Bago is a town little visited by tourists located about 90 kilometers North East of Yangon. The town has a long and rich history. It is believed to have been founded by the Mon people in the 6th century during which days the city was known as Pegu.
Bago was the capital of the Mon Kingdom Hanthawaddy until halfway the 16th century, after which it became the capital of the Taungoo Kingdom until 1599.
When the Mon revolted against the Burmese in 1757, the city was completely destroyed by the armies of King Alaungpaya of the Konbaung dynasty. The city was rebuild, but did not regain its importance.
Prophecy of the Buddha
According to legend, the Buddha who once travelled in the area saw a couple of Hintha birds flying across the waters looking for a resting place. The male bird landed on the only available spot which was just large enough for one bird, upon which the female perched on top of the male bird. Upon seeing this, the Buddha foretold that one day a city would prosper at this location.
A beautiful depiction of the prophecy can be seen at the Hintha Gon Paya, a monastery named after the Hintha bird located on top of a small hill, a few hundred meters East of the Shwemawdaw Paya. A mural shows the Buddha pointing at the two birds, the female bird perching on top of the male one. Several images of the Hintha bird, the symbol of Bago, can be seen around town.
To do & see in Bago
Due to its rich history, Bago houses many historical sites worth a visit including some of the most remarkable Buddhist monasteries in the country.
Reconstructed palace of King Bayinnaung
The Kanbawzathadi Golden Palace is a reconstruction of the palace built in the 16th century by King Bayinnaung. The ornate palace buildings give a good impression of the wealth and splendor of the second Burmese empire.
Pagodas and monasteries
Near the palace is the Shwemawdaw Paya, at 116 meters the highest pagoda in Burma, visible from miles away. The 16th century Mahazedi Paya was built to enshrine a Buddha tooth relic. Behind the pagoda is a monastery that reminds of the Ananda pagoda in Bagan with its gilded sikhara spire.
One of Burma’s largest reclining Buddha images with a length of 55 meters, the Shwethalyaung Buddha was built over a thousand years ago. After the town of Bago was destroyed in 1757 the image was forgotten and became overgrown by thick jungle vegetation. It was rediscovered by chance during clearing works for railway construction. A series of murals on the back of the pedestal depicts the story of the image’s history.
Another impressive sight is the 15th century Kyaik Pun Pagoda, a few kilometers away from downtown Bago. Four 27 meter high images of the Buddha sit back to back against a central post.
An important pilgrimage site for Burmese Buddhists is the Golden Rock and Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda, about 80 kilometers from Bago. On top of a massive golden boulder on the edge of a cliff is a pagoda that enshrines a sacred Buddha relic. Although it takes quite a bit of effort to get there, the trip over winding roads across the forested mountains is an adventure in itself.
Bago archeological zone ticket
Visitors who wish to visit a number of the town’s historical sites can buy a Bago archeological zone ticket at US$ 10 per person. This ticket is valid for most sites in the city like the Shwethalyaung Buddha, Kyaik Pun Paya, Mahazedi Paya and the Shwemawdaw Paya. The noticeable exception is the Kanbawzathadi Golden Palace, for which there is a separate entrance fee.
How to get to Bago
Bago is located about 90 kilometers North East of Yangon. The town can be visited as a day trip from Yangon. An air conditioned car or van with driver will cost about US$ 80 to 100 for a day. The trip takes around 1½ hours one way. Book at travel agent or hotel.
Bago can be reached by train in about 2 hours. The town is on the Yangon to Mandalay route. One way fare from Yangon is US$ 5 for ordinary class and US$ 8 for upper class tickets, payable in dollars.
The easiest way to get around in Bago is by trishaw. A ride in the downtown area should cost between 500 and 1,000 Kyat. To visit a number of sites, hire a trishaw for the day which should cost around 6,000 Kyat. For longer trips, book a private taxi at travel agent or hotel.