Shwedagon Pagoda Monk street photography

20 Photos of the Spectacular Shwedagon Pagoda

Myanmar, Photo Essay, Street Photography, Yangon street photography

The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar, is a colossal religious complex that defies human scale. The temple is centered around a golden stupa that reaches 326 feet into the sky. It is estimated that up to 60 tons of gold comprise the spire, the top of which is inlaid with about 5000 diamonds, over 2000 rubies, sapphires and other precious stones, 1,065 golden bells, and a single 72-carat diamond. Around the pagoda are hundreds of buddha statues in various shapes and sizes and dozens of ornate pavilions and sub-temples, many of which would be worth a visit on their own.

Taking photos at the sprawling Shwedagon Pagoda can be overwhelming. Not only is it massive, but it is also buzzes with activity –  worshipers pour water over Buddha statues and light candles as a blessing, throngs of tourists walk around awestruck, and processions of pilgrims parade around the complex.

After being at the pagoda for about an hour, I stopped trying to capture the activity and  the scale, and instead focused on the details. Away from the main activity, I found monks meditating in Buddha niches, locals praying in pavilions, and people singing in quiet corners.

At first, I wondered if it were okay to take a photo of a person praying or pouring water on a statue, then I’d see them whip out a cell phone mid-prayer and fire off 27 selfies, adjusting hair and pose with each shot to get it right. I then realized that even though this holy site is thousands of years old, we are in the modern world where things are a little less reverent.

Shwedagon Pagoda Photo Gallery


Have you been to the Shwedagon Pagoda or any other major religious site? 

Follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook and if you’d like to see more of my photos from Yangon or around the world, check out my photo portfolio. 

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Currently living in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I travel, write, take photos, and stalk street cats. ~

22 thoughts on “20 Photos of the Spectacular Shwedagon Pagoda”

  1. Your photos are amazing! They remind me of my visits to Yangon in 2012 and 2015 — within that span of time the city had changed really fast while Shwedagon was pretty much the same. In my second visit I went with James and we had to run to get there because I noticed thick grey clouds moving fast from the east. We were sweating profusely as we walked around the pagoda compound. But as soon as we left Shwedagon heavy rain poured over the city.

    • I went to Yangon exactly two years ago, and even in that time things have changed a lot. All the old buses are gone, which I’m sure is great for the locals but those old ones were really photogenic 🙂 There is a new mall, but not many shoppers. Sadly, the old tourist textile market is closed.

      The joys of rainy season travel (rainy season life) in Asia. I am starting to learn about it. Luckily, we had perfect weather in Yangon during my visit. Bright, clear sun every day.

      • Bhutan is on my schedule for April, but it’s looking iffy at the moment. I should know more after the first of the year. I need weeks and weeks to really see what I want to in SE Asia, and right now I don’t have that kind of time, so I have to keep wasting hideously long flights and big $ on single countries. Someday …
        if I had to guess, I’d say we will do an extended trip in about 3-5 years. Meanwhile, I drool at posts like yours!

      • Understandable. It is a long way to get here and combining several countries into one journey is the best way to do it. Bhutan looks amazing – have you been reading Bama’s posts?

  2. You got some great shots! It’s such an amazing place. It had been on my bucket list for about 40 years (not exaggerating!) before I finally got there. it was worth the wait.

  3. Marilyn says:

    Amazing! Beautiful! Spectacular! Thank you so much for sharing. I enjoy traveling via your photography!

  4. Jeff, what I love about your photography in this post (and in general) is how it focuses on people and understanding places on a human scale. We do get a sense of the architectural finery of Shwedagon, but that is almost always the backdrop rather than the main subject. I absolutely loved it when I went there with Bama in 2015 – if I do return I’d be keen to try out more street photography and look for the odd cat pilgrim.

    • Thank you James. I think it was after my trip to Indonesia about 4 years ago that I started focusing on people. At first I didn’t understand anything about composition or how to approach people but I think I’m getting better although I have a lot to learn still. I was telling Bama in a comment that much has changed there since my visit two years ago, but Yangon still retains it character. Most of the changes are new buses and a new mall.

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  7. I visited the Shwedagon Pagoda a few years back and somebody was describing it as a Yangon Disneyland with all its lights and glamour. Classic photos of a cool place to backpack. Safe travels. Jonny

    • There are lots of kitsch and color and activity, but it has been there in some form for 2000 years! Thanks for the comments.

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