Heritage appreciation tour, or adventures and misadventures in Vietnam and Myanmar (Concluding Part)

On our last day in Yangon, we hired a private charter with the agenda of seeing the spectacle that is Yangon city.

On a personal note, I wanted to see only one thing: the Shwedagon Pagoda!

Remember the bright golden monument I was describing on an earlier post when we finally entered the city center – that was the Shwedagon!

The formal name of Shwedagon Pagoda is Shwedagon Zedi Daw, which translates as The Great Golden Mountain Stupa. The pagoda is not yet a UNESCO World Heritage Site but I am hopeful that it will be included soon! Thank goodness, Myanmar included it on its Tentative List in 2018 with Shwedagon Pagoda on Singuttara Hill as its official inscription name.

Reiterating here: the Shwedagon Pagoda, is the centermost marker of Yangon. It is also the most sacred Buddhist stupa in the whole of Myanmar. According to the UNESCO website, the pagoda is one of the most important religious reliquary monuments in the world.

The base of the stupa is made of bricks covered with “genuine” gold plates (Please note the quotation marks). The main stupa itself is entirely covered in gold, adorned with a crowning umbrella encrusted with diamonds and other jewels.

The UNESCO website notes that Buddhists circumambulate the hill and its stupa in a clockwise direction, beginning at the eastern directional shrine, which houses a statue of Kakusandha, the first Buddha of kalpa or the present era. Next, at the southern directional shrine, is a statue of the second Buddha, Koṇagamana. Next, at the western directional shrine, is that of the third Buddha, Kassapa. Finally, at the northern directional shrine, is that of the fourth Buddha, Gautama.As the devotee circumambulates the stupa, s/he recites sacred prayers either silently or aloud, there by “turning the wheel of the law” and contributing to the propagation of the immutable, unchanging laws of the dhamma (the universe) as revealed and taught by successive Buddhas.

The pagoda was made popular by Rudyard Kippling in 1899 in his Letters to Travel. He wrote: “[t]hen, a golden mystery upheaved itself on the horizon, a beautiful winking wonder that blazed in the sun, of a shape that was neither Muslim dome nor Hindu temple-spire. It stood upon a green knoll, and below it were lines of warehouses, sheds, and mills. Under what new god, thought I, are we irrepressible English sitting now?”

Marvelous Shwedagon! (Photo: SAPT)
Posing before the main pagoda!
One of the small temples found in the complex (Photo: SAPT)
So elegant (Photo: SAPT)
One of the temples found in the complex (Photo: SAPT)
To get inside the complex, one has to pass through these white stupas (Photo: SAPT)

We spent around 2 hours roaming around the complex.

It was a tranquil place – a place for reflection and meditation. My brother, who is Catholic (I mean, I am also Catholic but my brother is a devout one. I am no religious but I am spiritual) even stayed silent for some time to thank the Lord for another wonderful year (remember it was his birthday). I tried spending some minutes of silence, but the wonderful view of the surroudning. . . of the pagoda would not allow me. Yes, I was distracted, I have not seen a place of worship so grand and so exquisite. Every time I focus a spot, I see beauty. I was awed by its grandiosity. Such grandiosity is nothing compared to other places of worships I have visited in the last ten years.

Anyway, our private charter brought us to other places of worships around Yangon. I got bored. I guess my mind was telling me that I already saw the best and why settled for soemthing less.

But this excitement was transformed into anxiety and dismay as soon as we were dropped off by the private charter at the airport.

Sh*t really happens.

Our flight going back to Hanaoi was originally scheduled at 18.00 hours. But the runway of Yangon International Airport was closed due to an accident. Flights were all delayed beginning 17.30 hours. We had to wait and wait for further announcement.

The problem: we did not have a connecting flight at Hanoi Airport going to Manila, technically speaking. The plan was to exit the immigration, get our pieces of luggage and then do a check-in at the counter.

From the original 18.00 flight, it became 22.30.

I am grateful – truly grateful for the staff of Vietnam Airline for arranging our itinerary. We needed not to go out of the immigration, instead, we were requested to transfer to our next flight. We arrived in Hanoi at 01.05. Our flight was scheduled at 01.45. We were able to get out of the plane at 01.15. Thank goodness, someone at the airport was waiting for us.

To cut the story short, we made it on our 01.45 flight. We were worried that our peices of luggage did not. But even our luggage did. We survived the AMAZING RACE!

The trip started roughly and it ended up . . . . well, roughly.

Full circle! Full swing!

It was a first time for both of us – me and my brother. Will we go on tour again – the two of us? Of course!

At least now, we can truly say, that the saying, you will never forget your first time, is indeed true!

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