The city of Bago (Pegu) is a thriving cultural center for Buddhism and a former capital of the lost Mon Kingdom of Hanthawaddy that ruled over most of Southern Myanmar between the 13th and 16th centuries.
A Mongol invasion of the Kingdom of Pagan in 1287 in central Burma (now Myanmar) left a power vacuum that the Mon Kingdoms of southern Burma quickly filled. The Kingdom of Hanthawaddy in today’s city of Bago quickly rose to prominence as a regional power. Rising on a tide of trade with foreign nations, Bago became a thriving economic and religious center in Lower Burma.
The Shwemawdaw Paya is the largest and best known of the numerous Buddhist icons in the city. The shrine’s golden stupa reaches more than 300 feet in the air, and is believed to contain several Buddha relics. The Shwe Thar Lyaung Pagoda houses a nearly 200 feet long reclining Buddha image that is believed to be over 1,000 years old. The image was lost to the jungle for over a century after Bago was sacked in 1757.
The Kanbawzathadi Palace is a faithful reconstruction of the 16th century palace the kings of Hanthawaddy. There is a museum with displays showcasing ancient cultural and religious artifacts from the region inside the compound.
The months between November and May are typically dry with clear skies, which make for the best sightseeing weather for a luxury tour of Myanmar. Warmer weather begins in June along with increased chances of rain showers that continue into October.
The Hanthawaddy Kingdom that founded the city of Bago was culturally distinct from the central and northern kingdoms of Burma. The ancient kingdom’s unique culture is apparent in the ruins and religious monuments that have survived the passage of time, and a visit to the modern city of Bago is a special treat for cultural enthusiasts searching for deeper understanding of Lower Myanmar’s multi-ethnic society.
The city of Bago is in Southern Myanmar. The capital city of Bago Province, Bago can be reached overland in a private vehicle leaving from Yangon in as little as an hour.
As the majority of the historic monuments in the city of Bago are thriving centers of Buddhist worship and religious practices, it’s important for guests to dress modestly while exploring the town. Visitors exploring Buddhist temples or shrines should dress in clothing that covers shoulders, arms, and knees while on consecrated ground.