Bago is just 80 km (50 miles) north of Yangon and about an hour drive from Yangon. In the 13th Century, Bago become the center of the Mon Kingdom of ”Ramanadesa” which consists of all lower Myanmar. Bing a small town with not many interesting sites, Bago should be included as a day trip from Yangon only when we have extra time or can be part of the longer trip to Kyaikhtiyo Golden Rock Pagoda.
If we have to choose the most promising day trip from Yangon, it will be nothing but Bago (British called Pegu), the provincial capital of rice-growing & timber industrial region was a great seaport, and the many monuments prove its glorious and magnificent past. Bago is only 80-km north of Yangon, on the main road to Mandalay.
Bago was firstly founded by the Mons, around 9th century (some also claim 6th century), on the land just emerged from the seabed. The legend has that at first the island was so minute that the female bird has to perch on her mate’s back but then the bird’s nest expended over the centuries, having enough space for the other swans.
This distinctive 30-m high four seated Buddha images could be seen from the distance as you turn into the unpaved red soil lane. The images were donated by renowned Mon king named Dhamazedi, in 1476. The earthquake in 1930 caused some damages to the west-facing image, which is related to the fascinating story of four Mon sisters who participated in the construction work is a story they must hear from your guide.
The 55-m long & 16-m high Shwethalyaung image is dated 994AD of Mon king Mingadepa II reign. The great king Bayintnaung had it renovated in 16th century but lost again until British built a railroad through Bago in 1881; it was unearthed by an Indian contractor who found the image accidentally in his search for brick-supply for the railroad. Later the image was covered by iron shed in 1903.
Probably built around 6th century AD by the Mons, this originally 23m high stupa was modified several times throughout the centuries has finally reached 114m, earning the title of the world’s highest stupa. Since the stupa suffered from a series of earthquakes, especially the last three at the turn of 19th century caused major damages, requiring to reconstruct almost from its base.
The highest point in Bago and reputedly claimed as the spot where once female bird perched on her mate’s back, which has been taken as a good omen of the kingdom’s foundation. There are figures of the birds and the Buddha with his disciples according to the popular folklore in the shrine on the hill top. The views from the hill is rewarding especially to the direction of Shwemawdaw stupa.
The graceful whitewashed stupa was constructed in 1560 by King Bayintnaung. It was badly destroyed by Portuguese sacking of Bago in 1757, while the worst was to follow in 1930 earthquake that leveled the entire stupa. The restoration was completed only in 1982. King Bayintnaung had it built this stupa to house the tooth of Kandy, Sri Lanka, together with a begging bowl used by the Buddha himself. These sacred objectes were later moved to Kaung Mu Daw paya of Sagaing in 1636. The stairs lead to the upper terrace of the stupa, where one can enjoy the fine views of Bago.