on August 29, 2000
RANGOON is probably the first place to visit on your trip. There are many traces left off the British domination. The centre is marked by its colonial background: wide, straight avenues and severe Victorian façades, which once were the pomp and circumstance of the British empire. I especially admire Rangoon's gold-encrusted Schwedagon Pagoda, on of the great wonders of the Buddhist World. Being the tallest structure in the entire city, it also dominates from the hilltop of Singuttara. Everyone in Myanmar dreams of visiting this temple at least once in their lifetime.
The Schwedagon is surrounded by an incredible assortment of shrines, statues, temples, images and pavilions which display the artistic skills of painters, wood carvers and sculptures. From each angle you'll see gold, gold, gold... and the top of the pagoda is crowned with a jewelled vane and a diamond orb, which adds a considerable sparkle to the top of the pagoda. Therefore it is recommendable to visit the Schwedagon at the end of the day, at sunset. When the shadows are tall and the pagode seems to glow and the air is filled with lovely ting-a-lings from the hundreds little bells, you can feel the devotion. Take at least two hours to wonder around because there's very much to see.
Watch for the novitiation ceremonies when hundreds of family members dressed in their finest longyi present their youngest son to the monkhood. With shaved heads and draped with the ceremonial robes of the initiates, they are carried in gold palanquins to the attendant monastery. You'll also see a group of believers who are cleaning the marble platform with bamboo besoms.
Most important of all, when visiting pagodas, remember to take your shoes and socks off at every opportunity. Even at the most dilapidated, run-down, ruined pagoda, the no footwearing rule still applies. In the middle of the day, barefooting it can get a little painful as the paved area around a pagoda often becomes very hot. At major pagodas, there will often be a mat walkway around the platform. A no umbrellaring rule has also been known to apply - this means, don't point your umbrella at anything!
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