyone has their own way of exploring a religious building, so I am not going to dwell on it here. Luckily there were far more locals than tourists and those tourists I saw were relatively fast in and out of the Pagoda as part of their visit schedule. I loved the early morning hours and I enjoyed the evenings. In the heat of the day I had the pagoda almost to myself (from a photographic point of view). However, full moon day was an incredible experience in itself!
During my visits Shwedagon Pagoda underwent it's yearly cleaning process and the top part was covered with bamboo scaffolding, which took away from the golden glow and reflection.