Bago or Pegu at the Gulf of Martaban

This is Mon State after about one and half hour trip the biggest city in the country with the car we slowly move into this pleasant little city situated on the Bago River which flows down southwards and joins the Yangon River near Thanhlyin. There is no real good hotel means it is better to stay overnight elsewhere and start the trip in the morning and return late afternoon.

Try to avoid driving in the darkness since its very dangerous. There are cows and buffaloes on the road from time to time and this is a extreme tropical darkness. Even if you took a driver, he has no night vision.

This could be integrated into a trip to Kyaiktyio since the city is about half way and stay overnight at the end destination. There is a good accommodation at the road to the golden Rock Pagoda, its the Kyaiktyio Mountain View Hotel. Don’t listen what the driver is telling, he want to get you into a hotel where he gets commission, they have special accommodations for driver.

If you are in good physical condition you could do this trip also by bicycle, but be aware, its very hot, the road surface is rough and nobody really cares about any traffic rules, means it would be dangerous.

Before the name was Pegu, once a small island in theGulf of Martaban and the legend relates that there being just enough room for a ‘hamsa’ (hintha bird, mythological duck) to land on it, its mate had to perch on the male bird’s back.

Up to this day the Bago women are ragged about their very close attachment to their mates. The years brought silt from the rivers graining into the bay to build up and finally the place become attached to the mainland.

Bago Myanmar
Gulf of Martaban
At the gulf of Martaban, waterfront at Mawlamyine

It was was founded in 573 A.D, during the Mon dynastic period it became a great city and a capital of Lower Myanmar. 

A seaport was built there in 825 by two brothers fromThaton, which was then the capital of ‘Suvarnabhumi’, the golden land of the Mons.

The great era started in 1365 when it became the capital of Lower Myanmar, its greatness lasting for 270 years. Early

European visitors often mentioned the city importance as a seaport and centre for trade, this is quite close to the Thailand border.

At the entrance to the city coming from Yangon a idyllic Buddhist Monastery right in the center of a small lake catches the eye. Dozens of novices hang around at the windows, chattering and laughing fills the air, this is not Bago in the Philippines.

In 1635, King Thalun of the Second Empire transferred the capital to Inwa, near Mandalay. The harbor had become so shallow by that time, that merchant vessels were no longer able to dock. During its ‘golden era’, the Hamsawaddy Dynasty produced great rulers such as King Razadarit (1385- 1425), Queen Shinsabu (1453-1472) and King Dhammazedi (1472-1492).

These rulers have earned prestigious and beloved niches in the hearts of the country and its people, not only by their wise and just regimes, but also by the many sacred monuments that they left for posterity.

In 1740, after some years of submitting to the Taungoo Dynasty, the Mons were able to re-establish the city as their capital. But King Alaungpaya completely sacked and ruined it in 1747. King Bodawpaya (1782-1819) rebuilt the city to some extend but the city lost her importance as a seaport when it was cut off from the sea when river changed its course. After this it has never

a green city
Bago Myanmar is a green city, a ideal place for Mr. Gore
Bago Trip
trip could be a bit crowded
Waterfront at Gulf of Martaban
Waterfront at Gulf of Martaban
been able to regain its former splendor and prominence.

Shwemawdaw Pagoda

is one of the most venerated and the tallest in the country situated on the north side of the railway station and is visible for miles around. The style is similar but less grand than that of the Shwedagon Pagoda although the Shwemawdaw is 16 meters higher.

The story of this pagoda follows the story of two merchant brothers, Sulatharla and Mahatharla.

The brothers had an opportunity to worship Lord Gaudama Buddha during a visit to Yarzagyo town on a trading mission. In return for their offering the Buddha gave them two sacred strands of hair. These were enclosed in a golden gasket, brought back to and enshrined in Dozaungtu town (Zaungtu).

They told King Manadaleik of Thaton who went to pay obeisance and worship the relics the same year, 361 BC. In 365 BC, the King under the direction of Thagyamin, King of nats, found Thudathana Hill and as preordained by Buddha, enshrined the two sacred hairs in a stupa 60 feet in height and 30 feet wide.

Enshrined with the hairs were valuables donated by Thagyamin, King Mandaleik, Arahats (saints), the Queen and the two brothers.

A pagoda, 75 feet high and 375 feet in circumference, was built over the stupa in 367 BC. The original Mon name was Kyaik-Mu-Tar Kyaik meaning pagoda, Mu, edge or periphery and Tar, positioned. The words later became “Mu-Taw”, then “Maw-Daw” and finally the name became Shwemawdaw. Over the centuries the pagoda was embellished and enlarged many times, first by Thamala in 725 AD, who raised its

Shwemawdaw Pagoda in the center
Bago Shwemadaw Pagoda Yard
Pagoda Entrance Hall
height to 81 feet; then by Wimala in 740 who increased the height to 88 feet. In 982, one of Buddhas tooth relics was added by Anuyama, and another sacred tooth relic was enshrined by Razadarity in 1385.

In 1492, Banyarrun donated a hti or umbrella for the pagoda. Bodawpaya raised the height to 297 feet and donated a new hti in 1789.

The structure has been seriously damaged by five earthquakes. The “banana bud” of this pagoda which toppled together with many other parts in the 1917 earthquake, can still be seen at the base embedded in the new concrete work of the rebuilt and renovated shrine, a solemn reminder of the havoc natural calamities can wreak on man-made edifices.

The last and most devastating quake struck in 1930 and left only the earth mound base undisturbed.

Restoration and renovation work began in 1952 and was completed in 1954 in a style somewhat different than the original. Four zaungdans or covered stairways leading to the pagoda each guarded by a large white chinthe

with a sitting Buddha in the mouth. There are paintings showing the damage done by the 1930 quake on some stairways, a museum containing wood and bronze figures and relics saved from the catastrophe and a hall featuring photos of the restoration work. The West Zaungdan is the most popular among pilgrims and devotees.

Hinthsgone Hill: descending the eastern steps, the visitor can walk under a covered walk-way through huts and small houses where typical local suburban community life can be observed.

After ascending the hill beyond, the visitor comes to a ruined building built by the hermit U Khanti, who is also known for the construction of shrines onMandalay Hill.

From this derelict Bago hillside pagoda

one can look down to the town and its surrounding plain. A flight of steps takes one to a big rest-house-like temple. It is open-sided with a corrugated iron roof and a clear view over the Gulf of Martaban can be enjoyed from the brick seats which line the walls. Vanished from Yangon over three decade ago for reasons only known to the authorities, these three-wheelers 9pics above) constitute an integral part of the transportation system.

Bago mosque
A small mosque at Bago Myanmar, as in most parts of southern Myanmar mosques and pagodas are plenty
colonial style villa
Being relatively convenient, efficient and economical compared to other modes of travel. Besides the driver, ten seated adult passengers plus two or more, under-10 children, in addition to the conductor standing at the back, a luggage rack on the roof seldom empty. A three-wheeler can carry all these and still make its to wherever its headed for.

Like the majority of public motor vehicles plying the roads, our small and frail-looking three-wheeler is capable of carrying loads far in excess of its intended capacity. Sometimes I think Myanmar is much further developed than all this high tech countries like Germany, Britain, USA etc. The “green” philosophy their tells us all kind of funny and not the funny stuff to avoid greenhouse gas, obviously the Myanmars have known this already for ages, so lets go “green” Kyoto calling the coach ! Some beautiful mosques remind of the coexistence of the different religions without major friction.