Shwedagon Pagoda: The No. 1 tip to make the most of your visit
I got to Shwedagon… Stuff happening all around… What’s all this stuff?!
That’s basically what happened the first 20 minutes after getting into Shwedagon (my first stop on my first ever visit to Myanmar!) and wandering around by myself.
They give you a map listing out the various points of interest. But it really is just a list without any explanation.
Now, I’ve been to many temples and pagodas before, but Shwedagon is a rather complex complex.
And sure, some things looked interesting and pretty, but what did it all mean?
Why is that lady pulling that rope in the ceiling?
Is it ok to have a go at ringing the bell?
My longyi (Burmese sarong) is getting untied and falling down. Help!
What’s a Sunday Buddha? [Spoiler: they’re planetary posts for your day of birth and related to Myanmar astrology].
Where to take awesome photos (like the cover photo)
The solution (and my top tip) is blindingly obvious… get a guide!
WHAT? THAT’s my number 1 top tip?!
Let me explain.
No, I didn’t have to go away, research TripAdvisor/Google for tour companies and come back on a tour.
There are actually a bunch of official guides to Shwedagon usually milling about at any of the entrances (there are four - North, South, East and West).
So, save yourself a bit of time and confusion and say yes if one of them offers, or ask when you pay for your Entrance Ticket.
The cost is extremely reasonable at 10,000 kyats (about US$6) to get a full private tour of Shwedagon. In Hong Kong, I can barely get a bowl of noodles for that price.
Sure, this doubles the entrance price (if you’re a solo traveller like me but obviously works out much less in a group), but honestly you will get SO much from it that you’ll honestly laugh afterwards at the tourists who don’t.
My guide not only explained the history and the rituals people were doing, but also had some recommendations on things to do/see nearby and showed me the best spots/angles for photos. Heck, he was even my cameraman on occasion!
The private tour lasted a little over an hour, but my guide was in no hurry and was happy to answer all my questions and have a little chat at the end.
So thankfully the earlier CONFUSIONISM became wonder, fun and calm joy. And leaving me with a great memory of the visit.
Now have a watch of highlights from the private tour I got below:
Hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about and watching my experience of Shwedagon. I’d love to know how your own visit went - leave a comment below.
[Side note: Myanmar is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been. Adventures presented themselves literally everywhere I turned. I’m so excited to be sharing my experiences through blogs and vlogs, coming in the next few weeks. They honestly keep getting better and better!]
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