On our first day in Yangon Myanmar, we decided to walk from our hotel to the iconic Shwedagon Pagoda in the north of the city.
Shwedagon Pagoda is the most important religious site in Yangon city. It is said to have been built almost 2600 yearws ago (although there is some disagreement about that date). If Shwedagon Pagoda was built 2600 years ago, it would be the oldest Buddhist Pagoda in the world. 2500 years ago 8 hairs of Buddha were enshrined here.
At the south entrance there is an official tourist entrance. Tourist pay a higher entrance fee, which is fair. It cost us 10,000 Kyat each to enter (around $10USD). You have to leave your shoes and socks here with a lady who will give you a bottle of water in return (as well as a face mask to prevent Coronavirus). We then had to put our bags through a scanner before boarding the elevator to the top of Shwedagon pagoda.
We weren’t entirely sure about which direction to walk around the pagoda, so we decided to follow the majority of people, and walk clockwise around the large golden stupa.
Around the main stupa there are many smaller shrines and figures. At 8 locations dotted around the main pagoda, you will find tiny shrines with days of the week written above them. Mahabote is an ancient branch of Burmese astrology, and much like the Babylonian astrological signs (Aries, Scorpio, Cancer etc.) certain attributes are attached to each sign. Depending on which day of the week you were born, you would visit and offer prayers to the corresponding shrine.
Note: in the Burmese calander there are 8 days (Wednesday is divided into am/pm) because the number 8 in Myanmar is associated with balance and equilibrium.
If you are born on a Monday, you are the Tiger. The tiger is associated with the moon, the element of earth (rock) and the colour white. Tigers are idealistic, loving and creative.
If you are born on a Tuesday, you are the Lion. The lion is associated with the planet mars, the element of air (breeze), and the colour crimson. Tigers are strong, courageous and proactive.
Wednesday morning is associated with the tusked elephant, as well as the planet mercury, the element of water (clear) and the colour green. Tusked elephants are intelligent and communicative travellers.
Wednesday afternoon is the tuskless elephant, associated with the planet Rahu (a celestial body in Hindu texts), the colour brown and the element of air (storm). They are versatile and unconventional.
Thursday is the mouse, associated with the planet jupiter and the element of earth (soft), and the colour yellow. Mice are truthful, philosophical and objective.
Friday is the guinea pig, associated with Venus, water (muddy) and off-white. Guinea pigs are artistic, affectionate and spontaneous.
If you are born on Saturday, you are the Naga (a dragon-like serpent). Associated with the planet saturn, the element of fire (flame) and the colour black. Nagas are responsible, disciplined and structured.
Finally we come to Sunday. Sunday is the Garuda (a winged and beaked create that Vishnu rides). Associated with the planet venus, fire (live coal) and the colour red. Garudas are independent, ambitious and authoritative.
YOU CAN GOOGLE YOUR BIRTHDAY AND IT WILL TELL YOU WHICH DAY OF THE WEEK YOU ARE BORN.
We wandered around the many shrines and temples here for hours, and made sure to visit our day of the week shrines (Jives is a guinea pig and I am a mouse).
We also visited the KBZ (a bank exchange booth). There are very few places in Myanmar that are reputable money exchanges, but the currency exchange booth at Shwedagon Pagoda is one of those places. You can also visit a KBZ bank branch in the city, but that requires a few more steps.