Saturday, May 2, 2009
Shwedagon Pagoda and Alienation in Yangon Burma
Spires and stupas of the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon skyline. This photo only courtesy of Jean-Marie Hullot.
Shadows and lights. This photo only courtesy of dwstein.
At a travel forum prior to this travel, I mentioned that if there was only one place to visit in Myanmar, Bagan and its temples would be the no-brainer. Another traveller agreed but he would have to add the Shwedagon Pagoda if there were only two places to visit.
The Shwedagon Pagoda (Yangon) is Myanmar's most revered place of worship. A $5 foreigner's entrance is all worth it. From atop the mount, there are temples all around. It's easy to get humbled by the grandiose beauty of this sacred paya. Of particular interest to buddhist followers was a temple section where prayers, incense and flowers were offered. It was an octagonal (8-sided) temple. Each side represented the 8 days of the Burmese Buddhist calendar - where Wednesday is further subdivided into two separate days: Wednesday morning and Wednesday afternoon, don't ask me why. You needed to be aware of the particular day you were born so you can make offerings on that side of the temple. This is supposed to dispense blessings and luck. I was born on a Thursday (I checked beforehand), so I just offered a silent prayer nearby since I couldn't find my specific side of the octagon. Everything was written in Burmese.
Needless to say, the view of the city skyline was awe-inspiring.
I was also missing a good bit of civilization - of an email acount that has all the complete features - instead of the very basic wap-based skeleton; I missed the beep of my mobile, or withdrawing money from ATM; abusing the endless possibility of my credit cards, and of course, directly sending and receiving messages from family and friends. I miss the smell of my car, my room back home, and the frosty cineplex of Manila or Bangkok. It can feel a bit constricting; alienating, like being in Pluto with "Clouds Across the Moon" blaring at a nearby speaker.
I will be hopping with glee once I step into Suvarnabhumi.
This is the Eye in the Sky.