TBT: Temples By Taxi
I should have hired a guide. Or at least a driver. But now, I'm like, I can so tis on my own. Which I did, but I basically trekked from one end of Yangon to the other via taxi. And remember my comment about how traffic wasn't that bad yesterday? Wow, what a mistake. Traffic was horrible.
Okay, we've got lots of ground to cover so let's break it down!
1. Koe Htat Gyi Pagoda. My first stop and a 4K kyat taxi ride. Shoes off as you enter the temple and then it's a nice hike up the hill (btw, this is a theme here in Yangon) to the temple. This temple was actually built in the mid 20th century, but it houses a huge sitting Buddha from 1558. It's actually five stories tall, so yes it's it's pretty huge. In addition to the main Buddha, there were easily two dozen other Buddhas in this temple. I love the way they've incorporated modern life into the temples. Behind the head of the Buddha are electric lights to signify his godliness. Kind of cheesy, kind of cool. But definitely different. You won't see the RC's adding LED lights to create a halo for Jesus!
2. Kyauk Htat Gyi Pagoda. A short walk, and an exercise in frogger crossing the road, was another temple. This one is famous for the 230 foot reclining Buddha. As I approached the road, obvious foreigner and tourist that I am, a couple of men offered to help me. I really don't want/need a guide and I was trying to be polite, but their insistence was a bit annoying. This would happen at several locations and I just tried to smile my way through it. So there are four basic types of Buddhas. Sitting (crossed legged), standing (with one or two hands out), reclining, and then the walking Buddha. I haven't seen a lot of the walking Buddha's yet. Most of today was sitting Buddhas, with a couple of notable exceptions.
3. The Shwedagon Pagoda. A 3K kyat ca ride away, this is the major temple of Yangon. And it's really more like a temple complex. You walk up to the temple from one of 4 different staircases (North, South, East, & West) which are thankfully covered of else you'd be sweating before you even go to the top. As I made my way up the final set of stair, having already removed my shoes at the entrance, I walk up to pay my foreigners entrance fee. And I was judged. Poorly. Apparently my shorts, which easily cover my knees, were not long enough. So I had to buy a lingyis which is sort of like a sarong. It's a skirt that men wear here in Myanmar. While some dress in western clothing, quite a few of them dress in lingyis. And I must say, I was almost rocking it. If I hadn't been wearing a pair of shorts underneath it would probably be even comfortable. I wonder if I could work this look at my job? Pair it with a nice crisp white shirt (which is how the locals wear it), and I would look suitably professional. Ish. And if anyone complained I could always claim I was pulling a Caitlin Jenner. Oh never mind. No one would believe that. The Pagado itself is a giant gold covered stupa (tower) that is surrounded by smaller temples with hundreds and hundreds of Buddhas. As I walked around, I was actually quite amazed at how many Buddhas there are. And apparently they aren't the same. There are different images of Buddhas that have different religious meaning. So that explains the dozens of smaller temples just jammed packed with Buddhas. I was there in the late morning so the sun was directly overhead, but the sun reflecting off the gold was really amazing. <Insert obligatory reference to the heat>. What I found interesting is that so many people were in the temples just hanging out in the shade. Oh some were definitely praying, but some were just kicking back. And the number of people on their phones was just fascinating.
4. Across the street was the Maya Wizaya Pagoda. Another golden domed pagoda, but what was different for this temple was that the interior was hollow. The inside is decorated to resemble a forest at night and the ceiling decorated with astrological signs. And again, lots of Buddhas. Mainly sitting ones.
5. A 3K kyat cab ride down to the Botataung Pagoda. So this temple is famous for having a hair and two other relics from Buddha. A hair. Okay. So interestingly enough, you could go inside the stupa (tower) of this temple and it was just room after room where the entire wall was gilded in gold. From the floor to the ceiling. A little gauche for me, but okay.
6. A 2K kyat cab ride and were were at our final stop, the Sule Pagoda. Built in the middle of a traffic circle, this pagoda is surrounded by small shops on the outside, but inside is the traditional golden stupa and many, many Buddhas. It was cool, but I was hot, tired, and so ready for lunch.
After lunch (which was nothing special), I went back to the hotel which was another 2K kyat. So my day to taxi touring cost 14,000 kyat. Or a little over $10. So not bad.
After resting a bit, I headed to the SkyBar lounge for a cocktail or two while I watched the sun set. The Shwedagon Pagoda turns these amazing shades of gold in the later afternoon and as the day turns to night the Pagoda is lit up and it looks magical!
Off to Bagan in the AM!