The temples or pagodas in Burma are like nothing I have experienced elsewhere. After living for eight years in Asia I have seen my fair share of temples. So foolishly I was pretty nonchalant about visiting the Shwe Dagon Pagoda in Yangon even though I had read it was the holiest pagoda in Burma and considered one of the great temples of the world.
We left our guesthouse in the late afternoon and walked through the chaotic streets spying the magnificent golden spire in the distance and arriving at the pagoda just at sunset. Removing our shoes, we entered a wide covered staircase and began the 15-minute ascent up the stairs, passing stalls selling Buddhist trinkets and memorabilia along the way.
When we reached the top and stepped onto the marble floor that surrounded the central stupa*, I can only describe it as to akin to the closest earthly experience I have ever had of arriving in heaven. It was like we had permanently left behind the noise, the grime, the poverty, the general chaos of life and entered a heavenly realm of exquisite beauty and rapture. It is almost impossible to capture the experience in photos or film but Roberto did get some lovely shots.
For me, the experience is alongside other significants times in my life of pure wonder – seeing the Taj Mahal, The Great Wall of China and Cherry blossom in Japan – absolutely unforgettable.
*I have since read that the stupa is covered in real gold and 2000 carats of real diamonds. Amazing!