Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, is known both for its colonial-era architecture and its religious sites. Undoubtedly, the two most famous and frequented Buddhist sites are Shewedagon Pagoda and Sule Pagoda.
- Shwedagon Pagoda: Standing atop Singuttara Hill, Shewedagon is a commanding large shiny golden pagoda. It was built in the 6th century and rebuilt several times since. The image of Shwedeagon is the most characteristic of the city. The site remains popular with local Buddhists, and is visited increasingly by the growing number of tourists to Myanmar as well.
- Sule Pagoda: In the heart of downtown, Sule Pagoda serves as a traffic circle in the center Yangon. The octagonal-shaped gold pagoda stands 46 meters high.
Tucked along the Irrawaddy River in central Myanmar, Bagan is both a natural and manmade splendor. Around 4,450 temples were built on a 26 square-mile plain by the kings of Bagan between 1057 and 1287. Only around 2,230 of the original structures have survived the years, but it is still considered the densest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas, and ruins. For travelers especially interested in religion, anthropology, or architecture, Bagan is the highlight
- Thatbyinnyu Temple: Built in 12th century, towering at 66 meters high, Thatbyinnyu stands out as the tallest pagoda in Bagan.
- Ananda Temple: The holiest temple in Bagan was built in 1091. It contains four Buddhas facing north, east, south, and west, symbolizing the four Buddhas who have attained Nirvana. The name “Ananda” comes from a the Pali word meaning “boundless wisdom.”
- Shewsandaw Temple: The “sunset temple” is a popular gathering point to watch the vibrant setting sun. After 5 minute walk up a narrow flight of stairs, visitors are rewarded with breathtaking views of the sky set on fire with color over the temples and plain.
- Shwegugyi Temple: This is another temple with a shockingly good view of the sunset. Shwegugyi was commissioned by King Alaunsithu in 1131 and is recognized as one of the best preserved temples.
- Gubyaukgyi Temple: The durian-shaped temple was modeled after Bodh Gaya in India and includes a rooftop with an excellent view of the surrounding area, as well as murals depicting scenes from native-Indian literature.
About half the country’s monks reside Myanmar’s second largest city, Mandalay. Established as the capital of the kingdom of Ava by King Mingdon Min of Burma in 1857, the city has undergone a number of transformations since. A number of temples survived the British conquest and bombings during the Second World War II, while others are modern reconstructions.
- Mandalay Palace was King Mindon’s golden prize. Sadly, it was ruined during World War II. However, an extremely accurate replica was built in its place.
- Shwe Nandaw Kyaung is a wooden monastery with fine intricate details. Constructed completely out of teak wood, it is the most important building from the original wooden royal palace to have survived the attacks during World War II.
- Kuthodaw Pagoda, was built in 1857. Its claim to fame is the world’s largest book: the complete text of Tripitaka, Theravada Buddhism’s most sacred text.
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Melissa Reichwage is an avid traveler and international development and health professional currently living in Colombia. She holds a Master’s in Public Health from Emory University in Atlanta (USA). With familial ties in Myanmar, she has a special affinity for the beautiful landscapes and the people there.