Built 2,500 years ago on a hill, it is the country's most sacred and revered place of worship. The hill where the pagoda is situated lies 190 feet or 58 meters above sea level, so this glittering landmark can be seen from nearly every part of Yangon city. Having lived in Yangon for half of my life (and on many subsequent visits), I of course have been there numerous times, but I am always spellbound by the majestic splendor of this huge place. A beautiful building or structure can move a person, but a pagoda that has been said to be covered in more gold than all the vaults in England will take your breath away!

The immense 368 foot (112 meters) high golden stupa towers over the vast complex of gilded shrines, so it is easy to forget that the stupa is surrounded by smaller pagodas, temples and pavilions which feature intricate designs and giant smiling Buddhas in sitting and reclining poses. And of course, gold, gold, gold everywhere, 60 tons of it encrusted on the stupa, not to mention the precious gems, such as rubies, sapphires, jade and the huge 76 carat diamond orb winks to the skies from the very top of the spire. It is believed that 8 strands of the hair of Gautama, the Lord Buddha is hidden away somewhere on the grounds along with other holy relics. The temple complex itself covers more than five acres.

Even if you are not of the Buddhist faith (which I am not), be prepared to be absorbed in an atmosphere of holiness and spiritual tranquility, and even if you are hard to impress, you will be overwhelmed by its magnificence and breathtaking beauty. I was with one of my American friends one time, and this is what she said when we were there, "It is so captivating and no words can describe it, but I will say one thing, 'my eyes keep falling out of my head'"

Have you ever seen an ancient glowing golden structure? If not, be there in the evening again when the sun goes down. The Shwedagon is beautiful by day, spectacular by night when it creates a magical atmosphere as it is lit up by flood lights which reflects off the gold and lighting up the clouds, giving the night sky a yellow/orange glow.

There are four entrances to the Shwedagon; north, south, east and west, two of them with elevators. I would suggest that you take one of the elevators going up, and take the stairs going down. At every entrance, you won't fail to notice two giant 'chinthes' (mythical lions in Burmese literature) guarding it.

The Burmese are very religious, and it is believed that the Shwedagon reveals the heart of the people. There are always crowds of devotees who come to worship at the Shwedagon. Old, young, monks, nuns....people from all walks of life. This is what Myanmar is all about - the impact of Buddhism in the everyday life of the people. However, since the country opened up a couple of years ago, I hear that on some days, international travelers outnumber the locals. I recently read a news report that ATM cash machines have been installed all over the complex and Wi-Fi internet access is available on the grounds now. I am just puzzled why would anybody need to be on the computer while visiting this marvelous site?

Anyway, if you are ready to be transported to a whole new world and a serene environment (even though the place is bustling with worshippers and tourists alike), be sure to make this pagoda your number 1 must see attraction when you are in Yangon. You will be totally mesmerized by its wonder!

Admittance fee - US5.00 (valid for the whole day, so you can use it once more if you go there again in the evening)

Opening hours - 4am to 10pm every day