Heart stopping at any time, the Shwedagon Paya : glitters bright gold in the heat of the day. Then, as the sun casts its last rays it turns a crimson gold and orange, magic floats in the heat and the mighty diamond surmounting the summit casts a beam of light that reflects sheet white, bloody red and jealous green to the far corners of the temple platform. It can be quiet and contemplative or colourful and raucous, and for the people of Myanmar it is the most sacred of all Buddhist sites, one that all Myanmar Buddhists hope to visit at least once in their lifetime.
Visible from almost anywhere in the city, Shwedagon is located to the north of central Yangon, between People's Park and Kandawgyi.
The admission fee, which goes to the government, includes a lift ride to the raised platform of the stupa. Of course, like most local visitors, you may walk up one of the long graceful entrances, by far the more exciting method of entry. There's also a $5 camera fee, not always enforced. The north gate is especially photogenic at night.
For more on the history of the paya
There are four covered walkways up Sin-guttara Hill to the platform on which Shwedagon stands. The southern entrance, from Shwedagon Pagoda Rd, is the one that can most properly be called the main entrance. Here, and at the northern entrance, there are lifts available, should you not feel fit enough for the stroll up the stairs. The western entrance features a series of escalators in place of stairs, and is the only entrance without vendors. The eastern stairway has the most traditional ambience, passing adjacent kyaung (monasteries) and vendors selling monastic requisites.
Two 30ft-high chinthe (legendary half-lion, half-dragon guardian figures) loom over the southern entrance. You must remove your shoes and socks as soon as you mount the first step. Like the other entrances, the southern steps are lined with a series of shops, where devotees buy flowers - both real and beautifully made paper ones - for offerings. Buddha images, ceremonial paper umbrellas, books, golden thrones, incense sticks, ivory combs and antiques are also on sale. However hot it may be outside, you'll find the walkway cool, shady and calm. It's this quiet, subdued atmosphere on the entrance steps that makes the impact so great as you arrive at the platform. You emerge from semi-gloom into a deaf-ening explosion of technicoloured glitter - for Shwedagon is not just one huge, glowing zedi (stupa). Around the mighty stupa cluster an incredible assortment of smaller zedi, stat-ues, temples, shrines, images and tazaung (small pavilions). Somehow, the bright gold of the main stupa makes everything else seem brighter and larger than life.
Stupas - indeed, all Buddhist structures -should be walked around clockwise, so turn left at the top of the steps and, like the crowds of locals, start strolling. During the heat of the day you'll probably have to confine yourself to the mat pathway laid around the platform -unless your bare feet can take the heat of the uncovered marble paving.
THE STUPA & ITS TREASURES
The hill on which the stupa stands is 190ft above sea level and the platform covers over 12 acres. Prior to the British takeover of southern Myanmar there had been defensive earthworks around the paya, hut these were considerably extended by the British. The emplacements for their cannons can still be seen outside the outer wall.
The main stupa, which is completely solid, rises from its platform in a fairly standard pattern. First there is the plinth, which stands 21ft above the clutter of the main platform and immediately sets Shwedagon above the lesser structures. Smaller stupas sit on this raised platform level - four large ones mark the four cardinal directions, lour medium-sized ones mark the four corners of the basically square platform and 60 small ones run around the perimeter.
From this base, the zedi rises first in three terraces, then in the 'octagonal' terraces and then in five circular bands - together these elements add another 98ft to the stupa's height. A standard architectural problem associated with stupas is how to change from the square base to the circular upper elements. Here, as in many other zedi in Myanmar, that transition is achieved with the help of the octagonal sections, which make a transition from the horizontal design of these lower elements to the smooth vertical flow of the bell.
The shoulder of the bell is decorated with 16 'flowers'. The bell is topped by the 'inverted bowl', another traditional element of stupa architecture, and above this stand the mouldings and then the 'lotus petals'. These consist of a band of down-turned petals, followed by a band of up-turned petals.
The banana bud is the final element ol the zedi before the hti tops it. Like the lotus petals below, the banana bud is actually covered with no fewer than 13,153 plates of gold, measuring 1 sq ft each - unlike the lower elements, which are merely covered with gold leaf. The seven- tiered hti is made of iron and again plated with gold. Even without the various hanging bells, it weighs well oyer a ton.
The htitiers descend in size from bottom to top, and from the uppermost tier projects the shaft, which is hung with gold bells, silver bells and various items of jewellery. The topmost vane, with its flag, turns with the wind. It is gold- and silver-plated and studded with 1100 diamonds totalling 278 carats - not to mention 1383 other stones. Finally, at the very top of the vane rests the diamond orb -a hollow golden sphere studded with 4351 diamonds, weighing 1800 carats in total. The very top of the orb is tipped with a single 76-carat diamond.
AROUND THE STUPA
The mighty central zedi, regilded every year, is only one of many structures on the hilltop platform. Reaching the platform from the southern stairway, you encounter the first shrine, which is to Konagamana, the second buddha. Almost beside the shrine stand the planetary posts for Mercury. If you were born on a Wednesday morning (as was the Buddha), then this is your post, and the tusked elephant is your animal sign. Continuing around the plinth, you pass a double-bodied lion with a man's face, a laughing necromancer with his hands on his head, and an earth goddess. At the southwestern corner of the plinth, you reach the planetary post for Saturn. Come here if you were born on a Saturday; your animal sign is the naga (serpent being). The pavilion di-rectly opposite has 28 images to represent the 28 previous buddhas.
Back towards the southwest corner of the platform is a monument with inscriptions in four languages, recounting a 1920 student revolt against British rule. Continuing around the platform, you come to a glass case with two figures of nut - one is of the guardian nat of Shwedagon Paya. Close to these figures is a prayer hall, quite bare inside but with fine woodcarving on the terraced roof. It is known as the Rakhaing Tazaung, as it was donated by brokers from the Rakhaing (Arakan) coast bordering Bangladesh. A 26ft-long reclining buddha can be seen in the next prayer hall. Next to this is the Chinese Merchants' Ta/aung, with a variety of buddha figures in different poses.
On the plinth opposite this prayer hall are figures of Mai Lamu and the king of the nat, the parents of King Okkalapa who, according to the legend, originally enshrined the Buddha hairs here. The figures stand on top ol each other. The western adoration hall was built in 1841 but was destroyed in the fire that swept the Zfdi platform in 1931. The planetary posts for the Thursday-born (29 and 30) stand to the right and left of this pavilion: your planet is Jupiter and your animal sign is the rat. A figure of King Okkalapa can be seen further to the left, on the zedi plinth.
Directly opposite the west adoration hall is the Two Pice Ta/aung located at the head ol the western stairway. The low pavilion next to the entrance was built by manufacturers of monastery requirements - in contrast to the rather Chinese-looking roof. Next along is a pavilion , with tall columns and thepyatthat (wooden, multiroofed pavilion) rising from the upper roof. Almost opposite this tazaung, at the northwestern corner of the main zedi, is the planetary post for those born on Wednesday afternoon, whose animal symbol is the tuskless elephant, and whose planet is Yahu (Rahu, a mythical planet in Hindu astrology that allegedly causes eclipses).
As the sun goes down you can see red, green and yellow light reflecting off a diamond halfway up the paya from two exact spots on the western edge of the complex. Look for a couple of small markers on the ground, though you'll probably need someone to point them out to you.
A small stupa with a golden spire has eight niches around its base, each with a buddha image. Between the niches are figures of animals and birds - they represent the eight directions of the compass and the associated sign, planet and day of the week. To get over the small complication of having an Eight Day Stupa and a seven day week, Wednesday is divided into Wednesday morning and Wednesday afternoon.
Wishes & Floating Bells
Close to this small Eight Day Stupa stands the bell pavilion housing the 23-ton Maha Ganda Bell. Cast between 1775 and 1779, it was carted off by the British after the First Anglo-Burmese War in 1825. The British dropped it into the Yangon River while trying to get it to the port for shipping to England. After repeatedly trying to raise it from the river bottom, they gave up and told the people of Myanmar they could have the bell back if they could get it out of the river. The locals placed logs and bamboo beneath the hell until it eventually floated to the surface.
Venturing back into the open area of the platform, you come to the star-shaped 'wish-fulfilling place, where there will often be devotees, kneeling down and looking towards the great stupa, praying that their wishes come true.
The large pavilion across from the bell pavilion houses a 30ft-high buddha image and is often used for public meetings. Behind this pavilion stands a small shrine with a highly revered 'wonder-working' buddha image covered in gold leaf. From the northwestern corner of the platform you can look out over some of the British fortifications and the country to the north of the hill. There are also two banyan trees growing here, one ol them grown from a cutting from the actual tree at Bodhgaya in India, under which the Buddha sat and was enlightened.
Among the cluster of buildings on this side of the platform is the Chinese prayer hall , with good woodcarvings and Chinese dragon figures on the sides of the zedi in front of it. The adjacent pavilion has life-size figures of Indians guarding the side and front en-trance doors. No-one quite understands their relevance or that of the very British lions that guard the next pavilion.
In 1824 a force of Myanmar Tnvulnerables' fought their way up the northern stairs to the entrance of the platform before being repulsed by the better-armed British forces occupying the paya. The crocodile-like stair banister dates from 1460. The Martyrs' Mausoleum of Bogyoke Aung San and his compatriots stands on the western side of the hill reached from this stairway.
Walking back towards the stupa, you pass the pavilion built on the site where the great zedi's hti, provided by King Mindon Min, was placed before being raised to the zedi summit. The Hair Relics Well was located at the position of the Sandawdwin Tazaung ; on the opposite side of the paya) and is said to reach right down to the level of the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River and to be fed from it; the Buddha hairs were washed in this well before being enshrined in the zedi. In the northern adoration hall , the main image is of Gautama, the historical Buddha. On either side of the hall stand planetary posts for Friday ,domain of the planet Venus, and the guinea pig or mole.
Modelled after the Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya, India, the temple a few steps away is distinctly different from the general style of buildings on the platform. A small gilded zedi stands next to this temple, and next again is another 'two-pice' tazaung enshrining a 200-year-old buddha image. An opening behind this image is, according to legend, the entrance to a passage that leads to the chamber housine the Buddha hair relics. Although seen from the 'two-pice' tazaung, the buddha image is actually in the adjacent stupa.
Izza-Gawna (which means 'goat-bullock') was a legendary monk whose powers enabled him to replace his lost eyes with one from a goat and one from a bullock. In his pavilion , the figure off to the left of the main buddha image has eyes of unequal size as a reminder of this unique feat. The golden Elder Stupa ( also known as the Naungdawgyi Stupa) is built on the spot where the hair relics were first placed before being enshrined in the great zedi. A straight line drawn from the centre of this stupa to the centre of Shwedagon would pass through the small stupa reputed to be the entrance to the passage that leads to the relic chamber. Women are not allowed to ascend to the platform around the Elder Stupa.
Back in the corner of the platform is the Dhammazedi inscription , which dates from 1485 and was originally installed on the eastern stairway. It tells in three languages - Pali, Mon and Burmese - the story of Shwedagon.
Cast in 1841, King Tharawaddy Min's bell is housed in an elegant pavilion (. The Maha Titrhadaganda (three-toned bell) weighs 42 tons. Note the ceiling made of lacquer inlaid with glass. If you look closely, you can also discern red-billed green parrots nearly hidden in the scrolling among the devas (celestial beings). The adjacent small pavilion has some good panels of woodcarvings. Back on the main platform the planetary post for those born on Sunday (the sun) stands at the northeastern corner of the stupa platform. The bird-like creature beneath the post is the Garuda of Hindu-Buddhist mythology, called galoun in Burmese. Further around you will see golden Shan umbrellas among the plinth shrines; there is also one over the Friday planetary post near the northern pavilion.
Facing the eastern stairway, the eastern shrine hall is said to be the most beautiful on the platform. It was renovated in 1869, but destroyed by the 1931 fire and subsequently rebuilt. The main image is that of Kakusandha, the first buddha. The eastern stairway is the longest and is lined with shops selling everyday articles as well as religious goods and antiques. On either side of the hall, the people who were born on Monday worship at the planetary posts ruled over by the moon and the tiger.
The graceful U Nyo pavilion , beside the eastern entrance, has a series of interesting woodcarved panels illustrating events in the life of Gautama Buddha. The prayer post close to the southeastern corner of the zcdi is topped by a mythological hintha bird. An interesting bell hangs near this prayer post. Opposite these on the zcdi plinth is the planetary post for Tuesday , presided over by the lion and the planet Mars.
In the corner of the platform stands another sacred banyan tree , also said to be grown from a branch of the original tree under which Gautama Buddha gained enlightenment in India. There is a good view from this corner of the platform over Yangon and across the Yangon River towards Thanlyin. On a clear day, you can see the Kyaik-khauk Paya, just beyond Thanlyin. The paya trustees have their office on this side of the platform, and there's also a small curio museum . In front of the museum is a pavilion with very fine woodcarvings. There is also a revolving hti and a telescope, possibly for looking at the real hti on top of the zcdi.
Beside the southern shrine , the first stop on this circular tour, stairs lead up onto the zedi plinth. With permission from the paya trustees, men only are allowed to climb up to the plinth terrace. Men come up here to meditate; the terrace is about 20ft wide - a circular walkway between the great zedi and its 68 surrounding zedi. Behind the eastern shrine is a buddha image known as the Tawa-gu, which is reputed to work miracles.
It's not every city whose primary traffic circle is occupied by a 2000-year-old golden temple. Surrounded by government buildings and commercial shops, the tall zcdi at Sule Paya ,Sule Paya & Mahabandoola Rds; admission $2) is another example of the strange incongruity of the Yangon cityscape. Yet, it's this mix of modern Asian business life melding with ancient Bamar tradition that is the highlight of the Sule Paya. Early evening, just after the sun has gone down, is the most atmospheric time to both visit the temple and make a turn of the streets surrounding it when all the workers rush off home for the night. Many take the time to pause by the Sule Paya to pray and meditate on the day's events.
The central stupa's name, Kyaik Athok, translates in the Mon language as 'the stupa where a Sacred Hair Relic is enshrined'. As with many other ancient Myanmar shrines, it has been rebuilt and repaired many times over the centuries, so no-one really knows exactly when it was built.
The golden zedi is unusual in that its oc-tagonal shape continues right up to the bell and inverted bowl. It stands 151ft high and is surrounded by small shops and all the familiar nonreligious activities that seem to be a part of every zedi in Myanmar. Besides its significance as a landmark and meeting place, maybe its most mundane function is as a milestone from which all addresses to the north are measured.
One of Yangon's 'big three' payas, and said to contain hair relics of the Buddha, the Botataung Paya was named after the 1000 military leaders who escorted relics of the Buddha from India to Myanmar over 2000 years ago (Bo means leader, usually in a military sense, and tataung means 1000). For one six-month period this paya is said to have harboured all eight strands of the Buddha's hair before they were distributed elsewhere. It's not as breathtaking as the Shwedagon, or as striking for being so out-of-place like Sule Paya, but Botataung's spacious riverfront location and lack of crowds give it a more down-to-earth spiritual feeling than the other two.
Its proximity to fresh air and the Yangon wharves were less fortuitous when a bomb from an Allied air raid in November 1943 scored a direct hit on the unfortunate paya. After the war the Botataung was rebuilt in a very similar style to its predecessor, but with one important and unusual difference: unlike most zedi, which are solid, the Botataung is hollow, and you can walk through it. There's a sort of mirrored maze inside the stupa, with glass showcases containing many of the ancient relics and artefacts, including small silver-and-gold buddha images, which were sealed inside the earlier stupa. Reconstruction also revealed a small gold cylinder holding two small body relics and a strand of hair, said to be that of the Buddha's, which is reputedly still in the stupa. Above this interesting interior, the golden stupa spire rises to 131ft.
To the western side of the stupa is a hall containing a large gilded bronze buddha, cast during the reign of King Mindon Min. At the time of the British annexation, it was kept in King Thibaw Min's glass palace, but after King Thibaw was exiled to India, the British shipped the image to London. In 1951 the image was returned to Myanmar and placed in the Botataung Paya. Also on the grounds is a nut pavilion containing images of Thurathadi (the Hindu deity Saraswati, goddess of learn-ing and music) and Thagyamin (Indra, king of the nut) flanking the thoroughly Myanmar nat Bohogyi.
There's also a large pond full of hundreds of terrapins. Most are fairly small but every now and again a truly monstrous one sticks its head oul of the water.
A short walk from Botataung Paya at Botataung jetty, you can watch ferryboats and oared water taxis cross the Yangon River.
Fifty years ago there was a giant standing buddha poking his head above the temples and monasteries here, but one day he got tired and collapsed into a heap on the floor, whereupon he was replaced with the monster-sized lazy reclining buddha you see today. One of Myanmar's more beautiful reclining buddhas, the placid face of the Chaukhtatgyi Buddha is topped by a crown encrusted in diamonds and other precious stones. Housed in a large metal-roofed shed, only a short distance northeast of the Shwedagon Paya, this huge figure is surprisingly little known and hardly publicised at all. Close to the buddha' s feet is the small shrine to Ma Thay, a holy man who has the power to stop rain and grant sailors a safe journey. Fortune-tellers on the sur-rounding platform offer astrological and palm readings.
Attached to the temple complex is the Shweminwon Sasana Yeiktha Meditation Centre, where large numbers of locals gather to meditate. It's not hard to find someone to show you around the adjoining monasteries, which until the protests of September 2007 housed 500 monks bill now provide a home for only 300 - many of them returned to a civilian life where it's easier to hide trom the authorities.
Kaba Aye Paya
When the designers were asked to come up with a suitable blueprint for the 'world peace' zedi, which was built for the 1954-56 Sixth Buddhist Synod, they obviously decided that Mickey Mouse and friends were the epitome of world peace, because this paya has an un-couth, Oisneyesque feel and look to it. The 112ft-high paya also measures 1 1 2tt around its base. It stands about 5 miles north of the city centre, a little beyond the Renaissance Inya Lake Hotel. The interior of the monument is hollow and contains some nice Buddhist sculptures, including a Id-myet-hna (four-sided Buddha sculpture).
Maha Pasana Guha
The 'great cave' is a totally artificial one, built close to the Kaba Aye Paya. It was here that the Sixth Buddhist Synod was held in 1954-56 to coincide with the 2500th anniversary of the Buddha's enlightenment. It looks even tackier than the next-door Kaba Aye Paya, This enormous cave (meas-uring 456ft by 371ft; it can accommodate up to 10,000 people) took only 14 months to build. It helped that they had 63,000 la-bourers. The cave is still used to hold grand religious ceremonies.
Maha Wizaya (Vijaya) Paya
Linked by a pedestrian bridge to the Shwe-dagon complex's southern gate, the Maha Wizaya is unavoidably dull in comparison. It's a rather plain but well-proportioned zedi built in 1980 to commemorate the unification of Theravada Buddhism in Myanmar. The king of Nepal contributed sacred relics for the zedi's relic chamber and Myanmar military strongman Ne Win had it topped with an 1 1 -level hti -two more levels than the hti at Shwedagon.
F'oreign media and some locals often refer to the monument as 'Ne Win's paya', due to Ne Win's involvement in the project (a com-mon practice among top military figures). However, many Myanmar citizens resent this phrase, pointing out that, as the zedi was built by donations from the people, it should rightfully be called the 'people's paya'.
Other Paya, Temples & Shrines
South of the Chaukhtatgyi Paya is a gorgeous seated buddha image at the Ngahtatgyi Paya . Sitting in calm gold and white repose with a healthy splash of precious stones to boot, it's one of the most impressive sitting buddhas in southern Myanmar. In fact it's worth going to see for its carved wooden backdrop alone. In Kyemyindaing (also called Kyimyindine and Kemmedine), in the west of the city, there's another huge seated buddha over in the Kohtatgyi Paya; it stands (or sits) 66ft high. There are many monasteries in the vicinity. Kyemyindaing also has a busy night market.
Near the airport, the Me la Mu Paya : has a series of images of the Buddha in his previous incarnations, and a reclining buddha image. The paya is named after the mother of King Okkalapa, the founder of the city of Dagon. In Insein, west of the airport, you'll find the five-storey Ah Lain Nga Sint Paya .
Near the International Buddhist University, between Kaba Aye Pagoda Rd and Thudhamar St, is wedding-cake shaped SweTaw Myat Paya (Buddha Tooth Relic Pagoda. Not that you'd ever know it, nor should it affect your appreciation of the paya architecturally, but it contains not just another tooth relic from the Buddha, but a replica of a relic brought from China in 1997 by pilgrims.
The Yau Kyaw Paya is a 30-minute drive northeast of the city centre, past the Kyaikkasan Paya. It's an interesting complex of buildings with tableaux depicting Buddhist legends, pet monkeys, deer and peacocks, and an interesting museum crammed full of Myanmar antiques. The paya is beside the Pazundaung Chaung in a rural setting.
At the time of writing, construction was almost complete on a replica of the Thatbyinnyu Paya, in the North Okkalapa section of Yangon; the Thatbyinnyu is the tallest structure in Bagan. It was due to open in 2009 - maybe.
For a change of scenery check out the dragons and incense of the Kheng Hock Keong (Map p98; Strand Rd; admission free; the largest Chinese temple in Yangon. Supported by a Hokkien association, the 100-year-old temple is most lively from around 6am to 9am when it's thronged with worshippers offering can-dles, flowers and incense to the Buddhist and Taoist altars within. Old men play Chinese checkers in the temple compound throughout the day. There is another, smaller, but equally interesting Chinese temple on nearby Mahabandoola Rd.
Jews. In the classic Sephardic style, it contains a bimah (platform holding the reading table) in the centre of the main sanctuary and a women's balcony upstairs. The wooden ceiling features the original blue-and-white Star of David motif.
Myanmar had around 2500 Jews - a combination of B'nai Israel, Cochin (Indian) and Iraqi heritages - until nationalisation in the 1960s and '70s, when many began leaving the country. Today there are no more than 25 or so Jews left in the country.
Several colourful Hindu temples can be found in the centre of the city, including Sri Kali, between 26th and 27th Sts, Sri Siva and the Sri Devi, all of which are sickeningly sweet temples following the classic South Indian style of god-lined towers. These are the centres for the footpath surrounding the circumt'erence oi Kandawgyi also runs alongside a busy road. Also known by its literal translation. Royal Lake (Dawgyi Kan), the lake seems at its most attractive at sunset, when the glittering Shwedagon is reflected in its calm waters. You'll find the best sunset view from the lake's eastern edge.
Several of the city's embassies, clinics and smaller hotels are in the lake's vicinity, the majority north of the lake, lust east of the Kandawgyi Palace Hotel, on the southern side of the lake, floats a Shin Upagot shrine. Upagot is a Bodhisattva or Buddhist saint who is said to protect human beings in moments of mortal danger.
The eastern side of the lake is dominated by a very expensive government-financed project including a small park and playground for children, as well as the fanciful or monstrous (depending on your taste) Karaweik, a reinforced concrete reproduction of a royal barge. Apart from being something of a local attraction in its own right, the Karaweik (Sanskrit for Garuda, the legendary bird-mount of the Hindu god-Vishnu) is also the name of a government-owned restaurant nearby. Traditional dance performances are held here in the evenings.
Inya Lake itself is hidden from street level view - a shame as a drive around the perimeter reveals only that something is probably on the other side of the earthen berms. The lake is roughly five times larger than Kandawgyi but to see actual water you must explore on foot and brave the powerful sun. There aren't many opportunities for shade, only scattered umbrellas, which are popular with young couples sneaking a little alone time.
Inya is north of the city, stretching between Pyay Rd to the west and Kaba Aye Pagoda Rd to the east. Certain areas along the lake-shore - occupied by state guesthouses and ministerial mansions - are off limits to the general public.
Before reclusive dictator Ne Win died in December 2002, he lived on University Ave Rd at one end of the lake while Aung San Suu Kyi, who at the time of research was still under house arrest at number 54, was at the other end. For years these two important figures in contemporary Myanmar history resided like powerful nut locked in a battle of wills.
Myanmar Gems Museum & Gems Market
Just north of Parami Rd, this government-owned museum is meant to impress - starting with the world's largest sapphire, which comes from Mogok (to the northeast of Mandalay). The sapphire measures 6.7in in height, and is nearly 261b in weight - this somehow translates to 63,000 carats. The museum also boasts the world's largest jade boulder, rough ruby, and star sap-phire. Other not-so-impressive claims include the only mineral with 'imperial' in its name. The Gems Market, essentially a government shop, is spread over the three lower floors, while the museum takes up the top floor. In a currently poor country famous for valuable resources, the museum offers an unintended lesson in beauty, politics and money.
Na-Gar Glass Factory
The glass factory : is an interesting place to explore, with lots of hand-blown glass on display in a surprisingly pleasant indoor-outdoor setting. It was this place that provided the huge, mesmerising eyes of the reclining Buddha at Chaukhtatgyi Paya. Unusual wineglasses, small vases and the like are also for sale.
The factory isn't signposted and is well hidden down a jungly driveway. Most taxi drivers in the downtown area aren't familiar with the factory, and it definitely helps if you tell them it's located in Hlaing (pronounced lie-eng) Township. At the time of research it was closed because of a lack of gas for the kiln. However we were assured it would reopen shortly. Best call ahead to make sure.
Opposite the Shwedagon Paya to the west, the People's Park : is a huge expanse of grass and trees, which is bisected by People's Square, a wide, socialist-style pedestrian promenade that is kept firmly out of bounds to the public. Near a set of fountains, just to the south of People's Square, is a children's playground area, and in the southeastern corner of the park there are a couple of armoured tanks on display. The entrance to the park is on the eastern side, by the Shwedagon Paya's western gate.
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