Golden pagodas

There are many pagodas around Yangon, more than one would think people would need, and I have seen a number of them today including one on an island in a lake, where no shoe may be brought to the island. But the largest and most famous one is Shwedagon. It’s almost a hundred meters tall and surrounded by hundreds of smaller chedis, all covered in gold. The effect is absolutely stunning; this must be one of the world’s most beautiful sights along with places like the Taj Mahal or Angkor.

Normally visiting a pagoda takes maybe half an hour. At this one I spent four hours just looking at it, and talking to a monk for several hours who came here from his monastery in the delta to see the place. Talking to him confirms my impression of Myanmar so far: a people that have been in chains for decades and now see their country grow at an incredible speed. Three years ago a cell phone cost US$ 4000, now 100 and dropping. Three years ago the government was raiding monasteries, and now this monk has Gmail account. Stop reading travel books on Myanmar, they are hopelessly outdated by the time they appear on the shelves. Not all is well in Myanmar but everyone has a gleam in their eyes and has high hopes for the future.

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