Week 1 in Yangon
I started the week with a little sight seeing… First up Shewdagon Pagoda! The story goes like this, it is the largest pagoda in Myanmar and the oldest pagoda in the world, more than 2600 years old. It hold remains of all 4 Buddhas and even 8 strands of hair from the Lord Gautama Buddha dating back to 558 BC. These hairs were presented to the then king by 2 merchant brothers fIndia, upon their return to their home land Burma, who had received them from the Buddha himself .,It is said that when the King opened the coffin like case where the hair was stored and….
“There was a tumult among men and spirits … rays emitted by the Hairs penetrated up to the heavens above and down to hell … the blind beheld objects … the deaf heard sounds … the dumb spoke distinctly … the earth quaked … the winds of the ocean blew … Mount Meru shook … lightning flashed … gems rained down until they were knee deep … all trees of the Himalayas, though not in season, bore blossoms and fruit.”
This Shwedgagon Pagoda is pretty awe inspiring and for Buddhist of Myanmar, it is considered the holiest of sites. The Shwegadon Pagoda stands about 300 feet high and is gilded in more than 800 bars of solid gold. The tip of the stupa, far too high for the human eye to discern in any detail, is set with 5448 diamonds, 2317 rubies, sapphires, and other gems, 1065 golden bells and, at the very top, a single 76-carat diamond. It can be said that the Myanmar like a little bling. Surrounding the pagoda are a plentitude of smaller shrines housing pre-Buddhist spirits called Nats, miracle working images, and even a wish granting stone. The worshipers were everywhere… young … old… common people and oh so many monks. This pagoda is said to be the most sacred place for Buddist in all of Myanmar. It is said, that all Myanmar have an asspiration to make a religious pilgramige to the Shwedagon Pagoda at least once in thier lifetime.
It was all so glistening, golden and beautiful I didnt even mind that white marble , which had been absorbing the Myanmar penetrating sunrays all day was searing the bottoms of my feet. I rather ungracefully hopped from the very few shady spots I could find. It was like those Tom and Jerry cartoons where Tom is walking over the hot coals. Now for full disclosure, you are required to remove your shoes and socks before you enter the Pagoda, so even before you enter, on ground floor at the elevator to the courtyard, up the two stories … NO SHOES OR SOCKS FOR ANYONE!!! So maybe I am a self professed germ-a-phob, which probably stems from my recent run in with toxic agents that stripped my immunity and my eyelashes. But somehow this was seemingly very unhygienic and against all things I am comfortable with. I get it, the SHWEDAGON PAGODA maybe the most sacred of ALL place for Buddhist but I was not loving the dirty-ness( so not a word) or the wretched stentch of B.O in my 42 second elevator ride. I was sure I would contract west nile or MERS or even possible catch another case of cancer!! Germ-a-phobs need not enter… your silly hand sanitizer is useless against the bacteria that looms here ( insert evil cackle here!)