A prayer for the new year in Yangon

By Thang Ngo

It’s the Opera House of Sydney, the Empire State of New York, the Great Wall of China – you can’t visit Myanmar/Burma without visiting its most famous and stunning icon. Standing some 99m high, the golden pagoda is visible from many parts of the city, by day and especially by night.

shwedagon pagoda yangon myanmar

Shwedagon Pagoda has been a key feature in Myanmar’s history, plundered by the Portuguese in 1600s, occupied by the British during both Anglo-Burmese Wars of 1920s and 1850s, when it remained under British control for some 77 years. And it’s been the focal point for many political demonstrations including the September 2007 in support of democracy and Aung San Suu Kyi.

It’s obvious this place has special significance not just to interested visitors like me, but also for locals who flock here to offer prayers. 

shwedagon pagoda yangon myanmar

It’s New Year’s Eve, so I wanted to make my own pilgrimage and make my own prayers for 2014. Upon first contact (you have to come barefoot), it’s obvious that this is sacred space and I’m struck by how much history and change it has witnessed over the years. And, I can’t help but imagine the changes to come as Myanmar opens up even further. Even tonight, I’m seeing the changes, while most men still wear the elegant longyi, the younger generation are adopting more practical western jeans.

shwedagon pagoda yangon myanmar

I take a seat and watch the people circle the pagoda, in a touching and fascinating stream of prayers. And I too, send my own prayers for the new year, for myself, my loved ones, and these gentle people who have been so incredibly kind and welcoming to a tourist like me.

I hope my prayers are captured by these people as they circle Shwedagon Pagoda, sweeping my prayers with them and sending them closer to the Buddha.

Watch the noodlies, Sydney food blog video below to see the many faces of modern Myanmar move by, monks in purple robes, older people in longyis, couples, tourists and a younger generation in western clothing. It’s fascinating.

Myanmar is fascinating.

This unforgettable noodlies, Sydney food blog experience is thanks to the lovely folks at Cathay Pacific and Dragon Air.