Home » Destinations » Asia » Myanmar » The Crown of Burma: Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar
Shwedagon Pagoda Yangon

The Crown of Burma: Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar

by Emiel Van Den Boomen

Prayer beads in hand of Buddha

I was born on a Thursday. Do you know on which day you were born?

Burmese Buddhists are strong believers of astrological influence on their life. In contrast to ‘regular’ Buddhism, they believe for example in the powerful influence of the particular day they were born. Burmese Buddhists will always try to do important things in life according to this day. There name is chosen according to this day, they choose the name of their business according to this day and they even get married to a person whose own day is friendly to their day!

Religious village called Shwedagon

I am honestly speaking not sure whether this idea is still strong with most of the Burmese Buddhists today, but we clearly noticed this way of thinking visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon: one of the must-visits in Myanmar…

Golden temple pinnacles

The pagoda is at least 2,500 years old (oldest in the world!) and it is said to hold a couple (yes, you read this right: a couple) of Buddha relics. We were not really aware of this pagoda being one of the most famous ones in the world, but after visiting we clearly understood why… all that gold makes an impressive view for sure.

Details of Shwedagon temple

Dozens of Buddha statues

The great thing about Shwedagon is that it’s not only a pagoda. The whole area is a religious microcosmos on its own: a collection of dozens of temples, stupas and statues where people from all over Myanmar are drawn to. There are 4 stairways to enter the area (North, South, East and West). Move your way up and start enjoying places with fabulous names like Hall of Great Prosperity, Pagoda of the Eight Weekdays, Shrine of Sun and Moon, Victory Ground and Hall of Wizards. Do I need to say more…

Man praying at Shwedagon pagoda


What a day…

Coming back to the astrological influence of the day Burmese Buddhists were born. This day determines their planetary post. There are eight planetary posts, as Wednesday is split in two (am and pm). Hence the name of the Pagoda of the Eight Weekdays. These planetary posts are marked by animals that represent the day: tiger for Monday, lion for Tuesday, etc.

Here for me personal it is getting a bit confusing. According to Burmese Buddhism I am linked to the rat (for Thursday). But I was also born in the Chinese year of the rooster. Rooster and rat…hmm, what does that make me?

Anyway, at Shwedagon pagoda you can find these eight planetary posts surrounding the main stupa. Each planetary post has a Buddha image and people (who were born on that particular day) offer flowers and pour water on the image with a prayer and a wish.

Corner with statue temple

Pooring water over statue at temple

Yangon and the Shwedagon pagoda

We were not really enthusiastic about the city of Yangon itself….with the exception of the Shwedagon pagoda. That pagoda alone is almost worth a trip to Yangon!

Here are some highlights of the Shwedagon pagoda where actually just meeting or watching people is half of the fun!

Shwedagon Pagoda Yangon

Bold head of monk from behind

Make sure to also visit the pagoda at night! Your entrance ticket is valid for a full day, so do return in the evening. The pagoda is covered with hundreds of gold plates and there are diamonds in top of the stupa; not to be missed in the evening…

Shwedagon pagoda by night

Go and visit this monumental work of art and architecture! We really spend hours just watching the bustling of monks and devotees, walking from one temple to another, and of course returning in the evening. Take your time when you plan a visit. Again, other sites in Yangon are not even half that impressive.

Taking selfie at golden temple

We secretely took a picture of this yound woman in deep prayers. But after a while we accidentally bumped into her and we couldn’t resist showing her the pictures. She loved them!

Yangon Shwedagon

Meeting locals at Shwedagon

This is our last post about Myanmar. Here is an overview of all our stories about this fascinating country:

1. Our Myanmar itinerary
2. Mandalay: start of our Myanmar trip
3. Crazy and surreal Monywa
4. Ode to Bagan
5. Surprising Inle Lake…but without jumping cats!
6. Three cool Buddhist places to visit in Myanmar

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Life Quintessentials March 15, 2016 - 21:40

I have always wanted to visit Myanmar. I really like your style of writing, thanks for sharing your adventures!

Emiel van den Boomen March 17, 2016 - 23:08

Thank you. I really hope you make it to Myanmar someday!

Null & Full March 2, 2016 - 10:51

You pointed out a very important thing: the difficulties in understanding a different religion and culture. Probably many of us are aware that the major part of the Asian people is superstitious but so few people make the next step and make an effort to actually understand why. I wish you asked a local expert about these things se we all could expand the boundaries of our knowledge.

Emiel van den Boomen March 4, 2016 - 19:12

True. It’s not always easy to talk to locals about these things, especially not in religious places. But I agree, that’s what it takes to understand and respect each other.

Bama March 1, 2016 - 14:53

I’m pretty lucky to have visited Shwedagon twice — first in January 2012 and then in October 2015. Despite the rapid change Yangon was undergoing at the time of my second visit, I’m glad that Shwedagon remained a peaceful place. An oasis of tranquility amid the cacophony of Myanmar’s biggest city.

Emiel van den Boomen March 1, 2016 - 22:24

We totally loved the place. Although busy, it is indeed as you mentioned an oasis within the city of Yangon. Well said..

Miranda P February 27, 2016 - 05:55

As usual: your photos and story are beautiful. I had no idea Burmese Buddhists were so superstitious. I’ll have to look up my birth day of the week to see if it rings true for me astrologicall. I love that you are able to visit the Shwedagon both day & night.

Emiel van den Boomen February 27, 2016 - 17:51

Thanks Miranda. Honestly I believe I have to rectify that part about the tickets. A friend visited Myanmar last month and mentioned they have changed their ticket policy. It looks like it is not possible anymore to buy day tickets and visit both during the day and in the evening. I hope they change this again because it would be a pity..

Oliver Kyaw February 22, 2016 - 13:48

I’m born on Monday which makes me a tiger and nighttime which is not a good sign..I love your blogs and they’re awesome to read……I hope you visited the Mahamyamuni Pagoda in Mandalay too because that would’ve also been another great blog….Anyway..Keep up you’re the best

Emiel van den Boomen February 23, 2016 - 08:22

Hi Oliver, yes we did visit that Pagoda too! On our way to the U-Bein bridge. We had a very nice local guide who told us that we should visit this pagoda and he was completely right! Thanks for your nice comment.


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