As the youngest member of the group said (yes, Lauren, that’s YOU), ALL THAT GOLD! Our introduction to Myanmar is all glitter, literally and figuratively speaking. Multiple pagodas or temples of gold, silver, copper, marble, lead and tin in one sacred place. Just as many stupas of same shape but different sizes. Same, same but different. Some “just” golden, others embellished with gemstones of varied colors. You have to crane your neck to see the top of the tallest, golden stupa. Then peer inside some smaller shrines where Buddhas are encased. Here, I think they are also called “Nats” or spirits (pre-Buddha) where we found pilgrims including monks at prayer.






Having first visited the Reclining Buddha, the Shwedagon Pagoda came next as our first-day introduction to Burma. It is the most important Buddhist pilgrimage site in present-day Myanmar. The most sacred place, if you will, since the octagonal pagoda with a diamond-studded spire houses relics of Gautama Buddha. It is an old pagoda but exactly how old, no one knows. I can only guess it started with a rather simple and single pagoda, then stupas were added through the years and centuries to compose this impressive temple complex.






We spent an hour here. Feeling like zombies after a long flight, the incense, the crowds (both pilgrims and tourists), the constant shutter-click sound of a camera, all these only got us more excited, unmindful of our lack of sleep and the strange feeling of walking barefoot around the huge temple complex.






All’s well. The Reclining Buddha and the Shwedagon Pagoda on our first day before hitting the sack prepared us for the next few days of adventure in Myanmar. This intro also prepared us for many barefoot experiences here. No shoes, no sandals, not even socks. That’s how they do it here in Myanmar. A good tip is for you to buy those cheap flipflops here to wear. Getting in and out of those rubber shoes or strapped sandals can be a chore. Plus, you can simply discard those flipflops as soon as they’ve served their purpose. So there…….