Bago: Home of the Snake (Pagoda)… and many more

Everybody--nuns included--zips around Bago on motorbikes.
Everybody–nuns included–zips around Bago on motorbikes

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When I rolled into Bago from Yangon a steady stream of beeping motorbikes, pedicabs and buses was kicking up dust as they zipped down the main street. Bago is not much to look at, but is home to an amazing number and diversity of pagodas including the aptly named Snake Pagoda featuring a live 15-foot Burmese python. Some of those pagodas are featured in the slideshow above.

Traffic madness in Bago
Traffic madness in Bago

Transport to Bago from downtown Yangon was fairly simple.  I had a taxi pick me up at my hotel (around 3000 kyat for the ride) and drop me at the downtown bus stop. There I caught a rickety bus to Bago–there were old transmission parts and tools stored between some of the seats. I think the bus was air-conditioned, although I don’t recall that it worked. There was an in-flight movie–something common to both high-end and and basic buses in Myanmar.

The rickety (and very cheap) bus from Yangon to Bago
The rickety (and very cheap) bus from Yangon to Bago

For my one night/one day visit I had arranged to stay at the very basic and inexpensive San Francisco hostel, steps from the bus drop. My private room cost $10/night. The bathroom–a classic Burmese squat–was located down a steep, narrow flight of stairs. But the proprietor was friendly and knowledgeable, and arranged my motorbike taxi tour and made sure that I caught the right overnight bus the next day to Golden Rock.

Bago's outdoor reclining Buddha
Bago’s outdoor reclining Buddha

One of Bago’s most striking sights is the Mya tha luang outdoor reclining Buddha. The Buddha was built in 2002 to replace a crumbling ancient Buddha.

This is one of two giant reclining Buddhas in Bago, the other being the Shwethalyaung, said to have been built in 994 A.D. and restored under British colonial rule in 1881.

A blue and pink cow trots along a dusty road as Burmese dogs walk the wall surrounding a Bago pagoda

Bago Pagoda Burnout

This drowsing dog captures my sense  Bago pagoda burnout
Bago pagoda burnout–the dog says it all

Pagoda burnout is common to first-time visitors to Myanmar. Jet lagged, sleep-deprived and choking on dust, I reached terminal burnout in Bago after a day spent speeding around on the back of a motorbike until one pagoda blurred into another. If I had some advice about seeing Bago, it would be to avoid the one-day whirlwind, and stay for an extra day or half-day.  I was pressed for time with only 16 days in country, so that  made no sense for me.

At the end of a long, dusty day I packed and got on board the all-night bus to my next destination, Kyaikto’s gravity defying Golden Rock pagoda. Click Golden Rock to link to next narrative.


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