Teetering on bamboo scaffolding, expert craftsmen are busy attaching blocks of gold to a Buddhist pagoda in downtown Yangon, burnishing one of the city’s major landmarks and racking up spiritual credit for devotees. The five-yearly renovation at the Sule Pagoda sees the monument shed its weather-damaged frontage. It is re-clad in several hundred solid gold plates — each costing around $1,100 — and thousands of squares of gold leaf. The cost is significant in the impoverished Southeast Asian nation, but for devout Buddhists, donations to pagodas — as well as monasteries and charitable causes — are an essential way to make “merit”, a sort of credit for pious living. “This is our spiritual belief that people worship at the pagoda, wishing for the best for their future, their family,” said Aye, a Sule trustee board member, who like many Burmese goes by one name. The regilding, which began in December, is due to be completed by the end of March.