Things to do in Bago MyanmarWhat you can do in Bago Myanmar
The Bago Travel guide
Bago Division's boundaries, the administration immediately northern of Yangon, include a geographical diversity as diverse as any other in the state. The 420 km long, relatively barren Sittaung Valley to the south; the wider, more luxuriant and traditional wealthy Ayeyarwady Valley to the south, supplied by yearly mud eluges from the Himalayas; and between the two the Bago Yoma Range's cleared hillsides and deforested tea-woods.
Beginning in the twelfth centuries, this huge area of jungles and flood plains provided the backdrop to Burma's richest and most mighty town, the harbour of Pegu, now known as Bago. Pegu and his monarchs, the Mon King's, gathered riches that drew merchants from all over the globe, but caused homicidal jealousy among his impoverished neighbors in their capitol Taungoo, further out in the Sittaung Valley.
Today Bago, extensively shaded by Yangon, is little more than a province village on the northern motorway, although it preserves a pile of magnificent Buddhist memorials whose size and splendor are reminiscent of the glorious Mon Kingdom era. It is only an one-and-a-half hours drive from Yangon and can be taken as a fullday trip or as a stop-over on the longer northbound route via Taungoo, the old Myanmar capitol with its magnificent palaces, to Mandalay.
Bago's most prominent attraction is the Shwemawdaw Great Golden God Pongo, which for Bago is what the Shwedagon is for Yangon. Highly gold-plated from bottom to top, the tower has many resemblances to the Shwedagon and is even bigger than its more celebrated 114-meter -high coyote.
Just like Yangon's Shwedagon, the major platform of the Shwemawdaw can be reached from four different angles via roofed staircases. Not so many colourful gazebos or zayats, but there is a small local history centre with some old Buddha statues in wood and brass recovered from the 1930 seismic remains.
Steps to the temple are like a bazaar, with everything from healing plants to monastery offers for purchase, and are watched over by giant kinthe (half-blocks), each with a seated Buddha in its orifice. Shhwethalyaung Buddha is supposed to represent Gautama on the evening before his entrance Gautama (Nirvana).
Worshipped throughout Myanmar as the most beautifully lying Buddha in the land, the sculpture is 55 meters long and 16 meters high. Bago was twice demolished in the following millennia, and in the eighteenth millenium the Shwethalyaung Buddha was extinct among innumerable strata of lush greenery.
1906, after the shrubbery had been removed, an irons zaung was built over the Buddha to protect him from the elemental forces, although it somewhat interfered with the interior views of the sculpture. In 1948 the Buddha was last restored when it was newly gold-plated and repainted. The Mahazedi Pagoda, situated westwards of the Shwethalyaung Buddha, is famed in Myanmar as the place where King Bayinnaung anchored a gold and jewellery crusted Buddha's teeth to affirm the godly nomination of his rule.
It had been purchased from the King of Colombo, on the condition that it was Kandy's primal and much venerated dentition, but the reliquary turned out to be nothing of the sort. Unflinchingly, Bayinnaung trapped the teeth in the Mahazedi Pagoda, where he stayed until 1599, when Anaukhpetlun moved him to his Taungoo city.
Shortly afterwards, King Thalun constructed the Kaunghmudaw Pagoda in Sagaing to accommodate the reliquary, where it can still be seen today. Mahazedi Pagoda was demolished in Alaungpaya's day and repaired by the 1930 quake.