A Couple More of Yangon's Many Temples

Just as Scotland is full of castles (see my last post for one of them) Yangon is full of temples. We'd already made a special sunset visit to the most famous of them all, the Shwedagon pagoda and passed at least another one on our walk around downtown Yangon but there are plenty more in the city to see too. So we picked out a couple of these and set off to visit them.

Botataung Pagoda

Our first temple sits close to the Yangon river and, compared to the more well known Shwedagon pagoda, though it was still busy was a lot lot quieter. The Botataung pagoda was first built around the same time as its famous cousin was by the Mon people. The temple is named after the thousand military leaders of the king who escorted hair relics of the Buddha back from India to Myanmar over 2000 years ago.

It was entirely destroyed by a direct hit from an Allied air raid during the Second World War but was rebuilt after the war ended. Interestingly unlike most zedi (stupa) it was rebuilt hollow allowing you to walk through it. Walking through it with its floor to ceiling gold leaf and narrow corners it's almost maze like and a little disorientating. It's also amazing how big it actually is inside. As you walk through it you pass several glass cases containing some of the old relics and artefacts, including items previously sealed up in the earlier stupa.

Outside in the grounds of the temple complex is a small pool containing a number of turtles swimming around. This, asides from the stupa itself, was not surprisingly one of the most popular areas of the temple with all the visitors.

Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple

This one was quite different to any of the others we'd been to at that point and, I think, of any Buddhist temples I've visited in any country because the Buddha is housed in a large metal roofed pavilion like construction rather than a more typical temple building. This beautiful reclining Buddha (not the first of these I've seen on my travels in South East Asia) is a massive 213 feet long and is one of the largest in Myanmar. I think you'll agree that he has a particularly graceful face and the statue is completed with his kind glass eyes and a crown encrusted with diamonds and other precious stones. Whilst this reclining Buddha is very different in appearance to the famous golden one I've seen a couple of times in Bangkok it's no less impressive and the decoration on the soles of his feet (just like the reclining Buddha's feet in Bangkok) is quite beautiful.

The beautifully decorated feet of the reclining Buddha

This was the temple where we also met the most stray temple cats so, of course, I had to take a couple of photos of them all. This first little one wasn't waking up for anyone but the others lapped up the fuss from the visiting tourists but, like all cats, only when it suited them to do so.

Ngahtatgyi Pagoda

Our final temple visit was to one just a short walk from the Chaukhtatgyi Buddha temple and is another with a huge highly decorated Buddha. This one sits in calm repose decorated in his gold robes with plenty of precious stones decorating them. All of the temples we went to that day were quiet with each seeming to have less and less tourists and instead more and more of the locals worshipping and going about their daily lives. At this one we were the only tourists, in fact there was hardly anyone else there. Maybe that was just luck or maybe it was because it was getting late in the day, whatever the reasons this made it all the more special and peaceful as we climbed the steps, approached the entrance and were greeted by the sight of the serene Buddha.

The temple is in the Ashay Tawya monastery and, just as the reclining Buddha at Chaukhtatgyi Buddha temple is, this one is also housed in a large iron pavilion type structure. Measuring nearly fourteen metres high the Buddha sits with his back to an ornately carved wooden screen, you can just about make out a little of it in my photo below. Whilst the reclining Buddha had a kind, loving, welcoming face and was very special this temple was so peaceful that it was definitely my favourite of the three.

Visiting Shwedagon pagoda is a definite must if you are in Yangon but, if you can, try and visit a few of the other temples dotted around the city too. Having the chance to visit these three provided a peacefulness that perhaps isn't so easy to find (at least as a tourist) at the Shwedagon pagoda. As we were soon to be leaving Yangon for Bagan, another place full of pagodas, some of which are also incredibly busy with visitors too it was nice to know there are still some more intimate ones to be discovered as well.


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