Evening at Shwedagon

Evening at Shwedagon

As you read this, I’ll be taking the 8-hour USMLE Step 1 boards. That brings us to the end of our sanity update run, and I’m going to take some time off – it might take a while to readjust to daylight, walking, and talking English as opposed to the bastardized Latin of my peers. There’s an adventure and a small (judicial history, believe it or not) project planned for the next few weeks, then July brings the start of my PhD thesis research. Back in action at last!

Thank you all for sticking with me thusfar – I’ll see what can be done about future adventure updates. Take care!


Today formally kicks off our final exams, at last! Of course, no sooner do we finish these than we enter dedicated study for the USMLE Step 1 exam. Oh joy.

Shrine Carver

The steps to Shwedagon Pagoda are lined by peddlers of everything from sandals to bells and buddhas. The statuettes often come with gilded sandalwood pedestals or miniature shrines, which – where space it is at a premium – are carved, painted, and sold on location.


Shwedagon Night

Shwedagon Night
Hundreds of thousands of gold foil squares are riveted to the pagoda, so at night it lights up like a flame over the city. From each minute to the next, the colors shift.

Anatomy of a Stupa

Inside one of the plentiful shrines and towers of the Shwedagon temple complex, I found one in which the supporting structure hadn’t been bricked and gilded over. The contrast of minimalist teal and lathe with the traditionally ornate, bejeweled angels lent the pagoda something of the Met’s ambiance.

In truth, I’m not sure whether that would really be the understructure of a stupa. It looks a bit more like what’s called the “umbrella,” but my knowledge of Buddhist statuary & architecture is too limited to be sure.

Shwedagon Twilight

Buddhist shrines were once lit by candlelight, but in the wake of several fires, most have switched to electric lighting when available. A well-heeled shrine sports nearly as much neon as the Vegas strip. Shwedagon Pagoda (Myanmar’s best known shrine) is no exception, so the famous gold-leafed stupa rises above a flashing neon sea of enshrined statues and relics.