When I first started planning my trip to Myanmar, I listed the things I can do and places I can go, purely based on online research and reviews from other backpackers. When I finally finished the list, I was struck by how many pagodas were actually on it. I was already aware of the fact that Myanmar is specifically eminent for its religious sites dating back plenty years ago, yet I didn’t realize that it accounts for around 80% of its national attractions.
Having this in mind, I decided to cross some pagodas off the list to sufficiently cover enough within five days of travel. Bagan is surely intriguing to visit for its ancient and pretty pagodas – but considering there are only night buses to take, I dedicated my time to only be around Yangon. The list I am going to share with you below has been tested and verified during my travel, to lend you a hand in deciding which ones that are worth keeping on your list, should you plan to visit the home of Burmese population:
Still the favorite one among visitors, and I completely agree! Shwedagon Pagoda is said to have the second tallest pagoda in the entire country, and the occasion of witnessing it with my own eyes was as majestic as its reputation. This pagoda has multiple entrance to accommodate the huge area. No matter which entrance you come from, it is advisable to do a complete lap around the pagoda. Besides for religious reasons, it is also the only way that you can have the complete experience of exploring the pagoda. Along the way, you will stumble upon some groups singing some religious songs or passages which I did not understand, but it surely added on the authentic feeling. As usual, do watch out for scams – if you have more budget in hand, hiring a guide would complete the experience.
Maha Vijaya Pagoda
The best are sometimes hidden in plain sight, not far away from where we are. Only a few metres away from Shwedagon Pagoda, Maha Vijaya Pagoda is far less known to the world, but personally I think it is just as beautiful as Shwedagon. Moreover, no one actually comes here! It is located in the middle of a small residential area where you can also witness the life of the locals. I was there sometime around mid day and some kids are playing with a flock of pigeons around the nearby pond. If it wasn’t too hot, I would have sat there and enjoy the serenity. You will have much more space for yourself, considering the fact that no one actually knows about this place.
The feeling of being amazed isn’t always because of what lies in front of us and the things observable within our eyes. Sometimes, it emerges out of the story that comes with it, and the things that they have in store. I guarantee you that being in Botataung Pagoda won’t make you as astonished as being in the majestic Shwedagon, but you will most definitely leave with a lot more satisfaction. This pagoda stores important Buddha relics in its area, decorated with beautiful golden interior which assumes the shape of a small maze. Read the flyers carefully and discover the great story behind this relics. If you’re unlucky, you will stumble upon a flock of tourists arriving with a big tour bus, creating a long queue in front of the pagoda.
After experiencing the majestic vibe in Burmese pagodas, I can say with absolute certainty that the country’s reputation as a golden destination correctly justifies itself. There is much more story to my exploration in Myanmar that I am barely scratching the surface, but visiting the great pagodas is practically the ground zero of travelling Myanmar. Hence, doing it right becomes a necessity, and I highly encourage you to start from these ones that are already proven to be the best.