- It’s simply not possible to capture the size and the essence of what it’s like to visit Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda in a single photo. It’d be like trying to capture the essence of Vatican City in just one snap of the camera. But I can try. Believed to have been built originally more than 2,500 years ago, the Pagoda itself is just part of a larger religious complex on the 114-acre Singuttara Hill in Yangon. It’s also Myanmar’s holiest temple, believed to contain relics of the four previous Buddhas. At the center though is of course the Pagoda itself, standing more than 360 feet tall and covered with gold plates and encrusted with thousands of diamonds and other precious jewels. Arriving midweek in the morning, I found the complex still packed with people, all there to pray and offer their respect before continuing on with their day. In Myanmar, one’s shoes must be removed before entering temples or other sacred sites, which meant my exploration of this enormous complex was done barefoot, made easier though by the miles of marble flooring covering the entire site. I spent a fair amount of time at the Pagoda, walking the circuit around Shwedagon joined by thousands of worshippers doing the same thing. The morning was about so much more though than just admiring a world wonder in person, it was about getting to know Myanmar a little bit better. The Pagoda represents so many important hallmarks of Myanmar heritage - art, architecture, religion, values and so on. It forms the focus of religious and community activities for a reason, and spending the morning immersing myself in those traditions wasn’t just fun as a tourist, but important for me to do as a traveler.