- Pyin Oo Lwin
- Hpa An
The Shwemawdaw Paya in Bago is the tallest pagoda in Burma. With its height of 114 meters it is 15 meters taller than the Shwedagon Pagoda in nearby Yangon.
The impressive Shwemawdaw, which translates to “Great Golden God” was built by the Mon people over a thousand years ago. It is one of Burma’s most sacred sites, because it enshrines several relics of the Buddha.
The towering pagoda glittering in the sun can be seen from miles around. The grounds are peaceful and not much visited by tourists. Over the centuries, the pagoda has been rebuilt and enlarged several times, as a result of the destruction caused by earthquakes.
Two huge Chinthe, mythological animals that look like a lion stand guard at the entrance of the temple grounds. Numerous small pagodas are placed at the base of the 114 meter tall Shwemawdaw. The pagoda is topped with a diamond studded hti, a top ornament shaped as an umbrella found on most Burmese temples.
Shwe ThaLyaung Pagoda
The Shwethalyaung Buddha is one of the largest reclining Buddha images in Burma. It is housed in the Shwethalyaung Paya in Bago, an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists who come here to pay homage to the Buddha.
The image measuring 55 meters long and 16 meters high depicts the Buddha just before death and entering into Nirvana.
The reclining Buddha image is housed in an iron pavilion called tazaung with Italian marble on the floor. On the walls are murals depicting scenes from the Jataka tales, the stories that tell about the previous lives of the Buddha.
On a large pedestal rests a white image of the Buddha with a serene smile wearing a gilded robe, the head resting on a “pillow” of caskets inlaid with mosaics. The soles of the feet are decorated with images representing the 108 lakshanas or auspicious characteristics of the Buddha. Around the Buddha are several guardian Nats, spirits that have been worshipped in Burma for many centuries.
See the huge statue of Mya Tha Lyaung Reclining Buddha, which lies in the open with no temple or pagoda surrounding it. According to local legend, every time they wanted to construct a building over the statue, a storm brewed, preventing their efforts. Built in 2001, the statue reaches an incredible 82 m (269 ft) long.
Stand next to the divine statue of the huge Buddha for a great photo opportunity, then move a bit further back to capture the whole monument in one shot. Put Mya Tha Lyaung Reclining Buddha and other Bago attractions into our Bago vacation generator, and watch your holiday take shape.
Kyaik Pun Pagoda
The Kyaik Pun Pagoda is a small Buddhist monastery near the town of Bago, known for its four towering images of the Buddha visible from far away. The impressive 27 meter high images are out in the open, without shelter from the elements by any covering temple structure.
The Kyaik Pun Pagoda was built in 1476 by Dhammazedi, a devout Buddhist and King of the Mon Kingdom of Hanthawaddy (Pegu).
The Kyaik Pun Pagoda or Kyaikpun Paya is an active place of worship; the images are highly revered by Laotian Buddhists who come to pay their respect.
According to local legend four Mon sisters were involved in the building of the Kyaik Pun Paya. Among them they pledged never to get married as long as they lived. If one of them was to get married, one of the Buddha statues would collapse. According to the legend one of the women broke her promise and got married, resulting in the collapse of one of the images, the Kassapa Buddha.
In the Western part of Bago is the Mahazedi, which translates to “Great Stupa”, a pagoda built to enshrine a Buddha tooth relic.
The Mahazedi was built in 1560 by King Bayinnaung of the Taungoo dynasty. Bayinnaung, one of Burma’s greatest Kings ordered construction of the pagoda to enshrine a sacred tooth relic of the Buddha which he obtained from Sri Lanka.
Although the relic later turned out to be a fake with the real tooth relic of Kandy still in Sri Lanka, the relic was enshrined in the pagoda in 1576.
Hintha Gon Pagoda
Located behind the Myanmar Bago Shwemawdaw pagoda, this shrine has good views over Myanmar Bago town from the roofed platform on the hilltop. According to Myanmar legend, this Myanmar Bago pagoda was the one point rising from the sea when the mythological bird landed here.
A stature of the bird, looking rather like the figures on opium weights, tops the hill. This Myanmar stupa was built by U Khanti, the Burmese hermit monk who was also the architect of Myanmar Mandalay Hill. You can walk to it by taking the steps down the other side of the Shwemawdaw Paya from the main entrance.
A hilltop shrine 30 kilometers (20 miles) north of Bago known as Daysompar.
The forested hill on which the pagoda was located, I was told, was home to an array of nats (spirits), as well as to ghost-like entities who guard buried treasure. According to one second-hand rumor, there was also a subterranean passageway where mummified corpses could be seen.
The drive from downtown Yangon took less than three hours, and when we got close we had to ask for directions because construction work along the old Yangon-Mandalay highway had obscured the sign at the turnoff to the dirt lane leading to the pagoda.
Kanbawzathadi Golden Palace
Kanbawzathadi Golden Palace in Bago is a reconstruction of the original Royal palace from the second half of the 16th century.
The very ornate golden palace gives a good impression of the splendor and wealth of the second Burmese empire. It was rebuilt following the original design, based on knowledge gained from excavations and the original drawings of the building. The huge palace consisted of 76 apartments and halls.
The reconstructed palace does not contain much of the original furniture and personal items used by the Royals, as most of it was lost when the palace was looted and destroyed in 1599. There are several reproductions on display, like a replica of the King’s golden coach, decorated with two peacocks and a Pyatthat style roof.
The palace dates from a very prosperous time in Burmese history. It was built by King Bayinnaung of the Taungoo dynasty, a vast empire that included much of present day Burma, Thailand and parts of China.
On the palace grounds is the Nandawya research museum, which exhibits items and artifacts found during the excavations, as well as information about the history of the second empire. On display are a number of the original 16th century teak pillars and items like pottery, scales and weighs used for commerce, ancient coins, glazed jars, swords and other weapons. The museum also contains a collection of 16th century Buddha images in Mon, Siamese and Burmese styles from the palace.
Built in 11 century AD in the compounds of the Royal Kingdoms of Myanmar in those times. The ruined structure has been reestablished recently for the tourists with the same state as it was discovered on the premises of the Royal Palace. ShweguLay Pagoda is one of the few of the original pagodas in the Bago area that has been maintained with the same construction as in earlier Burmese history.
There are many interesting stories associated with the monks of the region, and they give personal infographics on the history of ShweguLay Pagoda. ShweguLay Pagoda is accessible on a 20 minutes’ drive from the Bago City Centre via Shwethar Lyaung Pagoda Road.
Winga Baw Elephant
For families, friends and lovers looking for a rural escape becoming of a city once deemed the “Garden City of the East”, look no further than Bago’s Winga Baw Elephant Conservation camp. Located at the 39-mile rest-stop about an hour and a half outside Yangon, the 84-acre park offers a chance to learn about one of Myanmar’s most treasured native species.
Winga Baw used to be an industrial area for the state-run Myanmar Timber Enterprise, which uses elephant to haul heavy logs out of the jungle. But after the National League for Democracy decided to halt major timber production in the Bago mountain range in 2016, 13 of these government-owned former timber production grounds are becoming elephant camps.
Twelve elephants currently reside at the park: four teenage elephants, two mother/infant pairs and two motherless infants from camps in Nay Pyi Taw and Pathein. Two more have been transferred from the Htarr Wei camp, another former timber industry area.
A trip to Winga Baw, and most elephant camps in Myanmar, includes the option to ride an elephant using a wooden seat. Most international organisations advise against wooden-chair elephant rides, as the weight can be detrimental to their health, but there are other activities available at the camp.
My friends and I arrived at 8am, in time to participate in the elephants’ morning bath, one of two taken per day in order to dissipate body heat. We splashed them with water and took photos with the gentle giants.