Bago is nice little town, dominated by the noise from the road that runs through it, with dense traffic at all hours of the day. There is no pedestrian crossing to cross the road, and the only life that there is along the Bago River are the ghettos on the banks. Most of the hotels are next to the main road, so suffer from the endless noise of the road. To make matters worse, the electricity goes off promptly each night (they say except in the rainy season) and many hotels do not have a working generator to start the air conditioner. However, Bago offers some interesting places to visit, like two huge reclining Buddha or the largest stupa (buddist temple) in Myanmar (Burma). My recommendation is for you to visit this city in one day, starting from Yangon (Rangoon). Once you arrive in Bago you can take a taxi (two types car or motorcycle). In case you choose to take a motorbike taxi you pay about (March 2009 prices) 6,000 kyat ($6)and 10,000 kyat ($10) for the day. By choosing a taxi driver he knows how avoid paying the entrance charges to temples, totalling about $10 in total.
The Shwemawdaw Paya pagoda was built over 1,000 years ago. It was rebuilt after an earthquake in 1930 and here you can see the remains left from the stupa after of the earthquake of 1917. The Paya Shwemawdaw Stupa is the highest pagoda in Myanmar (Burma), exceeding by 14 meters the stupa of Shwedagon Paya (the main pagoda in Yangon (Rangoon) and all of Myanmar (Burma). If I compare the Shwemawdaw Pagoda and Shwedagon Pagoda, the fist, in Bago, does not have the same quality finishes and the same magic as that in Yangon.
In Kyaik Pun Paya Temple there are four seated Buddhas about 700 years old. The site includes nothing more, so it may be missable if you have already been to Bagan, although it is true that you can take good photos.
The reclining Buddha at Shwe Tha Lyaung is very old. An interesting story told in the murals that adorn the back of the Buddha and the stairs to the temple. Very beautiful Buddha, almost 50 meters long and with a beautiful job on the soles of the feet, on which 180 symbols represent the 3 worlds (the inanimate, the animal and the "conditioned"), Buddha above all being a central element. This Bago lying Buddha is highly revered by the Burmese. It is near the huge Buddha lying on Myatha Luoung.
The temple of Maha Kalyani Sima is in front of the huge reclining Buddha of Myatha Luoung. There are 4 standing Buddhas. Next door: a small stupa filled with figures and in front of it there are 28 sitting Buddhas, forming a pretty picture. The Buddhas are periodically repainted. A plaque has the names of everyone who collaborates in one way or another in the construction and maintenance of the Buddhas.
This ancient pagoda is on top of a mountain that, they say, was an island where everything was covered by water. Hintha Gon Paya has good views over Shwemawdaw Paya. The most interesting thing is the Hintha Gon's room at of the ladder, ceremonies dedicated to spirit worship. Buddhism in Myanmar (Burma) accepts the spirits as a second level of divine elements. People make offerings and prayers to the spirits for luck in everyday life (studies, work, a long journey, ...) . There are families who rent the room and make offerings and worship ceremonies. All together they cost about $ 300, which is a fortune for a poor Burmese family. If you're lucky you can attend one of these ceremonies, directed and orchestrated by people who are professionals in running these ceremonies.
The reclining Buddha at Lyaung Tha Mya is a visual treat. A very new site, built in 2001 on the remains of what was once an ancient reclining Buddha. This exceptional piece measures 82 m and is the longest in the world. A great advantage for visitors over other Buddhas lying: it is outdoors and there are columns getting in the way when taking pictures.
The stupa (temple) Paya Mohazedi is the largest and oldest (450 years old), but there is nothing around it, as there is in Shwemawdaw or Shwedagon pagoda. Instead of a pagoda with a continuous golden line, this stupa is staggered with white and gold. The nicest thing in Mohazedi Paya is the small temple, called Ananda, painted entirely in golden colours inside and on the outside earthen red.
This Chinese temple is located on the outskirts of Bago, and is very different from other typical Burmese temples. Both paintings and figures have the style of Buddhist temples in China. Next to the temple there is a small monastery.
The Bago market is the only interesting thing this city can offer apart from its temples. The clothing stalls are inside a building. The vegetable and fish stalls are on the street and on the way to the riverbank. There are also some spice stalls and varied things under some sheds. Very interesting food stalls with all kinds of strange specialties. Try a strawberry milkshake in a small bar in the street parallel to the main road.
This monastery in Bago is one of the 3 largest of Myanmar. About 1,200 monks in this monastery housed in Buddhist times when students are not on vacation. All the monks have lunch at once - quite a spectacle. Times change depending on several variables, such as being at exam time. Normally lunch is at at 10:30 am, but can be at 9.30 am. Once they've finished breakfast the monks file out of the dining room. Once they are all gone, you can go to greet the Master. The monks in Burma breakfast at 6.30 or 7 aM (after walking the streets collecting food), lunch between 9.30 and 11 aM and can not eat anything after 15 h. The solemnity of the hall stands out. In it are hung the portraits of all previous Masters.
We had just a chance to see a training camp of Asian elephants, and we even had the opportunity to ride on one, but they were not prepared for it. We were full speed in the back of a van among green fields, and when a moment came, the "desert" place is a line of people from all the high field can recognize a path that leads them somewhere, in an everyday moment I could excel in this sort of photo. The Burmese people are a pleasure. Everyone should experience their humanity.
The small temple of worship of spirits could probably be missed. It's called Kyeg Toung Kaung and it's a small room with several figures of spirits. The only attraction is a giant snake at which you throw devotion notes and prayers.
Attending a spirit worship ceremony reminds us of the Santeria Cubans. The person making the offerings seem to enter a trance state and no money leaves their hands. It is easy to see in some pagodas in Myanmar.