Shwezigon Pagoda, Bagan

The golden pagoda
The golden stupa of Shwezigon Pagoda.

The first great king of Bagan - Anawrahta - founded Bagan's most important shrine: the Shwezigon Pagoda. Although the king started construction of the stupa in 1060, he died before it was completed. It was left to his son, King Kyansittha, to complete construction around 1089.

The site for the stupa was chosen by the king in what may seem an unusual manner. A white elephant was let loose, and the temple was construction at the place where it chose to rest. This was the same method used to chose the site for the temple of Doi Suthep in Thailand.

The core of the stupa is built with stone blocks. According to legend, the stones were bought from the base of Tuyintaung Hill via a human chain. Devotees lined up for the entire six mile (10 kilometer) route from the hill to the site of the temple, and passed the stones from hand to hand to bring them to the stupa.

The other buildings and chapels around the Shwezigon Pagoda The other buildings and chapels around the Shwezigon Pagoda

Note: Like all temples in Myanmar, you must remove your shoes and socks before entering the temple compound. Your best bet is to wear a simple pair of sandles, as the Burmese do. Generally, it's considered "bad form" to carry your shoes into the temple. Lockers are often provided at the more popular temples.