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Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Day Trips from Yangon

Bago.

Legend has it that a royal city was founded on this site in the year 573 when two Mon Princes observed a good omen, a female ‘hamsa’ (a mythological bird) standing on the back of a male hamsa. The city they founded, Hanthawady (Kingdom of the hamsa) went on to become one of the most important in the history of Myanmar.

Hanthawady’s Golden Period began around 1287 when Bagan fell to the forces of Kublai Khan and the Mon King Warau moved the capital of his Kingdom of Ramandesa here. The Taungoo King Tabinshwehti annexed the city in 1539 and changed its name to Pegu, but the city continued to flourish as a river port. Bamar King Alaungpaya destroyed the city in in 1757 and with nearby Yangon gaining in importance, the city never really recovered. When the Bago River changed its course in the 19th Century, closing the port, the city dwindled to its current status of a provincial town.

Highlights.
Shwemawdaw Paya.

The tallest pagoda in the world, Shwemawdaw stands 376 feet high; 46 feet higher than the Shwedagon in Yangon. Said to contain two hairs and two teeth of the Buddha, this towering pagoda has been destroyed, and rebuilt several times over the centuries. A museum in the grounds displays ancient Buddha images uncovered from the rubble of the pagoda after it was last toppled by the 1930 earthquake.

Hintha Gon Pagoda.

As this is the highest point in Bago, this is said to be the site where the good omen of a female hamsa perched on her mate’s back was spotted. Walking distance from Shwemawdaw, the hill is topped with a statue of the bird and there are good views over the town. The pagoda here was designed by U Khanti, the monk architect of Mandalay Hill.

Kyaik Pun Pagoda.

One hundred feet high, these four huge Buddha images sitting back-to-back around a square pillar were built by the Mon king Dhammazedi in 1476. Three of the images are originals; the west-facing image is a restoration of the Buddha that collapsed during an earthquake in 1930.

Shwethalyaung Buddha.

This reclining Buddha is said to be the most lifelike and revered of its kind anywhere in the world. The 55 metre long, 16 metre high image (a sign gives the measurements of all the body parts) dates to the reign of the Mon king Mingadepa II in the late 10th Century. King Bayintnaung renovated the image in the 16th century but it was lost to the encroaching forest after the destruction of Pegu in 1757. It was rediscovered by an Indian railway worker during the construction of the line to Mandalay in 1881.

Mahazedi Pagoda.

Constructed in 1560 by King Bayinnaung, this unusual and beautiful pagoda was destroyed in the 1757 invasion of Pegu and levelled again by the 1930 earthquake. The King built the pagoda to house a Buddha tooth, at the time thought to be the tooth of Kandy. Following the conquering of Pegu, the tooth was removed and is now in the Kaunghmudaw Pagoda, Sagaing. There are fine views over Bago from the upper terrace of the pagoda, accessed by stairways up the outside of the stupa.

Kanbawzathadi Palace.

This is a reconstruction of the palace of King Bayinnaung, the 16th Century founder of the Second Myanmar Empire. The square, walled city which surrounded this Mon palace originally had 20 gates, five on each side and a moat stocked with crocodiles.

Maha Kalyani Sima and Mya Tha Laung Buddha.

Built, originally, by King Dhammazedi in 1476, this 'Sacred Hall of Ordination' has been destroyed, and rebuilt many times over the centuries. Adjacent to the hall are ten tablets, written in both Pali and Mon languages describing the history of Buddhism in Myanmar. Nearby is the 82 metre long Mya Tha Laung Reclining Buddha. This was built in 2000 as an act of Buddhist merit by a woman who donated $100,000 towards the cost of construction.

Mr Myanmar Travel can arrange daytrips to Bago by air-conditioned car from Yangon; the journey takes less than two hours non-stop. Short stops can be made en-route to or from Bago at Shwenyaungbin Nat (Spirit) shrine and the village of Karzine, where local people sell traditional medicine made with preserved scorpions.We can also supply guides who can explain the history of this ancient settlement and its place in the story of Myanmar.

Bago, along with Taukkyan is also the first stop on the road North to Taungoo, Kalaw and Mandalay. If you wish to travel the country by car, we would recommend an early start from Yangon in order to spend a few hours in Bago during the morning. After lunch, you would continue your journey to the overnight stopping point of Taungoo.

Bago is also the first stop on the road to Mon and Kayin States, and the towns of Mawlamyine (Moulmein), Hpa-An and the Golden Rock, Mt Kyaiktiyo. Again we recommend an early start from Yangon so that you can spend some quality time exploring the ancient city. After lunch, you would continue onto Mt Kyaiktiyo and your accommodation.

Taukkyan War Cemetery.

Along the road to Bago, Taukkyan War Cemetery honours the memory of and provides a final resting place for 6,374 Allied soldiers who died in the Burma and Assam campaigns during WWII. In addition, the war memorial is inscribed with the names of a further 27,000 men and women who died with no known grave. The dead hailed from countries as diverse as Britain, Australia, The Gambia, Canada, India and Zimbabwe, along with soldiers from Myanmar who allied themselves with the colonial power in the fight against the Japanese. The cemetery is a sad, but beautiful place; wonderfully maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Thanlyin

On the far side of the Bago River, via the almost 2 kilometre long Thanlyin Bridge, this is first major country town outside Yangon. In the late 15th and early 16th Centuries this was the private fiefdom of one Philip DeBrito, a Portuguese adventurer who was here officially as the trade representative of the Arakan Kingdom. De Brito’s personal empire came to an end in 1613 when his private army was defeated by the Bamar and he was sentenced to death by impalement for defiling Buddhist shrines. The town he founded continued to prosper, however as the main port of the Gulf Of Mottama, the centre for foreign trade for all lower Myanmar. In 1756 the Bamar King Alaungpaya destroyed the city during his conquest of the Mon and the rising city of Yangon became the major port in its place.

Today, Thanlyin serves as the entry point to the farmland east of the Yangon River. Its population has changed over the years; the foreign merchants have long since departed and been replaced by a large, Hindu ethnic-Indian population whose ancestors came here during the British colonial period. Some centuries old walls and an old settlement church, dating to 1750 remain but the focus of the town today is the busy marketplace. Just to the south of the town on the typical country road to Kyauktan lies Kyaik-khauk Pagoda, an important pagoda and host of the biggest country ‘pwe’ (festival) close to Yangon. This popular pagoda is said to contain 2 hairs of the Buddha and was originally constructed by the Mon Kingdom some 800 years ago.

Kyauktan.

The road from Thanlyin through the countryside to Kyauktan is lined with small pagodas, worth stopping at for good views across the countryside. The town itself is best known for Yele Pagoda, its glass mosaics flashing in the sunlight, which takes up a whole, mid-river island on a fast flowing tributary of the Yangon River. You can earn some Buddhist merit here by taking a small boat across to the pagoda and feeding the huge catfish that congregate by the downstream end of the island. Kyauktan itself is a pleasant and friendly small town to walk around and has an interesting fish market on the riverfront.

Mr Myanmar Travel can organise half-day or full day trips by air-conditioned car that take in both Thanlyin and Kyauktan. We recommend travelling in the early morning to benefit from the cooler temperatures and so that you can observe the markets at their busiest and most colourful. A full day would also allow you to visit the National Races Village, an attraction very popular with local people and situated next to the Yangon (Thaketa) end of the Thanlyin Bridge.

Twante.

An ancient town that may date back to the 7th Century, Twante stands on the scenic Twante canal, a waterway dug by the British to connect the port city of Yangon with the Ayeyarwady Delta. The town originally specialised in making celadon ware though this art has been lost over time. Clay pots are still made here though, the process unchanged for centuries. Pots are worked by hand with an assistant manually turning the potter’s wheel. After the pots have been painted and dried they are baked in a kiln for up to 5 days. They are then loaded onto trucks and boats and sold in villages and temple festivals around the Delta.

In addition to the pottery sheds at Oh-Bo and the central market, the town is also well known for the 250 feet high Shwesandaw Pagoda, built by the Mon Kingdom over 1,000 years ago. There is an unusual set of mechanical toys by the main entrance, purchase a coin to watch them move.

A visit to Twante is all about the journey. Mr Myanmar Travel charters small boats to cross the Yangon River and cruise along the Twante Canal. You will pass villages where the people live by fishing or farming rice, fishermen hauling in their catches from canoes, trading boats and delta ferries journeying from town to town. We can arrange full and half-day trips on the water and also longer voyages of discovery, travelling deeper into the delta where foreigners are hardly ever seen. If you are interested in an overnight, or longer voyage please get in touch with us and we can tailor-make a trip for you.

 

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