According to our guide book, the Shwedagon Pagoda is the most stunning monument to religion in South East Asia. It is probably true. What makes Shwedagon Paya special is the fact that you are not in front of ruins visited by thousands of tourists you are in front of a lively monument where every day Buddhists go to pray and pay their devotion.
To visit the Shwedagon Paya tourists have to pay a 5 dollars fee and in returen you receive a sticker to put on your T shirt that is valid the all day. So if you plan to visit the Pagoda at different times during the day, do it on the very same day (you will learn that you always need cash in Myanmar, don’t waste it).
I believe the best moment to visit the Paya is at the sunset when the sunlight hits the golden stupa in that special way creating thousand reflections. At that time you can still enjoy the stupa on the daylight and wait for the night to come and live the spectacular effect of the gold in the darkness…did we visit it at the sunset? We didn’t, of course. We travel learning by our mistakes.
We visited Shwedagon the first day around 10 in the morning and it was very very hot and the stupa was so bright that was not easy to look at it. The second day we spent an hour walking around the stupa just before closing time and it was one of the best experience in my life. The floor was still warm but not hot and walking barefoot made me feel good and relaxed, people were praying in silence or chatting each other, kids were running around, candles were burning, Buddhas shining in the darkness.